Episode 205

FOSSY 2023 with Richard Littauer


October 27th, 2023

17 mins 59 secs

Your Host
Special Guest

About this Episode


Richard Littauer


Karen Sandler

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain! In this episode, the tables are turned today as Karen Sandler takes over as host, interviewing our very own Richard Littauer. Recorded at the Free and Open Source Yearly conference, the discussion delves into Richard’s evolving perspective on sustainability in open source projects. His experiences attending multiple conferences have led him to question the term ‘sustainability,’ advocating instead for a shift towards values such as human rights, joy, and mitigating harm. Also, Richard and Karen explore the significance of user rights, copyleft licensing, and GPL, voicing concerns over the erosion of these rights. They end with a discussion on the systemic complexities in the open source world, the potential for a new community approach to sustainable code, and an emphasis on collective action and personal joy. Press download to hear more cool stuff!

[00:00:58] Richard offers a detailed insight into his talk. He explains his perspective on sustainability, suggesting it may not be the most fitting term when applied to the open source community. He shares his experience attending multiple sustain conferences and how it shaped his views, and discusses sustainability for developers, touching upon burnout, recognition, and issues of dependency, supply chain, security, and legal issues.

[00:03:31] He notes the wide range of topics covered in the Sustain podcasts, highlighting the complexity of sustainability. He questions the usefulness of the term ‘sustainability’ and suggests we need to focus on what truly matters in life, such as human rights, mitigating harm, and seeking joy.

[00:04:39] Karen reviews the flow of Richard’s talk, and he summarizes his talk questioning the emphasis on sustainability and growth, recommending instead to focus on joy and relieving suffering.

[00:05:55] Richard advocates for focusing on personal fulfillment and societal impact instead of simply growth and funding. He emphasizes that the ultimate goal should be about human rights, liberties, and happiness.

[00:07:20] Karen wonders if Richard is going to rename the podcast. He maintains his support for open source but stresses the importance of focusing on impact and human values. He emphasizes the importance of considering one’s own project in the larger context and evaluating its actual importance.

[00:08:47] Richard discusses the importance of GPL for user protections and shares concerns about devices locking users out, he shares his changing stance towards GPL and the impact of his code.

[00:09:36] Karen and Richard discuss the potential for a new community approach to sustainable code, and Richard suggests that sharing stories and rethinking relationships with technology is a way forward.

[00:10:46] Karen asks Richard about his views on corporate power, and he explains how his view has evolved.

[00:12:04] They discuss the systematic problems and individual roles within them. Richard explores the conundrum of trying to change a system from the inside or outside, and he prefers to use his knowledge and privilege to make an impact rather than disengage from the system.

[00:13:41] Thinking back to all the conversations Richard’s had about the sustain movement, he shares his favorite conversation with Dominic Tarr, who left coding to pursue personal joy. Karen emphasizes the need for collective action to address systemic problems.

[00:16:01] Find out where you can follow Richard and his projects online.



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