Why I stand up for Stallman

Why I stand up for Stallman: A few years ago I met Richard Stallman, in Berkeley. It was arranged by my friend Sylvia Paull, who was his publicist (she might still be, I’m not sure). It was amazing, because one of his associates there (whose name I don’t remember) was teasing me just like people in workgroups on the net were. I looked at him, and asked him if he seriously was going to do this, in front of Stallman. Yeah, he kept at it. That’s how pervasive this culture of disrespect is. To Stallman’s credit, he not only stopped it, but dug in. He wanted to understand what was at the root of this. I told him I had GPL’d my life’s work. And this is the kind of treatment I was getting fairly widely. It wasn’t a long conversation, but I could see in his eyes the empathy that Sam had been looking for so many years ago. People think Stallman is oblivious, but my feeling is he’s a lot more aware than most people.

[Anil Dash in the comments on the above story: “using that power to cow conference organizers and academics into submission to an arbitrary set of whims, the same as a rock star refusing to eat certain colors of M&Ms. Just make good music, and ignore the unwelcome M&Ms in the bowl. And be thankful someone wants to hear what you’re singing.”

Here’s where I step in… most people get that story wrong and Anil does here. And I think it helps make a point, I’m simply trying to be pedantic about a often mistold story.

The “no red M&Ms” (or whatever color) wasn’t about arbitrary control and power but about trust. Setting a venue for a show requires a lot of technical work. There’s an awful lot of voltage flying around those lights and plenty more in the audio systems. Cross connect something by mistake, lift a ground in the wrong spot, etc. and you greatly increase the chance that someone will get electrocuted and seriously harmed (if not killed).

The remove one color of M&M while it seems arbitrary was a test. For something that the venue or promoter might feel is bullying or a power trip, if they attended to the detail of it, chances are that they’re attending to the details that really matter as well. It’s a litmus test for attention to detail.

While I had no problem pointing to a story about Stallman’s inconsistency’s, that’s not a reason to jump on him. It doesn’t smack of power trip to me. It simply seems like the a “possibles bag” of collected things that have gone wrong in the past, and an attempt to improve things in the future. Anyone who has done even some of what he does knows that expectations aren’t ever clear enough. You arrive to give a talk and suddenly “could you just” do this event or something. And a million other assumptions that may or may not be true. That document rings true to me, although some of it might seem odd. So what.

So while Anil has a point in the “you must call it” section, you might want to consider that most of this has probably happened and is there to prevent it from happening again, if at all possible, and is no more a power trip than saying “These things have gone wrong in the past”.]
Source: Scripting News

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