Happy GNU Year

Happy GNU Year!

This virtual card is the best gift I can give my readers and online friends this holiday season. Not just because its the best and most awesome Happy GNU Year card you’re likely to find online, but because I created it entirely using free culture and free software.

The Free Software Foundation‘s GNU operating system led to the adoption of the gnu as its symbol.  Free software is incredibly important for a host of reasons, and yet I very much suspect it wouldn’t exist at all any more but for the efforts of Richard Stallman and the FSF.  I highly recommend that you use free software as much as possible, not just because it’s usually free of charge (gratis) but far more importantly, because it respects our personal freedom (libre).

The penguin “Tux” is the mascot of the Linux kernel, is the heart of the free and open source software operating systems we use today. (MacOS and Windows are the non-free software used in personal computing devices (computers, cell phones, tablets, PVRs &tc.)

Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)) LicenseIf you click on the card, you’ll find a higher definition version suitable for printing.  And you are allowed to print it, because this card carries a free culture license, specifically a Creative Commons  Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) License  This license gives you the freedom to use this creative work in any way you like, even commercially, with only 2 restrictions.

  1. The “Attribution” restriction means you must credit the creator(s) as specified.
  2. Second, whether printing it out and selling physical copies, mailing it to you your friends, or modifying it to create something completely different, it must carry the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike License, or a similar license that requires attribution perpetuation of the license terms.

Attribution is simply giving credit where credit is due. I try to provide attribution for everything I use, even work in the public domain. The “share-alike” part of the license exists to prevent creative works from being removed from free culture and locked behind copyright.

Below you can see the steps that led to this card. Click on any of the images below for a larger/printable version.

Happy GNU Year Green (cc by-sa)Modified "Powered By GNU/Linux" Free Software  sticker set Happy GNU Year STENCIL

On the left is my first try, which I like a lot. It could make a good poster, but it’s too difficult to see and read in small formats because it’s too cluttered.

In the centre is the “wallpaper” background I devised. I modified the Powered by GNU-Linux sticker set originally created by deviantdark and published on deviantArt  under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) License.  There are many free software operating systems not included, so I added Trisquel and centOS when I made up the wallpaper background. You can download the printable sticker sets from the deviantART Powered by GNU-Linux page and make your own sticker for your computer.

On the right is the first draft of the red card. I loved the simplicity of Rasmus Olsen‘s gnu meets penguin titled GNU/Linux licensed Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) that I found on Flickr.  I altered the image by bringing the penguin close enough to touch noses with the gnu, and stood them both on the lettering. In the final version, I changed the lettering because it was hard to read when the wallpaper was added.

CORRECTION: Rui Damas is the originator of the GNU/Linux artwork I reused, and it was actually released under the GNU Public License. I’m not entirely sure what that does to my licensed usage. [Thanks to Mike Linksvayer for pointing that out!]

Free Software & Free Culture

It’s no harder to learn to use free software than it is to learn to use a windows computer or a Mac.  Many Apple and Windows users are already using free software with Firefox or OpenOffice (I prefer LibreOffice).  The coolest and best ebook conversion software is called Calibre (it comes with a good e-reader so you can read eBooks on your computer).  And of course my favorite blogging software, WordPress is free software.  Wikipedia runs on free wiki software (which is why there are wikis popping up all over) and if you’re into video production, you could so worse than the amazing Blender 3D animation software or Kdenlive for video editing.  You can use social networking with GNUsocial and Friendica.   If you do switch to free software, the biggest difference you’ll notice is that you don’t have to pay for things again and again and again.  Other advantages include better security and a much lower incidence of spyware and other malware.

It was difficult for me to unlearn Photoshop so I can learn to use GIMP, but I keep trying.  I still look for a lot of the features where they would be in photoshop, but its getting easier.  I have yet to find anything Photoshop can do that can’t be done in GIMP; the challenge is finding out how to do it.   That’s why I’m so pleased I made this card entirely with GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) on my computer, which is currently runs on Linux Mint in a MATE desktop environment that has the  Ubuntu Studio plug-in.

As the copyright maximalists successfully lobby to lock up more and more of our culture for longer and longer terms, the importance of free culture has become more apparent.   Sites like the Flickr photosharing site and deviantArt make it easy for users to give their work Creative Commons licenses, so they are often the easiest places to find images licensed to share.

All versions of my GNU year card are licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) License.  If you’re interested in finding out what free culture is out there, I’ve been growing a list of Free Culture resources (in the right sidebar).    And if you have some spare cash left over from last year, please consider making a donation to the two non-profit organizations that have been instrumental in ensuring the continued existence of free software and free culture:

The Free Software Foundation and Creative Commons

And have a Happy GNU Year!


