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FSFE Newsletter – March 2014

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The UK attempts to break free from vendor lock-in

The UK government is making progress towards less vendor lock-in. In January, they published a few principles for future government IT contracts. They want to break the dominance of the big software companies who provided the vast majority of software and services to the UK government.

Now they are asking for comments on the standards they should use for "sharing or collaborating with government documents". Among other things, the government proposes to make ODF the sole standard for office-type documents. The FSFE has submitted comments on a proposal by the UK government to use only document formats based on Open Standards in the future. Microsoft also submitted a lengthy comment, urging the government to include OOXML in its list of standards, to which we responded as well.

Why Open Standards aren't enough: the minimal principle

Although a good data-format can only be an Open Standard, FSFE's Bernhard Reiter argues that this requirement alone is not enough. Originally written for last year's Document Freedom Day in German, the article "The minimal principle: because being an open standard is not enough" is now available in English. In a nutshell Bernhard argues that the data-format needs to solve a problem adequately: It should be a good fit from a functional point of view, as well as on a technical level. In order to judge this, there are a number of things to consider: efficiency, maintainability, accessibility, extensibility, learnability, simplicity, longevity and a few more. Two central questions posed are: How well does the data-format solve the problem and --more interesting-- is there a simpler format that could solve the problem just as well?

Read the article, discuss it on our public mailing lists, and if you are a developer always ask yourself if it can be done simpler.

Lots of motivation for Free Software contributors

On February 14th, people all around the world followed our suggestions to express their gratitude and appreciation to Free Software and its contributors on " I love Free Software" day 2014! Blog entries, e-mails to developers, a comic, a picture by the leadership of the German Green party, an #ilovefs festival, blogs dedicated to Free Software in general and developers in particular, and a lot of microblog messages were dedicated to Free Software. We were overwhelmed by the resonance.

Contributors of Free Software projects work hard to ensure our freedom and on this day surely many of them gained new motivation. Thanks to everybody who participated in this year's #ilovefs campaign and if you have not been involved enjoy some of the many love declarations we collected.

Something completely different

Get active: Participate in Document Freedom Day!

There has been so many news about Open Standards in this edition. Do you want to help us to promote them? If so, Document Freedom Day on 26 March is a good occasion for that. Last year we had 59 events in 30 countries all over the world. This year Sam Tuke and the DFD campaign team aim for 75 events, but they need your help.

Either organise a small event or educate your friends and colleagues through other ways about Open Standards. You can now register your event or order promotional packs with new materials, including multilingual posters and leaflets, flyers, and stickers, as well as new t-shirts.

Thanks to all the volunteers, Fellows and corporate donors who enable our work,
Matthias Kirschner - FSFE