Free Japan visiting Paris
Masayuki Ida (firstname.lastname@example.org) arrived in Paris Saturday 6 October for a short stay. He was coming from Dusseldorf and departed to London two days after. He flied from Japan for a European tour of Free Software organizations.
In many respects the Japanese community resemble the French Free Software community. They get along well, share more than just code or e-mail, occasionally enjoy having diner together and, above all, enjoy their Free Software related activities. Compared to APRIL they also have a few differences: the ability to raise fund, active members with management skills and of age greater than 45. Altogether discussing with Masayuki Ida pictured an impressive and delightful image of the Japanese Free Software community.
Masayuki Ida did not came so far away from home for the sole purpose of entertaining us with stories about Japan. He also wanted to learn from us, Free Software friends in France. On Sunday 7 October APRIL and FSF France members came to our new regular bar (Hall's Beer) to share their experience. The bar was closed and we backed up to our previous regular bar (Sous Bock) that was also closed and we ended on the pavement, around a few tables.
At first it was a bit awkward to speak English. But when Masayuki Ida started to interview us about our motives to become part of an organization promoting Free Software, the atmosphere relaxed noticeably. Rodolphe Quiédeville said that he was first member of two organizations and favored APRIL because it was more democratic and open. He also said that he first subscribed three years ago because he was tired of working on proprietary software. Loïc Bernable said that he was a Free Software lover and wanted to help promoting it by participating to a non-profit organization. He was a bit embarrassed not to have a huge activity curriculum to show and that triggered an interesting thread. None of us did anything ground breaking but we can be proud of our collective doings. Other testimonies followed and on top of that Frédéric Couchet described how APRIL works from a structural point of view.
The most important aspect of the meeting went without speaking. Imagine yourself immersed in an informal Free Software association meeting. By listening to people tones, how they apparently know each other, how they joke or are deadly serious, how they speak in a passionate way or seem bored; you get an impression that cannot be transmitted by e-mail communications.
Cooperation between the existing Free Software organizations was extensively covered. We acknowledged that the language barrier was problematic but most of all the lack of information about the doings of various existing groups. How could two organizations cooperate if they are not aware of their respective fields of actions ? Of course some communication always exists between a few people that know each other. But publicly available reports and communications that are the fuel of a volunteer based organization are not yet a wide spread practice. Masayuki Ida proposed an international meeting of Free Software people. Such a meeting could be organized in Tokyo, assuming funds can be raised and people willing to devote their time can be found. Given the past curriculum of Free Software people in Japan, it is very likely to happen. Another alternative would be to host this meeting at LSM the annual international meeting exclusively devoted to Free Software. It was quite clear that it would be less interesting to host such a meeting in a place that mixes proprietary software and Free Software.
We departed under an heavy rain around midnight, knowing each other much better. I would not go as far as to say that we actually did something during this meeting but we certainly opened a new communication channel between the Free Software community in France and Japan. The day after I discussed during a few hours with Masayuki Ida to understand details of the Japanese Free Software activities and to try to identify possible cooperative grounds. It turned out that I already had some contacts with Nokubi Takatsugu and that other people are already cooperating with Free Software developer in various countries, on technical subjects. This is a favorable ground to upgrade the relationship to include political action, lobbying and promotion of Free Software.
My dream is that, at some point, Free Software organizations around the world will be able to do a coordinated action involving ten or twenty countries. Maybe a press release signed by representatives of each countries to prevent undesirable effects of the Hague treaty ? When this will happen for the first time, it will be an accomplishment in itself.