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SSB Log Entry 80

Part III: Questions to Ask Publishers

Software ownership, despite being a once simple concept require re-evaluation after years of degradation.

Below I've outlined a list of questions to ask when evaluating software choices. My hope is by voting with our wallets and insisting on software ownership we can build a world where software publishers try their hardest to say 'yes' to the following questions:

  • Can I use the software without logging in to external accounts?
  • Can I store my data locally? If not, Why?
  • Can I retrieve my content when I am offline?
  • Will the software interoperate with other packages I own?
  • Can I share application data with trusted contacts via non-intermediated means, such as private email or offline file transfer?
  • Am I granted a perpetual license to the particular version of software I have purchased?
  • Is the software free of intrusive digital rights management?
  • Is my data end-to-end encrypted?
  • Is the source code available for independent review (some may doubt that this is possible for commercial entities, but many companies have found ways to remain profitable without hoarding "trade secrets").

When evaluating options, consider supporting the authors that say 'yes' to ownership. If you have more questions to add to this list, please email me. I am considering building a directory of software ranked by its 'yes' count. The closest thing I have found so far is the Ethical Alternatives & Resources. I highly recommend it.

Accepting the Tradeoffs

I have a few vegetarian friends that openly admit to craving a burger now and then. For them, dietary choice is guided by principal rather than convenience. For ownership-respecting software, I can openly admit that we have a long way to go. DuckDuckGo is not as good as Google and SearX fares even worse. Secure Scuttlebutt is not as flashy as Twitter. Despite these shortcomings, I make the choice to use software that gives me the most ownership. Sometimes, it's not realistic to completely remove a tool from your life, due to family or professional obligations. In those cases, it is still possible to reduce exposure as much as possible, especially since many of the ownership hostile software platforms are supported by advertising revenue.

By supporting ethical software and authors, we can create the world we want to live in.

With that being said, below are some of the challenges I've identified with software that loves you back:

  • Local encryption often comes at the cost of poor search and indexing
  • Having real end-to-end encryption makes password retrieval difficult.
  • Collaborative editing without a central gatekeeper is difficult when both ends own the data.

I would love to hear about other problems and their solutions. Please send me a message on Tilde.Town if you would like to discuss other challenges.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Take time to identify software tools that do and don't respect your right to ownership using the questions listed above. When software doesn't respect your rights, get it out of your life and tell your peers why you chose ownership over convenience. Always act in a way that promotes individual ownership and ethical data use. Support ownership respecting authors with more than just kind words and make it obvious to others that you won't settle for anything less.