This 18th of February of 2020 the crowdfunding campaign of ElenQ Publishing started and I’d like to talk a bit about it.
First of all, I want to talk you about the crowdfunding platform: http://goteo.org.
Goteo is platform for social crowdfunding that aims to support projects with a
social goal. The software it runs is Free Software licensed under the Affero
GPL license, meaning if you want to make your own crowdfunding platform you can
use the code that Goteo shares, as long as you provide the
people the source code that is running in your platform (server and client).
Goteo Foundation, the maintainers of the code and the people behind goteo.org, fund themselves with the 5% of the crowdfunded money from the campaigns, a fair price for their services. They also receive some help from different government entities like Barcelona’s local government or Spanish Education, Culture and Sports Ministry because of their social impact.
At least in Spain, people that takes part in the campaigns run in goteo.org have the chance to declare they donated money for social goals and get some money back in their tax returns.
For those who want to make a campaign, Goteo reviews and gives feedback, they make the campaign management easier and they are really focused on being multilingual. They support translations for the campaigns and the UI is in many languages, including local all Spanish regional languages and some extra languages more.
This platform is perfectly aligned with the philosophy of ElenQ Technology.
I don’t talk about it enough, but I’ve been teaching informatics related topics since I started with ElenQ Technology. In these 3 years I gave many courses: introductory python, advanced python, data analysis, web scraping, bitcoin and blockhain1, introductory clojure… And some more I can’t remember at the moment. All of those were done in different contexts, from courses for young unemployed people to courses for engineers in research centers. Also, it looks I’m going to keep teaching, because I like it and the students say I’m good at it.
But this is not good enough. It helps me to make a living but it’s not enough. I want to make my best to correct many of the issues I found in this 3 year travel.
I realized I have some tested course structure and materials I want to share.
I realized many people’s English level is not good enough for learning by technology by themselves. They needed someone like me to serve as a bridge. They are isolated from knowledge because the place they come from and the culture they have.
I realized all the technical publications I was reading were written from the same perspective of technology. That made sense, because every author authors came from the same context. I would like to have more diverse people writing about technology and the only way to do it is to make technology more accessible.
I realized that, in my local context, access to knowledge is broken in many ways that looks nobody is willing to change:
In my area, government backed courses only focus in groups of people that are likely to get a job soon anyway. This way they can say they got the job thanks to the money the government invested on the courses and win elections with that. Young people that finished university this year are likely to get a job in the next year. This doesn’t mean they don’t need the course2, but the course itself won’t really affect their employability. What about people with real employability problems3?
Some people have individual problems that don’t fit in the goals of social campaigns run by the government or other entities because they focus on large groups of society with similar problems and they don’t focus the individual. It makes sense because they can help more efficiently that way, but the net has some holes we should repair.
There is no structural support for people who just want to learn new things with no further intention. University is deriving. Now it’s just a place where you get a paper that helps you get a job, but it’s not fulfilling the goals of knowledge it should. It’s not a place where you find knowledge anymore. Many people don’t want to think or learn, but some do and we are preventing them from doing it.
In other places the problem of education is even worse and they don’t have resources (or will4) to solve it. Individuals shouldn’t suffer from that. It’s our responsibility to help everyone have all the chances to develop themselves as much as they want, regardless of their context.
In general, all the points are summarized in one: Knowledge should be free (libre). If it’s not free it’s not knowledge, is just something that makes you more powerful than others: it’s injustice.
I realized many of these things could be solved with a good repository of knowledge in different languages, and, as I’m teaching stuff and I like to write, I considered interesting to work a little bit more on the notes I give my students and make them look like a book.
With a little bit of effort, I can make a book that can be published on the web, on a physical book and on a easy-to-print PDF that anyone can print and copy in a local print shop. I can make it arrive any place in this world.
Not only that. Some people designed a license that lets others create new contents on top of what I did and force them to share what they did with the same license: Creative Commons.
So, with some effort and some funding (and a smile in my face) I can create a publishing project where I gather all the knowledge that my job makes me deal with and I can share it in a way that is ethical and respects everyone’s circumstances.
This is something I want to try. It’s something I need to try.
That’s why I’m trying it.
