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Why Open Source Misses the Point of Free Software (2007) (gnu.org)
277 points by fouc 20 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 399 comments



In the years to come, I believe free software will be recognised as one of the paradigmatic changes in how science itself is done. Now chemists and biologists have started talking about making data openly available and so forth. It's a shame that RMS has to spout forth on every issue, and in the current climate of outrage, science may have lost an important transformational voice.

I think as a society, we need to calm down a bit. We should not blacklist people merely based on opinions. We are one step away from thoughtcrime, and need to step back.


One of the things that really soured me to working as a biologist was being told the data we collected would not be allowed to be made freely available, as we originally proposed and was accepted in our grant proposal. Instead it would be locked away in a government database, available for a fee despite the data being collected using tax dollars, after we'd been working for over a year and a half on the project and had gone throught two funding cycles, on threat of our grant money being withdrawn.

It was after we found an endangered species in an active mine site. It sucked. We'd built an open database easily accessible online, we used open street maps to display the data and had built a bunch of custom layers, we were also working with another group that wanted to add the data to their open database. In the end though none of that happened and the work that was put into making it was wasted and everything was given to the government and locked away.


Wait, so if research is government funded, said government can just... suppress results? That's horrifyingly corrupt. That right there is a scandal.

In that position, I would be tempted to take a stand and release the data as originally planned, while blowing the lid off the whole corruption. Write in big letters on the website "THE GOVERNMENT DOESN'T WANT YOU TO SEE THIS". If you're worried about your career... why? What is the point of your career as a scientist if you won't take a stand like that?


> If you're worried about your career... why? What is the point of your career as a scientist if you won't take a stand like that?

Not GP, but 'earning a living' can be quite a compelling reason.


That's why US needs a job protection law.

In Italy you can't be fired for your opinions.

Never!


Scientist or capitalist, can't be both.


Sure, because only a capitalist would want to live somewhere or have something to eat /s


No, I'm simply saying that your primary motivation can either be science XOR money. If you are willing to suppress results for money, even money you need to eat, you can't call yourself a scientist anymore. Someone is paying you to do something, but it isn't science.

To clarify, I'm not saying it makes you a bad person if you choose to eat. Just not a scientist. There's a reason we give professors tenure.


If it's available for a fee than it's not suppression, though it is an impedance to the free flow of information. And to be fair it does cost money to host large collections of data.


I'm not sure what "suppression" is, if not a deliberate impedance to the free flow of information. It need not be absolute censorship - indeed, absolute censorship is likely to be a less effective suppressant, due to the Streisand effect.


> That right there is a scandal

I agree with that. No government should ever give itself legal power to withhold scientific information from the public that funded it. In practice that's making life hard for journalists and other scientists and in principle it's a sign of authoritarian tendencies.


To me open data feels a lot like global warming: individual action is great and needed, but what we really need is to enshrine it in law and make it the default. Make public data usable, while protecting private data or like they say in Germany: Öffentliche Daten nützen, private Daten schützen.

Same should be true for publicly funded code: should be open source and accessible by default and anything else should require special reasoning.


What the hell? What mine and what endangered species?

Why the hell is my government hiding this data?


A species of big-eared bats on the west coast known to hibernate in only a few locations. It's an open pit gravel quarry, not sure if it's your government, I'm in Canada. There are still people actively working on the project, or at least doing work that came from it, as far as I know, so I'd rather not be too detailed about it.


That sounds really frustrating. Fortunately many countries now have open data legislation. For example, in the US, since 2013 by executive order (M-13-13) and this year (Evidencemaking in Policy/Open Data Act), federally funded projects must eventually release their data to the public or include a plan explaining why national security or privacy reasons prevent it. I think it’s getting better.


This was during the reign of Prime minister Stephen Harper. Most funding towards the environment was cut during that time and scientists in Canada silenced fairly heavily. It was when all this:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/canadian-scien...

was happening.


Elsewhere in the thread I was half-way through typing up a comment asking whether this was during the Harper era, and then decided better of it. Glad to see I wasn't wrong. Horrifying the things that were happening with environmental science in that period. I mean, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to hear that it was still going on...


This is why we need initiatives like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_data


He wasn't blacklisted for committing thought crime. The dumb Epstein email triggered a reevaluation of his consistent creepy and inappropriate behavior against current community standards, which resulted in a large part of the community deciding they didn't want anything to do with him anymore. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from social consequences.


