What’s in the PIPELINE for the upcoming hot open source summer of socialism.tools

I haven’t posted in a while, so to let the several people who actually read this blog know that I am both not dead and still working, here’s what I’ve got in the drafts:

  • FreeScout vs OSTicket – which FOSS helpdesk solution works best for the cost-conscious and on-the-move socialist?
    • Preview: FreeScout is newer, shinier, and comes with more DLC than a Paradox game. OSTicket has been around forever, and both functions like it it (mostly good, it’s full featured) and looks like it (very bad)
  • Cloudflare – is it a good idea to use at all? Maybe not! Is there anyone else who can fill all the gaps? Well…….
  • A second, more in-depth look at Zulip (by request)
  • A second look at Rocket Chat, why the push messaging limit is worse than I thought
  • Part 3 of the zero-to-totally-FOSS guide that covers document editing. This is gonna take a while.
  • Password managers – why you (and especially your org!) should use one, and why it should be Bitwarden (or possibly 1password)
  • How buying an ortholinear split keyboard kills your WPM and therefore your blogging productivity
    • jesus christ typing anything takes forever
    • i would give up but I’m much too stubborn
Multilingual is Important but Challenging

Multilingual is Important but Challenging

To include everyone, an org has to be multilingual, and while learning a language can take a long time, it can be easier to enlist bilingual people within the organization to translate web content. Translating digital content is seen as an easy, quick way to make the content more accessible. While this is a great goal, and should be a focus for  tech teams, I’ve found it’s not easy. This post chronicles the jounrey I had to take (and am still on!) to figure out how to make a WordPress site multilingual.

WordPress is not multilingual by default, and neither is its main competitor, Ghost. One of the best, easiest to use treanslations products on the market for WordPress and Ghost is WeGlot, which costs an eye-popping amount of money, especially if you write a lot (and let’s be honest, socialists are wordy, so you’re probably gonna write a lot.) There are alternatives to Weglot that are cheaper, but all of those products are targeted at business who can stomach the higher costs. If you have under 2,000 words for a project that’s limited in scope and you need it fast the free plan will work.

With the professional options out, WordPress translation plugins are the best option for the budget-minded polyglot. WordPress has a few options, and in my research WPML came up as the most mature and full-featured for the cost ($79a year, and $69 a year after that, you simply stop getting updates if you forget to pay). Polylang also looked good, but a bit less mature. WPML also grants you 2,000 credits for machine translations per month, which is a nice bonus as the machine translations seem pretty good for common language pairs (like English to Spanish – I wouldn’t try it for something like English to Chinese or other languages with less of a common root).

Installation of WPML is straightforward, but this is where the ease of use of WPML comes to a screeching halt. You’re paying budget prices for premium functionality, but it comes at the cost of ease of use. I’ve spent a few weeks trying to wrap my head around all the functionality of WPML and I’m still not there yet (which is why this is a blog post and not a tutorial). I still don’t know what the best way to translate articles is. Clicking the plus button next to a post to add a translation prompts you to re-create the entire post, including stuff like images, where string translation seems to work similarly but I still haven’t figured out how to get that to work consistently yet. On another, larger, site there’s thousands of strings and no obvious way to filter to the ones I need, and even then, they’re one large post in a Classic Block, and the interface to translate is small. Not really ideal either way.

I wrote this up just becuase I’ve been working on this months, and this is all I have to show for it. If you know of a better way, please let me know – otherwise, I hope to make a much more streamlined and comprehensive introduction to WPML soon.


Cloudron vs. YunoHost – the self-host app showdown

Cloudron vs. YunoHost – the self-host app showdown

It can be hard to self-host many open source apps if you’re not a Linux expert. Several projects try to make this easier – they offer new admins an easy web-based installer and come out of the box configured to support secure, stable applications. There’s a large number of different apps that claim to support this need, but only two are worth a look – Cloudron and Yunohost. I cover Cloudron elsewhere, so here, I’ll take a look at the following apps, and try to determine how good of a fit they would be for an easy, low-maintenance way to host the apps in my tutorial on taking control of your chapter’s digital tools.


I started with the following list:





but ended up with only Cloudron and Yunohost after determining the other options either didn’t offer enough applications or lacked support for common use cases.





Why Cloudron?





Cloudron is a source-available (more on what this means later) application that’s quick to install, and provides a large number of one-click, high-quality apps. It includes and email and LDAP server that integrate seamlessly with all Cloudron apps, and allows multiple copies of apps as well as multiple domains per installation. It’s actively developed, and offers a support forum where the developers regularly respond to problems. It’s a very compelling solution that checks off every box, and it’s why I chose it for my guide.






So why not Cloudron?





Cloudron has a few downsides that may not be tolerable for some. While Cloudron’s source code is almost entirely available for anyone to see and contribute to, it’s not really open source. First, it costs money to install more than two apps or have more than five users. Second, as the devs explain, the real value of Cloudron is the app packages, which require constant work to maintain, and the charging of a license fee allows that work to continue.






Basically, the argument is that without the license fee, the software would not exist, and the current licensing model allows Cloudron to be very open-source while not meeting the official definition of a fully Open Source project. I think this is fair, and the Cloudron devs have released both build instructions for the platform and their tools that allow techies to package their own apps. In theory, one could fork Cloudron and re-package whatever they want. (Nobody has yet, as far as I know, because this would be a lot of work!)






There is a lot more to write about open-source funding models, but suffice to say – for people looking for a 100% open-source solution, Cloudron will not work. So what’s the next best option?






YunoHost – the 100% free alternative





YunoHost is a program that’s similar to Cloudron but entirely open-source and volunteer led. All YunoHost apps are AGPL3. YunoHost is similar to Cloudron in that you set it up and have an SSO solution, email, and an app store to easily install things from.






YunoHost is more difficult to setup than Cloudron, doesn’t offer as wide of an app catalog, and overall it’s less polished. None of these are deal breakers, however! Installation is still easy if you are familiar with the basics of how SSH and Linux works, all of the most important apps (WordPress, Nextcloud, Matrix apps, etc) are there, and I don’t think the lack of polish is severe enough to prevent non-technical people from using it as co-admins after it’s set up the first time.






As a bonus, YunoHost offers more guidance on running YunoHost on consumer hardware at home, and has guides on how to install on PCs and ARM devices (with special guides for the Raspberry Pi).






In short: For chapters that are extremely committed to the spirit of open-source and have the willingness to power through the bumps that requires, or for extremely cost constrained chapters, YunoHost is the best option there is.




Is using open source for your team a good idea?

Over the past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time investigating the options for teams that want to work with an entirely open-source, self-hostable ecosystem of applications. Like many other projects that attempted this, I wanted a way for people to work together while still owning our data. Our team had a unique extra need compared to most of these projects, however – we wanted whatever we made to be usable by everyone, even people who are not very comfortable with using software, particularly unfamiliar software. Could we find a solution?


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