Some of you know I've started a blog called FOSS Academic ( I'm exploring life as an academic who tries to use as much free and open source software as possible. You know, being a lonely humanities Linux user at a university.

I'm writing to solicit questions people might have about being a FOSS Academic. Or maybe to solicit comments on the FOSS Academic Lifestyle Dream. Not that I know all the things, but I'm curious what questions people have about this area, if any.

@robertwgehl Do you have the obligation to use Google & Microsoft tools as part of College's protocols of communication with your students (that could mean the College has a contract with those companies).

Also Whatsapp/Facebook to informal communication regarding student groups as a common "natural" way to share information, etc?

@monroym Good questions!

Yes, there are requirements to use proprietary stuff -- especially Zoom. LaTech uses Google for many things, too.

I tend to use Zoom because students are familiar with it, but I eschew using Google stuff as much as possible. That said, I have to email students, which essentially means my emails go to Gmail.

@robertwgehl I'm sure is kind of uncomfortable (I also speak for myself as student dealing with the common preference for GAFAM even among teachers).

@robertwgehl I haven't had the courage to start using Linux as my work computer. Fortunately MacOS is really well supported by most FOSS software.

I get to write in vim, check my email with mutt, browse with Firefox etc.

@jaranta Using mutt for email! What's that like? I've been curious about switching, but I'm addicted to a full suite with calendar, tasks, etc (specifically Evolution)

@robertwgehl Neomutt, to be exact. It's pretty good; talks to our mail server and does what I ask it to do, which is more than can be said about most email clients. I like the Unix-idea of having separate programs for different things, so tasks and calendar are handled by different things.

@robertwgehl Hiya. Philology, especially Asian languages, has been a FOSS lagoon for decades. Critical editions in XeTeX, lots of *nix users, that sort of thing. Anthropology, by contrast, is hopeless; there is little awareness and very little in the way of tools.

@yetiinabox @robertwgehl Why did philology take up FOSS? Was it people or a particular technical need of philology?

@robertwgehl I completed my degree using FOSS. It was challenging sometimes. The campus wifi security needed a few workarounds and Libre Office with Zotero left MS Word and Endnote for dead. Using FOSS kept it interesting and helped me hate it less.

@trregeagle Curious what you mean by Libreoffice and Zotero left Word and Endnote for dead? Do you mean that the FOSS worked better for you?

@robertwgehl Yes. I was able to interpret the academic referencing guidelines for my uni dept and make them into a custom Zotero template. This made my referencing formatting so much less painful.
@robertwgehl I shared it on Zotero and told the other undergrads but mainly got blank looks 😢☺️

@trregeagle I know the feeling. I regularly promote Zotero with people, and often they're like, huh? I realize it may be a change in their workflow, but in the long run, it saves so much time.

@robertwgehl I would be interested in having a sense of whether other FOSS academics tend to also be contributors to software, and whether they tend to gather a collection of small single-purpose scripts and tools (as I do).

@okf Agreed. I do the same -- I have some Python scripts I've gathered, or I've made little scripts.

I guess we should define "contributing" -- adding code? Flagging bugs? Documentation? Answering questions of other users? Arguably I've done some of the latter.

@robertwgehl I was thinking of all those cases - but maybe the case of adding code is particularly interesting, because the advantage of FOSS is that the code is available and can be modified if needed - at least in principle. So how many of the people who use FOSS for academia also contribute in terms of coding or even designing software (requesting features counts as design in my mind)?

@okf Requesting features -- I've definitely done that with Zotero. Contributing code: not me. I agree -- would be fascinating to find out which FOSS academics are contributing code.

Anyone out there fit that description?

@robertwgehl I've done it, mostly vim plugins for working with text and other utilities of the sort.

I work in computational fields (neuroscience, networks, and complex systems in general) so yes, in these fields there tend to be many people who contribute to community software, either very specific to their field or more general purpose.

@robertwgehl I also set up a few sites in Drupal. I remember one was a sort of irreverent FAQ for new undergrads. It had study tips; we shared our study notes and tricks to help memorise things. A student plagiarised it and the Uni forced me to take the whole site offline under threat of non-completion. I argued that I wasn't responsible for another student's academic integrity. But they didn't agree. It was very frustrating.

@robertwgehl Have you stumbled across Logseq? I'm told it has a great integration with Zotero.

@trregeagle Logseq's basically a FOSS outliner version of obsidian ---- I'm told you can use them together and that logseq has a slightly nicer Zotero integration.

I myself use obsidian exclusively, but folks looking for FOSS alternatives often like Logseq.

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