There is another large part of the community that wants no part in the community as a result of events like this. I guess we will end up with two communities one focused on software the other focused on social justice (wokeware). It looks like the social justice community will get the code and trademarks. Fortunately thanks to RMS the code is available to fork.

I guess things aren't organised yet but I and others I have spoken to IRL have already stopped interacting with certain projects.

I was wondering if some of the community's thought leaders might jump ship - but I guess they will be purged anyway so that should help!

EDIT: Would any downvoters care to comment on why they think this won't happen? Do they think we will continue to participate against our will...


The assumption that those who care about treating others decently can not at the same time be good technologists speaks volumes.


In my experience social justice equates to the opposite of treating people decently.


People like RMS and Linus Torvalds are responsible for normalizing the premise that to be a good hacker you can't care about things like treating other people decently - that's just giving in to politically correct wrongthink from SJWs and normie scum after all.


I still have to testimony an useful contribution (or proof of donation) from those attacking open source projects for not using gender neutral pronouns.

I'm not young anymore, in my 40s, but I have hope that in the next 40 years some of them will stop being a dick and do actual work.

It's never too late to change.


Can you detail, without strawmen or anecdotes, the thought process by which you equate asking to use gender neutral pronouns, or discussing the possibility of it, with "attacks"?


Its not asking though. Its screaming, threatening and drumming people out of their jobs if they don't comply.

I say this as someone that uses gender neutral pronouns etc.


Can you provide some examples that prove the existence a common pattern in the software development industry of people being "screamed at", "threatened", and "drummed out of their jobs" for not using gender neutral pronouns, please?

I'm more than ready to agree with you if you can.

I would also like to know, if you don't mind, what you consider to be good reason to "refuse to comply" with addressing someone in a way they prefer to be addressed, by using a three-letter word instead of another three-letter word.


I'm out of the loop. Was someone fired over this?


You're experiencing the motte and bailey in action, my friend. "It's only asking people to be nice, nothing more!"


You're hoping that the next generation will see the light and adjust their behaviour to your expectations?

It ain't gonna happen. This is the struggle of every single generation.


Interesting, I've been thinking about this myself: whether a new foundation or movement will be created around RMS and without the stigmas that allow people to be "cancelled" over their thoughts or opinions. I have to say, the FSF without RMS simply makes no sense. It's one of those institutions where more than 51% of its effectiveness came from a single person. I firmly believe a "fork" for the FSF is coming soon.


> I have to say, the FSF without RMS simply makes no sense. It's one of those institutions where more than 51% of its effectiveness came from a single person.

If that's true, then Stallman has completely failed as a leader. There are 7 billion people in the world; if after 40 years there is nobody of similar caliber at the FSF, it is because he has either not attracted them, not trained them, or has driven them away. (Perhaps by asking them on a date or handing them a card that said "tender embraces" the very first time he met them.)

I sincerely hope that there will be people in the FSF that can make it more robust, and set it up for long-term success.


> I sincerely hope that there will be people in the FSF

There are: https://www.fsfla.org/%7Elxoliva/

But apart from being next in line, he's also next in line: https://twitter.com/sarahmei/status/1174371580547223553


> If that's true, then Stallman has completely failed as a leader

He's been under constant attack for the past 40 years.

Nobody wants to be friend with the smart friend who's also unpopular.

And that's what he failed, he trusted people would be decent.

They are not.


i didn't wanna be his friend after meeting him personally. Nothing to do with him being unpopular, since i I (at the time) was an unpopular nerd too.


We are not alone. It takes a brave person to put their head above the parapet in the current climate.


it already happened.

As usual, not trying to be prejudicial here, it happened in the U.S. where different 501(c)(3) formed to attract donation capital, but that actually have been an enemy of large part of the FSF community.

There can't be one strong FSF they want many small feuds, it's like greenwashing, open washing is happening, which, BTW, "misses the point of free software".

Look at what happened to Eben Moglen, a person that nobody can describe as harsh, impolite, unempathetic, creepy or whatever BS they are throwing now at RMS.

And still in 2017 he was declared "no longer a friend of the free software community" by mjg59.

Why?

Because Moglen expressed his lawyer opinion in a way that Garret did not like.