This campaign is the first attempt to make this happen. If it’s successful, it will make me spend some of my time giving love to the contents I want to release and let me talk with people who have knowledge in areas I don’t and help them publish it.
The campaign has physical books as a goal but they are just a vehicle to be able to publish them in a way that is easy to share. The physical objects are just a way to get funds.
The main goal is not just to make books: it’s the creation of an infrastructure to share knowledge that I can use for the things I research but it can be used also for things other people researches. All the content is going to be published in raw in a repository that anyone could audit, review, improve or create a new project based on it.
Once the infrastructure is ready, publishing new books should be a piece of cake. This first project is going to teach us how to make the paperwork for the ISBN and the book registration and is going to give us time to create the website where the content is going to be stored. Once all those points are ready, the rest of it is “just” write and publish.
The campaign’s goals are separated in two levels: the minimum and the optimum.
The minimum is the publishing of the books in Spanish, my mother tongue language, and covers all the infrastructure costs of that. This way Spanish speaking people will have at least some technical books in their language.
The optimum ensures the publishing in English5. This goal enables the translation to different languages because many people would probably know or Spanish or English, because they are two of the most widely spoken languages in the world, and that way they would be able to translate the books to their mother tongue language to help their own community. I’m not able to supervise a translation to a language I don’t know, but I’m able to make a reliable material in both of these languages for people to work on top of.
As you see, the goals have a really interesting point of contradiction: I want to provide technical material for people that doesn’t talk English, but I’m trying to make it in English for it. Funny, huh?
I’m just trying to be as practical as I can.
There are many points I’d like to consider, many other translations I’d love to do, but I need to focus my effort on something useful in the short term because if it happens to be useful it’s going to push me to keep working on it in the future, providing more and more material and translations.
I like the idea of crowdfundings since I heard about them and I’ve been planning to make one for years. Electronic devices, software, miniature games and collections… Everything was candidate for a crowdfunding campaign in my mind, but I didn’t want to disappoint the patrons and I never started one.
This time I think it’s possible to provide good material. The content is already defined and tested in my courses, it only needs to be updated, the goals are simple and doable, and I have all the good people around me that is going to help me with everything.
This project helped me connect with the people I love and that’s one of the best things in life. I know everything is going to be fine with their help and support.
Since I started with ElenQ Technology I had the chance to meet many good people with incredible skills and love in their heart. This project is somehow the result of the love they gave me because it filled me with the courage I needed.
Just wanted to express my gratitude6.
Thank you all.
If you want to take part…
There are many ways you can help but crowdfunding campaigns look like the only one is giving money and that’s not true. Also, there are many ways to give money and some are more effective than others.
For people that is not able to provide funds but want to take part there are also very helpful tasks:
Sharing the campaign with people, communities, universities, libraries and so on, that might be interested is always good.
Once the contents are released in our repository, reviewing the content or improving it will help us a lot.
Translating the content to other languages will help other communities we can’t directly help. Your language skills are valuable.
Your love and support is always welcome and it helps us to keep on the good job.
For the people that want to provide monetary help, there are points to consider:
The best way to help is to give money and don’t ask for any physical good (the first reward is for that) because the books have an associated printing and shipping cost. They are going to be released online anyway so if you don’t really like the idea of having a physical object, you can also take part and get the result of the campaign.
The second best way is to give money and ask for the physical good(s). In the case of this campaign, more books you order the cheaper their production is (bulk orders and scale economy, you know…).
One of the highest costs is the shipping, asking us to get the goods in person7 (Bilbao) or making bulk shippings reduces the costs and makes the donation more efficient. It’s better for us if a group of friends make just one big order than having many small orders.
That said, here goes the link to the campaign if you want to take part.
don’t judge me too fast: the course was a technical explanation about every detail of how does bitcoin work. I wanted students to learn the cryptography behind and all the good design ideas bitcoin has while I tried to make them be critical about the blockchain technology during the blockchain boom. ↩
They need it, more if its a course like mine where I talk them about working with ethics and being independent. :D ↩
USA, I’m looking at you. ↩
Don’t worry, I know my English is bad and I’m not going to translate them, a professional service will (under my supervision for the terminology and stuff). ↩
I don’t know why… I’m like that I guess. ↩
If you get the books in person I’ll take a coffee/tea with you. ↩