Last year (or so)
For the last year, and a good part of the year before, I was working for a NGO: The International Federation of Human Rights as an ICT manager. Which – for anyone who ever worked as an operational engineer in an NGO -implies doing way to much work. From helpdesk to help to write reports about internet censorship, from system administrator to webmaster, from training activists during clandestine mission to training officers to use free software. It requires adaptabality, skills and an iron will when it tuns to defend free software on a daily basis.
I learned a lot of things there. Working with interesting people doing advocacy for human rights in the whole world brings a lot. Passionat and dedicated people. I learned what human right are and why they’re important. I developped a lot more cynism than what I previously had – and yes, it means a lot more of cynism – mostly due to some way of realism. I developped a better comprehension of how diplomatics and economics intertwined themselves.
I also learned that you can eshift extremeley fast from defending rights to defending your interests. I see egos destroying interesting project. I witnessed personal interests taking over principles of humanism. I was confronted more than once to paradoxes – for instance people advocating for right for the worker in asia and begging for Apple computers.
I also leraned a lot about me. For instance that I’m not meant for help desk. It’s too much stress and it makes me wanting to rip the throat of people with my teeth. I ended more than once a phonecall for support in a state of almost blind rage and needing to go out and walk or hit something. Or crying. I discovered that I probabaly developped a traumatism by being exposed to too much videos and pictures and texts about horror in the world. I had at least two diagnosed burn-outs in those 15 months. And I did anxiety attack on the job – not because we had attacks on our infrastructure, this part of the job is the kind of pressure I do manage.
I’ve been diagnosed with a severe depression, and for the last two month (or so) I’m now under drugs to keep my mind out of the suicide path he wanders on.
Off the grid
My contract is now over. And believe me, it was a great experience and I do not regreat it at all. I cannot afford to continue working like that though and I needed a full month off the grid.
No talks, no interviews, no code no nothing, not going to the hackerspace. Just playing video games (so in the last month I’ve done Dragon Age Inquisition, Mass Effect 1, 2 and almost the three, Saint Rows the Third and Saint Rows 4, Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall) and watching movies and tv shows.
And sleeping (10 to 12 hours a day, thanks to melatonin). I’ve spent a lot of time inside my flat with my bunnies and getting out only for food – and the occasional social event with two or three people.
I’m still in this kind of state. Stuck in the present, unable to get outside and to walk into the world o to project myself into the future. I’m witting this from the café down the street, and it took me at least a full week to find the motivation to get there and write this (and read my mail).
So yeah, I was a bit off the grid. Off the world. I used part of this time to think about what I’m going to do next. I cannot imagine doing a job which is not inline with at least some of my political views, which blacklist most of the startups and comapnies I know.
I cannot work for other association or NGO because they will have the same issue and need for a five legged sheep as an ICT person. That rules a lot of things out.
So, I have no other choice but to find a way to pay the bills and to try to contribute to fight for a world with a bit more fairness in it. The thing that most collective lacks is a way to manage their online data.
Most of them relies on youtube – for instance – to upload their videos, exposing wrong doings and the like. Or use a centralized web services for managing their emails or to share documents.
Most of those collectives have other priorities than to learn key management, or to maintain a dedicated servers. It can even be illegal or dangerous for some of them. When reaching out to a foreign journalists or tweeting about your givernement can have you locked up in a jail without trial, you do not have the time to learn GPG, or how to host a website in TLS.
But this is things I was doing for the last year (and the years before with the telecomix crew). It’s something I wrote about, and I’ve been running cryptoparties for a while.
Also, there is a lot of projects promising about privacy and security of communications. Most of them needs that someone runs a server with the code and maintain it. Which is out of scope for most of the organisation and collectives I know – heck even the nation-wide newspaper here barely have the ressources for it.
This is what I’m going to do. I’ll try to find a way to earn my life with that, but the idea is to provide a mutualized solutions for individuals and collectives who cares about privacy and security. Using only free software, and contributing to them. Providing email, chat, storage and syncing, hosting made for those groups and individual.
I’ll need some help at some point, but the goal is to build a small company which can thrive on it. So yes, it will be a service you’ll have to pay for. Some services will be free – mostly the one that requires few ressources and works – but running server have a cost.
And I do not want to pay that cost with the data of my future users. Or with advertisement (which is the same in the end).
So, I’ll try to start that. I’m doing a lot of thinking and writing about it. Of course I’ll disclose everything about it.