Thursday, July 19, 2012

How much do you value your privacy?

I've got a close friend to whom I regularly send information about privacy issues.  Usually, we have a decent discussion about what I sent but almost all of our discussions end with him saying 'oh well, what can we do? It's happening and it's going to continue to happen so we might as well accept it'.   The implication, of course, is that we're all just powerless victims of government and corporations and all we can do is sit by and feel bad while they rape our privacy.  In reality, what people who adopt this defeatist stance usually mean is 'we can't do anything easy to stop it'. They're lazy.

I think the decision to take the necessary steps to protect yourself comes down to the question "how much do you really value your privacy?" Do you value it more than the minimal effort you'd have to expend to protect it? From the attitude of people like my friend, I'd have to say that most people probably don't.  Most people would really like for corporations and government not to violate their privacy but they aren't willing to actually do anything to prevent it.  They continue to use services that sell them out because they're easy. In some cases they even give their money to companies that violate their privacy for the "privilege" of having their privacy removed.

With the pervasiveness of the 'I can't do anything' attitude, you'd think actually doing something would require a Herculean effort. It doesn't. In a few hours, almost anyone can have a home server set up that handles email, social networking, anonymous web surfing, and much more. And if it's set up right they can also take advantage of it when away from home and on an untrusted computer.  Why don't people do that?

Laziness. It's not a technical problem. You can actually download pre-built solutions that you just have to click-click through to install. And if they can't do it themselves, they can usually pay a neighborhood kid or a local IT person to set it up for them.  These solutions fail miserably because people are too lazy to use them. They don't want to change their habits. They don't want to add one extra hoop to gain 20 levels of privacy. It's not worth it to them.

So every time I hear someone say 'I can't do anything' I immediately hear 'I don't care enough about my privacy to do anything'. That's what it really means.  So please, don't waste your breath in telling me there's nothing we can do to protect our privacy and still live in the real world. There's plenty you can do if you spend a few moments thinking before you act and if you're willing to put a little extra effort into protecting yourself.

It's time people take privacy seriously. And it's time we stop talking about it and start actually protecting it. How seriously do you take your privacy?  In the next few blog posts, I'm going to detail ways to protect yourself both in the digital and real world. It doesn't take much and you might find yourself inspired to act.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bryan Lunduke packs his open source business model in for greener pastures

I was quite sad to read that +Bryan Lunduke announced that he was returning to the closed source model for all future development of his products. For those of you who followed it, Bryan has been doing an experiment in open sourcing all of his products and charging only for binaries. While initial response seemed good, donations seem to have tapered off until he could no longer afford to continue under the open source model. 

Some might see this as a failure; as proof that open source simply isn't a viable business model. I don't. I think it shows that there are many challenges to making a living doing open source development including user attitudes, the economy, and niche markets, but I definitely don't think it's a failure or proves that it can't be done.

I'm quite bummed out to see this experiment not take off like we thought it would. Bryan writes good software, has a huge platform to push that software (he's co-host of the Linux Action Show with +Chris Fisher), and pimps the hell out of his stuff.  This result was definitely not from his dedication or hard work.

That said, I think that focusing on the consumer market to make money is a losing proposition. Ordinary users generally won't pay money for software if they don't have to. And if the do have to, then they are generally not going to continually pay money for software they already own. The way forward, IMHO, is the corporate world. Make a product that the corporate world wants, open source it, charge for binaries, and charge for support. Sure, you won't make as much as if you just outright charged for the closed source product but, I believe,  you can make a living off of it.

So good luck in the future, Bryan. You made a good run, did a very cool experiment, and we all will learn from it. The old adage of 'you gotta do what you gotta do' applies here. A man has to feed his family. There's no shame in closed source.