Garret works at Google, Moglen still offers pro bono legal representation at the Software Freedom Law Center, which he founded.

It's not hard to take parts for me.


> harsh, impolite, unempathetic, creepy or whatever BS they are throwing now at RMS.

He has been accused, by several independent parties, of, among other things:

-Asking female coworkers to lay down topless on a mattress in his office.

-Threatening a colleague to kill himself if he/she didn't go on a date with him.

-Posting up signs in his workplace along the lines of "Knight for Justice (Also: Hot Ladies)".

Do you think that reprieving someone for threatening a colleague to kill yourself if they don't give in to your romantic/sexual advances is "throwing BS"? It's an honest question.


Can I have a reliable source on the suicide threat? In particular something indicating it was genuine rather than jocular.



I see no dates, names, details or basically anything of substance relating to the suicide threat story. It seems to just be one of those sourceless rumours that get passed around as gospel.

Note in particular that the commentator does not say they saw this or even that someone who saw it told them. You're just hearing a rumour this person heard at MIT.


I don't see any reliable source there. Are some of those profiles verified? I also didn't see any reference to suicide.


> Because Moglen expressed his lawyer opinion in a way that Garret did not like.

any article about what happened?


> Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from social consequences.

I often see this phrase and it looks like a fallacy to me. Does anyone question its validity? Social consequences are a severe thing, in practice they mean losing a job or position, boycotting, etc. In ancient Greece to expel a person was a very strong punishment. Nowadays the associated hardbacks are milder perhaps, but still are pretty severe.

If speech is so potent a weapon that to protect against it we have to use extreme social defenses like expulsion, why not to use the same weapon against the perpetrators? Why not to speak in return? Stallman says something, you say something. Take that, Richard Stallman!

I would say that the only appropriate social consequence of free speech could be other free speech.

Also, a distinct characteristic of a true community is that it's inclusive. It can expel its members, but this has to be a very rare event, only when that person's action are actually destroying the community. "Creepy and inappropriate behavior" that went along for many years is hardly that. It's a mere personality quirk. [Addition] And I'd say that this expulsion endangers the community much more than whatever Stallman was inappropriately doing all these years.


> If speech is so potent a weapon that to protect against it we have to use extreme social defenses like expulsion, why not to use the same weapon against the perpetrators? Why not to speak in return? Stallman says something, you say something. Take that, Richard Stallman!

Because the power of the speech in question depends upon the power of the speaker. This isn't rocket science. If I as a random human person say something creepy to you on the street you can just go away. If Stallman does it and you are working under him you have to weigh a whole lot of things (academic standing, his prestige, the possibility that a whole lot of people will defend him just because of who he is and accuse you of accusing him of a "thoughtcrime") in your response. It's an assymetrical situation.


In a world that respects free speech, you would be more empowered to criticise authority, not less. You're basically saying that Stallman’s speech must have consequences otherwise the little guy might face consequences by criticising him. But the pro free speech crowd are advocating for a world where you and stallman criticise each other harshly, but both get to keep your jobs, it being a strong norm that whoever calls for the other to lose their job over speech automatically loses the argument.

I can't believe people are so short sighted about free speech. The people who are happy with control of speech will regret advocating for it as soon as it spreads outside of the domains where their allies presently have power.


> In a world that respects free speech, you would be more empowered to criticise authority, not less.

Sure, I guess. In this case, as far as I can see, Stallman's coworkers' speech about his terrible behavior led to him resigning. Nothing wrong with that.

> You're basically saying that Stallman’s speech must have consequences otherwise the little guy might face consequences by criticising him.

I'm nowhere close to saying that. The "little guy" is already facing the consequences I delineated, as this thread shows. Speeches have consequences, both Stallman's and anyone's.

> But the pro free speech crowd are advocating for a world where you and stallman criticise each other harshly, but both get to keep your jobs, it being a strong norm that whoever calls for the other to lose their job over speech automatically loses the argument.

The thing is, this presupposes that each other's speech or criticism is equivalent, which it isn't. A creepy remark is not equivalent to a criticism of that remark - I really didn't think I'd have to spell this out. If someone is being creepy towards coworkers and subordinates and this behavior continues for years, then yes, this should have consequences - up to and including the person in question losing their job, depending on the severity. Calling for someone to be fired shouldn't lose someone their "argument" if the person should be fired.

