Also published on the Free Software Foundation's community blog:
Amin Bandali: Why it's fun to participate in LibrePlanet
I'm Amin Bandali, a free/libre software activist by passion, and a software developer/engineer and computing scientist by profession. I am a former intern and current volunteer with the Free Software Foundation (FSF), and a member of the GNU Project. One of the ways I volunteer with the FSF is through LibrePlanet. I've helped with various aspects of the conference's organization, currently mainly helping as a member of the LibrePlanet committee, which reviews all session proposals. In this blog post I'd like to give a quick background on how and why I got involved with LibrePlanet and how I contribute to it today. I will also share how you, too, could start helping with the organization of the conference in a number of different ways, if you're interested!
I first got involved with LibrePlanet as a volunteer a few years back. By that point, I'd enjoyed participating in the conference via IRC and watching the talks online for a few years, and I was looking for ways to get involved. As I couldn't make it to Boston to attend LibrePlanet in person, I volunteered online, with tasks such as helping watch over the conference IRC channels and answering questions as best as I could. I seemed to have done a decent job, since the FSF folks later asked if I could do the same for a few non-LibrePlanet online FSF events too, which I gladly accepted.
Having enjoyed participating and volunteering for LibrePlanet, I thought it would be great if I could give a talk of my own, too. This only became possible for me after 2020 with the possibility of doing remote presentations. Since I sadly cannot attend the event in person currently, this was a welcome side-effect of the conference temporarily switching to an online-only format. So, I submitted a proposal to talk about "Jami and how it empowers users" for LibrePlanet 2021, which was accepted and became my first LibrePlanet talk. Even though presenting, or even just submitting a talk at a large conference like LibrePlanet, may sometimes seem like an intimidating task, I had a great time presenting mine, thanks in no small part to the FSF staff and other volunteer organizers, as well as the audience members.
The FSF staff were supportive and encouraging throughout the entire process of preparing and presenting my talk, and the audience gave positive and/or constructive feedback after my presentation. Plus, I greatly enjoyed discussing various free software topics with them, which was not really surprising because the folks attending LibrePlanet tend to be free software enthusiasts or activists like myself who are often just as eager to watch and chat with others about free software. And, as my good GNU friend Jason Self puts it, LibrePlanet is a wonderful place for such enthusiasts to "recharge their free software batteries each year".
Back in 2020, I was invited to join the LibrePlanet committee, a diverse team of volunteers from different backgrounds and areas of expertise that review all sessions submitted, helping select session proposals in a way that provides an exciting lineup of talks for people of differing areas and levels of experience and interest. I humbly and happily accepted the invitation to join the committee, and I help with the reviews to date. (I of course don't review my own session proposals, nor the ones I recognize to be from people I know). If you are also interested in joining the LibrePlanet committee and helping review the wonderful session proposals the team receives for each conference, you can come by the #libreplanet or #fsf channels on the Libera.Chat IRC network and reach out to the FSF staff there, or send an email to email@example.com.
Besides being part of the LibrePlanet committee and helping review session proposals, there are a number of other ways to contribute to the organization of the conference as well. Technical tasks include helping with the setup and/or the maintenance of some pieces of infrastructure for the conference, for example helping maintain the conference's self-hosted installation of LibreAdventure, which is the conference's online event space where people can have their avatars "bump" into each other to have a real-time video-conferencing chat, and they can explore sessions, the FSF office (digitized), virtual sponsor booths, and more. Non-technical tasks include helping with the moderation of the conference's IRC channels on the event days, and volunteering to introduce, caption, or transcribe talks. There are also other logistical tasks that need doing now that LibrePlanet is switching to a hybrid format with both online and in-person events (in Boston). If you are interested in getting involved and helping with any of these (or other) tasks, please email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The theme for LibrePlanet 2023 is "Charting the Course", which I find particularly apt and important. The free software movement has come a long way and thanks to the tireless efforts of people from projects and communities of varying sizes, today we can carry out a very wide range of computing tasks in total freedom. It is also crucially important to continue recognizing and making progress in the areas of digital life where avoiding nonfree software may not be currently possible or feasible. One such notorious area is online payments, where the GNU Taler folks have been hard at work making freedom-respecting, privacy-friendly online transactions possible. At LibrePlanet 2023, I hope to see talks on such areas of digital life. I look forward to talks presenting the state of available free software in a certain field and clarify to what extent we can participate in them in freedom, along with a wishlist for improvements and a roadmap for moving closer towards freedom in this specific field so that we will ultimately, hopefully, reach full digital freedom.
These, along with other factors — such as the FSF staff striving for LibrePlanet to be inclusive and accessible, as well as making it possible to participate online for those of us not able to attend the event in person — make LibrePlanet a free software event I'm most excited about and look forward to each year. I hope and expect that LibrePlanet 2023 will be a conference with a lineup of interesting, fun, educational, and thought-provoking user freedom themed talks and sessions, along with a chance to catch up and socialize with fellow free software hackers, activists, and/or enthusiasts from all over the world, just like it always has been — especially this time with its ever more relevant theme of "Charting the Course" to not only reflect and celebrate the path we've come so far, but to also look towards the future and chart the course to software user freedom for coming generations.
Take care, and I hope to see you around for LibrePlanet 2023!
LibrePlanet Committee Member and assistant GNUisance