Free Everything: Hacking Content Liberation

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Tuesday, June 21, 2016 from 11:00 – 11:45am in B304


Large commercial websites rely on the "network effect" to keep users from exploring alternatives. Putting contributions under an open license can break this effect. This talk will explore hacks to give users control over the content they contribute to commercial websites.


Have you ever written a review on Yelp, posted a response on Quora, collected some pins on Pinterest? These sites have one thing in common: they don’t make it easy to download your own contributions. Content users publish on these sites is also not under a free license by default, so it’s impossible for free/open communities to build on it.

I’ve been thinking about this problem and come up with one approach to solving it in a general way, which I’ll explain and showcase in the presentation. It’s called “Free Your Stuff”, an open source browser extension and NodeJS web service which downloads your content, and which also lets you publish it under an open license. I’ll also present other hacks and tools people have used to liberate their content.

From a tech perspective, I’ll give an overview of the architecture of a pure-JavaScript application consisting of browser code, extension code, a website and an API. The “hack” part is that we need to do something that the websites we’re interfacing with don’t necessarily give us an easy way to do, which introduces interesting challenges of fragility, testability and code reusability.

We’ll do a quick interactive walkthrough in the last 5 minutes for users interested in liberating their own content.

Slides for the talk can be found at:


freeculture, opendata, extensions, javascript

Speaking experience

I have more than 15 years of public speaking experience in many different contexts, in front of both technical and non-technical audiences. An example of a fun talk, at Wikimania 2014 that explored long term directions for the projects:

A more serious tech talk I gave in Bangalore back in 2012:

I've never given this talk before.


  • Biography

    I was Deputy Director of the Wikimedia Foundation from 2008-2015 and have since been working on new projects, including “Passionate Voices”, a series of interviews with people in the free culture / open source space and beyond, and “Free Your Stuff”, the subject of this proposal.


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