Choosing the path of open software

Orde Saunders' avatarPublished: by Orde Saunders

In a post about the ethics of the tools we use Chris Ferdinandi asked: "How do you find balance between using the best tools, and not supporting things you don’t agree with?" Whilst Chris frames it as not expecting "every company I work with to fart rainbows" I'll frame it as there not being one narrow path of purity to salvation - there's a wide middle ground here and don't forget that ultimately it's just, like, your opinion, man.

Having been a Linux user for over 20 years I've been forced down a much more open path due to lack of support for my operating system of choice. This for me is a key point here: once you start making choices to use open software* your next choices are more likely to be open, it's a snowball effect.

The trade off you face when making the open/propitiatory choice is typically convenience, sometimes you're going to be in a position where you feel you need that convenience so you make a choice that's less open, and that's fine - you're not Satan for making that decision - but make that decision mindfully knowing that you're not taking the open path and be cognisant of why you're not. There will be other times when you have more degrees of freedom and can make the choice to use something more open and because you've made mindful decisions in the past you'll have more clarity over why you want to chose the open option.

An example from personal experience here is Dropbox. It's perfectly competent at syncing files between devices, it has clients for Linux and Android (not always a given for software in the Apple centric tech developer bubble) and for a while it did me fine. However, when it came to breaking my Google dependency on Android I lost access to the Play Store, and hence access to the Dropbox client. At that point I switched to using Syncthing for a core set of files I wanted to keep in sync across all my devices. With Syncthing now on all my devices it wasn't long before I moved more and more of what I had in Dropbox over to it. This now affects my choices of software, if I have a choice between something that tightly integrates with Dropbox or something that is agnostic of the sync platform then I'll chose the latter. It also gives me additional open choices: I was able to swap out Evernote for a folder in Syncthing that quickly turned out to be easier to use and more flexible.

Make your decisions mindful of open options, and where feasible choose the open option because the more times you choose the open option the easier it gets to choose the open option next time.

* I'm using the phrase "open software" in the loosest sense, read into that what you will but don't `@` me about it.^