WebCred: Reputation is Important

I received this email today, but before marking it as spam, it occurred to me that I should not only reply, I should also blog the reply. Because, you see, this isn’t the first one of these I’ve received, so there are probably an awful lot of bloggers out there getting the same solicitation. Because that’s what this is: solicitation disguised as sharing, a way to game the system. Like any good con it appears to be a good deal for a blogger. But looking a little more closely the hidden costs far outweigh any apparent benefits.

Dear Rebecca:

You offer me a “link swap” where you’ll give me two links in exchange for one of mine.  Wow.

You say:

3-way linking is a very effective link building strategy.

Really. I didn’t know that I needed a “link building strategy.” I thought I just needed good content. If I have good content, people will link to it. Just as I link to other good content. That’s a big part of why I work hard to create good web content.

Our partner sites that link to your site are at least 3 years old with a minimum pagerank of PR3.

I have no idea what PR3 means. I’m assuming it is some kind of marketing lingo, although it could as easily be the kind of “pseudo Authority” Snopes warns against in cases of Internet Fraud. Means nothing to me.

The age of a bottle of wine may impact on a decision of which bottle to buy, but I have difficulty seeing the relevance of the age of a website. I think you intend this as an implied credibility.

How much credibility does the age of a website carry? If that is the only data, my answer to that question is zero credibility.

Any scammer can register a fistful of domain names and leave them cooling on a shelf for three years. Although you’ll never catch me dealing with GoDaddy, as I understand it anyone can register a domain with them for a couple of dollars. It could cost as much as twenty dollars to incubate a couple of three year old websites. I don’t know about you, but to me, my reputation is priceless.

Web age alone has no bearing. If the content is good, I’ll link to a site that goes online today.

Since you’re getting the links from third party websites, they appear totally natural to search engine algorithms. Such inbound links help your website rank higher in Google and other search engines.

This is the real problem, you see. I don’t want the links coming into my site to “appear to be totally natural.”

I want the links coming into my site to be totally natural.

This is an admission that the purpose is to game search engines.

Guess what: I’m not in this to fool search engines into sending me more traffic.

The Internet is valuable for it’s capacity to share information without fear or favor, without needing a huge bankroll, without having to trick people. Isn’t that what TV is for? As far as I can tell, television news is programmed to provide entertainment and maximize car sales.

So when I want real news, I look for it online.

[The Broadcast industry isn’t dying because of ‘piracy.’ it’s dying because of diminishing credibility.]

Misleading search engines doesn’t simply trick the search engines, or the searchers, what it ultimately does is reduce the effectiveness of search engines. I’m a little surprised that Google or Bing aren’t out there offering a bounty on companies like yours that seek to deliberately reduce the accuracy of their search algorithms,

The absolute last thing I want is to deliberately trick Internet users into visiting any of my sites. The only visitors I want are those who chose to visit. Those who have a genuine interest in, or need for the content that is available on my blog.

crying wolf

When a wholly irrelevant website links to mine, the visitors it sends mine can cause me damage.

If netizens searching for articles about astronomy, or travel recommendations or even an escort service, are sent here to my website in error, it erodes my credibility.

A year from now that same visitor might seeking to learn about Self Publishing, but having been scammed into visiting my website under and fooled the last time, they are unlikely to trust the perfectly valid content that I work so hard to make available here.

I use a lot of links, all the time. But the links I use are for sites I’ve visited; sites that contain information – “content” – that I believe to be worth sharing. Content related to mine. Sites that fit with what my site is all about. If I find good content, I am more than willing to send my visitors along to the appropriate website.

My websites don’t sell eyeballs to advertisers, they share content with people.

If I have any ‘marketing strategy’ at all, it would have to be the one advocated by the character Kris Kringle, in the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street.

Because I’ve worked hard to build an Internet reputation I can live with. I stand behind what I say. But I’m only human, so if I get something wrong, tell me, and I will admit it and do my best to correct it. My Internet credibility reflects my personal reputation. Quite frankly, I am not willing to throw either away. The Internet is brilliant, but using it effectively can be very hard work.

the author as a child with an unopened gift
links, like gifts, should be freely given

Although I can’t prevent dubious sites from linking to my content, I do have absolute control over deciding which links that I will forge. I do my level best not link to sites I don’t trust. I don’t sign up for anything that wants to suck in the contents of my email book or Facebook Friends. I try to avoid fraud, malware, scammers, spammers and information harvesters.

Links are more than citations, they are like a personal recommendation. They carry a certain amount of power as Internet’s equivalent of “word-of-mouth”. They shouldn’t be for sale.

Who I link to is an important part of my web footprint. As such, it is an important part of my online reputation.

Like a gift, any links I give are freely given.

So, in conclusion, Rebecca, my answer is, and will always be, “no”.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves