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Dedicated to Ian Murdock (debian.org)
315 points by doener on June 18, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 39 comments

There is this movie called 'Falling Down', when I heard about what happened to Ian I immediately associated it with the patterns in that movie. Very sad and it is a real pity that we lose these wonderful people to momentary lapses of judgment or a cascade of misery starting with some innocent little thing.

There isn't a day that I get by without using software influenced by Ian and his role in all this is hard to overstate.

That movie stunned me at his one moment of clarity. "I'm the bad guy?"

We always need to look out for our friends. Many mental diseases, by definition, cannot be self diagnosed.

You mean you really don't suspect that Ian Murdock was murdered in a manner consistent with the appearance of suicide?

No, I really don't suspect that.

The sad truth is, most people simply refuse to confront hard questions in a manner that challenges their coping skills.

A small anecdote in memory of Ian. When he joined Docker it was to help us make the platform more open and community-friendly. He died before completing his project and we've done our best to continue it in the way he would have wanted. We finally launched it, over a year late, under the name Moby. That name was Ian's idea too.

We initially wanted to publicly dedicate the Moby launch to him, but decided against it, because we didn't want to give the impression that we were cynically using his name to help our launch succeed.

It makes me very happy that this release of Debian is dedicated to him. It's hard to describe the shock of losing a colleague so brutally in the middle of a mind meld, when you're so intensely focused on building something together. It still haunts me.

> We initially wanted to publicly dedicate the Moby launch to him, but decided against it, because we didn't want to give the impression that we were cynically using his name to help our launch succeed.

I get what you're saying, but my guess is that most people would've seen it differently, especially if you had also mentioned everything that Ian had contributed to before joining Docker. I believe Docker lost an opportunity, with this decision, to connect with people who're still around.

Yes, that possibility is often on my mind. When we made the decision, Docker was the target of loud and vitriolic criticism in parts of the open-source community. In our experience the vitriol, even if it comes from a small minority, can spoil the discourse for everyone else. We didn't want to risk dragging Ian's name into that. I have no doubt that we missed an opportunity, but it just didn't seem worth the risk.

Maybe at some point in the future, when Docker is no longer as polarizing (something we're actively working on ), we will revisit the issue.

I agree, people always find a way to misinterpret things. It is a really nice thought and speaks greatly of you

What the heck actually happened to Ian? He's going to be my own personal "Elvis/Tupac is alive" brand of conspiracy theorising (not really, but I expect we'll never really know what actually happened).

At any rate, happy exclusive Debian user here for the past 15 years. Thank you, Ian, gone too soon. Your name lives on in half the name of my most belov├Ęd OS.

Is it really that big of a mystery? He had some kind of untreated mental health problems, had a run-in with the police, and then committed suicide.

I mean I guess you might wonder what exactly was running through his mind at the moment, but that seems a little morbid and super personal to me. It's enough to me at a high level that he had personal mental health issues he was dealing with, never got the right help, and ultimately succumbed to his demons. Is that an Elvis/Tupac kind of mystery?

This were his last tweets if you really want to know the context... https://pastebin.com/yk8bgru5

Dude definitely had some demons in his head. Ramblings of a mad man.

I'm not going to call judgment on any of this. I've seen totally rational and very 'cool' (as in, hard to perturb) people go from their normal happy self to strapped down on a stretcher in the space of 48 very long hours. People can be under absolutely immense pressure and not show it until something hits them at the wrong angle, or some tiny blood vessel in the brain decides it's had enough.

Crystals are like that too: along one axis you can up the pressure to incredible values and nothing will even show to indicate something is up, then you tap them lightly along another axis and boom, nothing but dust left.

Things that can trigger this kind of episode besides the obvious medical causes are simultaneous crisis in relationships, financial situation (probably not here) and professional life. Other ways in which it can happen are bad drug trips and many other ways besides.

Yet another option is that there is real substance to Ians claims about police brutality but he could have done a lot better if he wanted to make that claim and make it stick. All in all an extremely sad affair where I'm fairly sure we'll never know the real root cause, all we can do is keep our eyes open for repeats of such patterns in the people near to us and to hopefully react in time when we see them.

Agreed on all counts. A particularly bad day or days can absolutely wreck a person, and until someone or somebody close to them has gone through the process there is really no explaining how real a thing it is.

In Ian's case, some combination of alcohol, depression, and police violence (seriously, go read the coroner's report) seems to be the cause.

What's entirely absurd is the number of people here who, hat in hand, are all too happy to say "well golly gee another terrible victim of mental health problems" and ignore the likely sexual abuse ("cavity search" in polite terms) that Ian suffered at the hands of the police.

