Reglue piggybacks on Ubuntu Edge's crowdfunding

Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Jul 30, 2013 GMT
Bruce Byfield

To say that Larry "the Free Software Guy" Cafiero  criticizes Ubuntu and Canonical is like calling a hurricane breezy. A journalist in his work and a blogger in his spare time, Cafiero frequently shows himself to be harder hitting and more to the point than most free software writers. Recently, however, he has found a way to highlight his criticism while encouraging critics and supporters alike to donate to a cause in which both can believe.

Ever since the Ubuntu Edge fundraising campaign was announced last week, Cafiero has expressed his low opinion of it. Inspired by insommia, early one morning, he even commented on it using a number of popular memes (my favorite is Sean Bean as Lord of the Ring's Boromir, who is made to say, "One does not simply ask for $32 million").

However, this week, Cafiero found a more constructive way to voice his opinion. Cafiero is a director of Reglue, a well-known Texas non-profit that refurbishes old computers for children and their families. Coincidentally, Reglue began its own fund-raiser at the same time that Ubuntu Edge's began. By an even greater coincidence, Reglue is asking for $32 thousand while Ubuntu Edge is asking for $32 million. Furthermore, about a quarter of the money raised so far by Reglue was donated by Ubuntu's founder Mark Shuttleworth.

Putting these facts together, Cafiero has issued a challenge to those who have pledged support for Ubuntu Edge: "You bought an Ubuntu Edge phone for $600 or $800 already? Great. If you can afford to spend that much on a phone, you can kick in 10 percent of that to the Reglue Indiegogo campaign to help underprivileged kids around Austin, Texas.... You didn’t buy a phone, but you believe in Canonical’s project enough to place some money down? Fantastic. Now, how about about donating 10 percent of what you gave to them to a project that not only provides the aforementioned Linux boxes and computer labs, but also provides Internet connectivity to the most needy of their clients?"

As someone who has helped raise funds for a number of non-profits and been involved in Free Geek, a local equivalent of Reglue, I admire this pitch so much I wish that I had thought of it myself.

It's a direct hit in the guilt for those who hope to purchase a luxury like a boutique folk, yet delivered so casually, with such a reasonable request -- only $60-80 to a distinctly non-partisan cause. Cafiero doesn't belabor the point, but my guess is that anyone with a conscience is going to feel a little foolish about buying yet another phone while not helping kids.

However, that's not all. Having done his share of arguing and discussing with Ubuntu fans on social media, Cafiero goes on to put himself on the line -- at least theoretically. If Reglue makes its goal, Cafiero pledges to write four blogs praising Ubuntu or Canonical In addition, the top four Ubuntu Edge donors who also donate to Reglue will get to pick his topics.
Then, just in case anyone doesn't get Cafiero's points that there are better places to donate than Ubuntu Edge, he ends his announcement by suggesting a few more free software non-profits and projects to donate to instead.

To me, this is the best fundraising ploy since local celebrity chef James Barber promoted public television by staring into the camera and saying, "How many ways can I say this? Give, already!" Indirect and self-deprecating, it's the exact opposite of a hard-sell, yet, at the same time, more effective in getting across the opinion that we don't really need Ubuntu Edge than any rant could possibly be.

 I may be making too much of Cafiero's promise, but it seems to me a comment on the free ride that Ubuntu often gets in the media. Everyone who has ever read Cafiero will know that his promised praise will be insincere, but that will only make it all the more humorous. If Cafiero ever has to write those columns, I expect them to be gems of double entendres and hypocrisy that mean he isn't humbling himself at all, but rather expressing his opinion in a more roundabout way than usual. I expect to enjoy them a lot.

 Any way that you look at it, Cafiero has come up with a smarter, funnier campaign than all the employees at Canonical or the volunteers at Ubuntu could manage for Ubuntu Edge -- and one that definitely gets past my defenses. I just emptied my PayPal account, but before the end of Reglue's campaign, I plan to make at least a small donation, if only to express my appreciation of the originality of the appeal. I can only urge everyone else to do the same.

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