If the same story happened here with !police, you can bet your ass that people here would be incensed and crying about how something must be done, but yet given what happened here everybody seems oddly okay with blaming the victim and spreading the vague explanation of mental health.

That's not right, that's not justice, and that's not what we should be doing.

Then again, it's a lot easier than realizing how fucked the system has become while we've been screwing around in startupcanistan.

I never felt closure with this story.

My recollection of events were essentially Ian gets drunk, knocks on neighbors door and makes noise. Police come to "Deal with him"

If his twitter rant was honest then the police beat him possibly causing a concussion.

Whether you want to say that's his fault for being belligerent is up to your personal principles.

He gets concussion and starts strange rant. AFAIK Ian never had a history of this kind of behavior. Maybe his family stated differently. Maybe if they stated he had a history it was of alcohol abuse and not the kind of schizophrenic behavior he was portraying on Twitter.

I take it everyone didn't really look into it much further because lack of options. "Police report says they had a drunk belligerent man come in and then they released him."

Personally, given modern videos of police behavior I believe it is possible he was "acting foolish maybe even violent" at the station due to intoxication and one or more cops decided to shut him up.

Then it kind of ends up being like an Aaron Swartz situation. They weren't murdered but I think they were both victims of improper justice.

Maybe I get down-voted for being a bit brash here or ignorant of more facts with the story but I think people kind of takes on this attitude of "Well, I'm alive... moving on".

His tweet about spending the rest of his life fighting injustice is the kind of chilling reality of this mentality.

No-one really cares until they or their family have suffered injustice, prejudice, or unfair bias.

Or maybe he really was an Ahole (behind closed doors) if his tweets were an honest realization of his inner self and that's why no-one cares to defend a racist.

So, I think you're right. I think we will never know and I think maybe people don't talk about it because there's a certain kind of professionalism expected of people.

As John Stewart said, you can have great respect for police and simultaneously hold them to a higher standard.

Or maybe we should be talking about alcoholism. I don't know but like you I also feel uncomfortable with people saying "Dedicated to this guy" because it feels phony on some level.

If he had a history of mental illness; as much as I wish his family peace I think society is better if we know the full story.

Recently read the Wiki page on Jim Carey giving his ex-girlfriend (who comitted suicide after he broke up with her) S.T.D. allegedly. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Carrey#Relationships

As much as I want to ignore reality like everyone else, I think we have a huge problem with phoniness that just makes things harder to cope with.

Ian gave me one of my first professional breaks: designing the logo and website for Progeny Linux (a distribution with OOTB support for grid computing).

I'll always be grateful to him for that, in addition to all the Free Software I use every day that he had a hand in shepherding.

Thank you Ian, the world is a better place for having you in it, and was diminished by your passing.

We should pipe some things into /dev/null in his honor.

Truly bittersweet; I had the privilege of working with Ian, although not nearly long enough. His actions helped lead me to the career I have today.

I have an overwhelming feeling of sadness and loss when I hear of and recall (multiple times, later) of the people who have contributed so much but decided to end their lives for various reasons (like Ian Murdock and Aaron Swartz, as two examples). The world is now way better due to their existence and contributions, but at the same time I also wonder how much more we could've progressed as a species if they had continued to live for a few more decades. Is it too much to ask, albeit from a selfish perspective, that people live longer lives? Is it too much to ask for treating people better and creating social and legal structures to avoid such situations?

I don' use Debian (not directly), but I'm aware of the Debian philosophy and its impact on free software. If it were up to me, I would dedicate and re-dedicate every Debian release to Ian for the next few releases, at the very least.

May he rest in peace. As a user of a Debian derivative I am thankful to him.


This is 18 months old news (edit: didn't mean to sound insensitive; Ian didn't just pass away like the title originally seemed to indicate)

Debian releases are rare...

Why didn't they call the release "Ian" then?

Every DebIan release is named after Ian.

The name was decided 3 years ago and people have been running stretch on their computers for a long time now, renaming it would've been rather impractical.

Debian releases are codenamed from Toy Story. So naming it after a real person would break the convention, although in this case it might have been fitting.


It wasn't that simple or clear cut.

To make sure everyone is aware, the original post (before it was flagged) said "fuck the police" and then linked Ian's twitter history and some LiveLeak video I didn't watch.

To put it in context, Ian said he was abused by the police for knocking on his neighbor's door, and then threatened to commit suicide. He later retracted the statement, but then actually followed through and hung himself until he was dead. I suppose it's possible that his interactions with the police triggered his ultimate response, but (in my opinion) the correct reaction is "fuck untreated mental health issues".

Seriously, there should be no stigma. If I have an infected cut, I go to the doctor and get some antibiotics. If I have a severe case of the flu, I go to the hospital and get some IV fluids. If I have mental health issues, I really hope I would be able to get to a medical professional for real treatment. I've said it here before and I'll say it again, mental health is nothing to mess around with. It's serious, and there are people who specialize in helping you. Find help. It exists. No one will judge you for it, it's a medical issue just like any other illness. It's hard, I know. I've had people in my life affected by it. I've had people in my live succumb to it. But help exists. Please, find it. As hard as it is, find your help. Find your relief. Your demons don't own you. The world needs you, in spite of what your illness is telling you.

Please, find help. We need you. We love you.

I don't disagree with anything you've said, and I think that it's important that people seek help, but I think there is one more important aspect that you left out.

Much of his (online) social circle completely dropped away from him due to what they perceived as his use of bigoted racist language, not because they perceived him as having a temporary lapse in judgement or breakdown. They (the 'twitterverse') did judge him.

I wish a better archive was available of the replies to his ramblings; he was being actively chastised for his use of language by the vast majority of his social circle while a very slim few were asking him to seek professional help.

My point in saying this : if anyone has a friend or loved one that suddenly acts out of character, how about saving the moral and ethical rhetoric and judgement until after you're fully aware that they're not undergoing some sort of crisis and speaking out-of-turn, please?

I witnessed this whole happening in real-time, and knowing the outcome now and thinking back at the community response towards him at the time really disgusts me.

This event made me spend a lot of time meditating on the impact of social media towards those of us who have a hard time discerning reality from fiction, even temporarily. I had thought about it before; but witnessing an event like this from start to 'finish' really drove certain points home for me, and I certainly hope to never experience it again -- even as a spectator.

I can't help wonder if the FOSS world is dealing with a "red scare" type scenario. Meaning that if someone, even in the most odd of situations, make then seem like anything less than a flag carrying liberal, they have to be denounced ASAP or you yourself will be tared and feathered a well.

> My point in saying this : if anyone has a friend or loved one that suddenly acts out of character, how about saving the moral and ethical rhetoric and judgement until after you're fully aware that they're not undergoing some sort of crisis and speaking out-of-turn, please?

Completely agree with this in the general sense (not specific to this topic). I feel that with the advent of communication platforms like social media, microblogging, instant messaging, 24x7 news, etc., people seem to have become too quick to judge, and the capacity to have nuanced views and separating different aspects seems to be diminished significantly. If we treat everything as a binary, how will we ever learn and become better with ourselves and others?

Could be a case of peer pressure. They worry that if they are not quick to condemn they themselves will be condemned.

>Much of his (online) social circle completely dropped away from him due to what they perceived as his use of bigoted racist language, not because they perceived him as having a temporary lapse in judgement or breakdown. They (the 'twitterverse') did judge him.

Not to excuse the behavior of those who judged him, but the ideal would be to get help before it gets to this point.

If I have a stomach bug, I would hope to get treatment before vomiting all over my food. I would fully expect my dinner guests to be disgusted by my outburst, it's only natural. I have had athlete friends who I have treated to lunch after an intense sporting event and had them vomit in the middle of the restaurant, and I don't blame anyone near us for getting up and leaving. It's not pleasant to see.

Saying "I'm not feeling well and I am getting help" is a lot easier to do before you've proven that fact. After you've had a racist outburst is the time when it's too late to save face. It's not too late to get help for sure, but at that point you're already going to suffer some repercussions.

No one should be blamed for getting help, but likewise no one should be blamed for not sticking by you when you refuse to get that help. It's a two-way street. No one who matters will judge you for getting help, but society will certainly judge you for anything do you do/say before you seek that assistance.

Yeah, only if there wasn't non-zero probability he suffered a brain-related damage during his police encounter which is known to flip personalities occasionally, making people do what they would never do normally. Also, it was pretty sad to see that HN didn't even put black strip at the top after the news...

It needs to be said that the psychiatric establishment is flawed or worse. As Foucault et al have documented, it started as little more than a freakshow of the mentally ill, and it is still a deeply unjust system globally. Nothing science has encountered compares to the complexity of the brain, but you'll readily find, along with kind doctors who do what they can within the limitations of our knowledge, a significant cohort who have no faith in their patients' ability to regain normal functioning.

I.e. fuck people who demean people with mental illness. Or, educate them if they're willing.

I think what the parent comment said stands quite well on its own without being reduced to a "Fuck _____" soundbyte.

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