There's some equivocation here that this is some sort of intellectual academic dispute that led to him resigning. It isn't. It's reports of his creepy behavior, not two people "criticising" each other.


Amazing how whenever someone does something controversial and gets forced out soon afterwards, it's never the thing they said, but "consistent creepy and inappropriate behavior" based on 10 year old anecdotes that suddenly appear out of nowhere... I'd think that if someone was "consistently" creepy and inappropriate, there would be a pretty good public record for that, but what do I know?

EDIT: Let me give a bit more of a nuanced position, because reading my post back, it looks like I'm saying that Stallman never did anything inappropriate before this.

Of course, I recognize that Stallman is fucking weird. I'm not saying that parrot-fucking, foot-fungus-eating St. IGNUcius never did anything inappropriate before; we'd be here for a long time if we were to make a list of all the times Stallman failed to read the mood.

However, I strongly believe that Stallman is not a creep. He holds some odd views and is pretty autistic, and so he occasionally makes inappropriate advances. Add to that that Stallman has been a very prolific person for decades and you won't relaly have trouble coming up with a list of anecdotes that, when framed a certain way, make him look bad.

I've read quite a few of these anecdotes by now. Some of them look fairly innocent to me. Some of them are clear social blunders. None of them look seriously harmful or in bad faith to me. Even taking all of them together, believing that all of them are remembered 100% correctly and played out as portrayed without any additional context, I don't think the appropirate reaction is to remove Stallman from his position(s).

What ticks me off so much about all this is the way the media deals with it. Stallman is portrayed as some kind of sexist, some kind of patriarch keeping women out of tech. It's ridiculous; Stallman is quite possibly the most inclusionary person I can think of. Stallman has had an immense, direct contribution to making tech more open for everyone.

I can understand the criticism of Stallman. I don't even think he necessarily makes for a good figurehead for Free Software; he has poor social skills, unhelpfully rigid and strong positions, and I feel like he often conflates free software issues with other social issues he cares about. He makes for a better philosopher than a political leader.

In this case, he's being thrown under the bus to score social points. People in tech are very itchy to do whatever they can to seem more inclusive, and condemning Epstein and his ilk is a noble goal (that also makes you look good). Stallman's statements that sparked this controversy were naive and he failed to read the mood, but they were not unacceptable things to believe or say. He did not deserve to have his words twisted, get kicked out of his own organisation based on the strawman, and then have people say that he was always bad, anyways.


One could also see it the other way round: because of the importance of his figure people were more willing to keep their mouths shut and look the other way. Once the tipping point is reached, they don’t see any reason to do that anymore. This is why medival monarchs had jesters to tell them what is really going on.

The right thing to do of course is to speek truth to power openly and before everybody else does it, but this could come with serious consequences for the person speaking up. This is why they’d only do it once they are 100% sure they didn’t misread the situation, the thing that happened was actually big enough and they are willing to carry the consequences this could have for free software.

In other words: people in positions like Stallman can get away with much more than any regular guy, which means they should be extra considerate of their role and their environment if they care about the effects their own power and fame has on it. If it everybody steps up now, it means there was clearly a disconnect between his self image and what his environment thought about him.


> If it everybody steps up now, it means there was clearly a disconnect between his self image and what his environment thought about him.

Oh, certainly. And I'd say the reason for that is

> because of the importance of his figure people were more willing to keep their mouths shut and look the other way

I don't necessarily blame people for not spekaing out if they were troubled by his behaviour, but this is really unfair towards Stallman. Decades worth of small issues that Stallman was mostly unaware of are being condensed into one big issue. That's why I think the situation is crooked; in my view, Stallman never did anything particularly bad, nor did he harbor any ill will, yet he's facing the consequences of a major scandal.

Also, I don't think that Stallman should be held to the standards of a "medieval monarch". I think you're overstating just how powerful Stallman is (was?); I don't think he was actually in charge of many impactful decisions.

Your points are good but perhaps more applicable to someone like Linus Torvalds, who is fully aware of his controversial behaviour and does actually hold a position of substantial power.


> Decades worth of small issues that Stallman was mostly unaware of

As a reminder, the "small issues" you mention include accusations, by several independent parties, of, among other things:

-Asking female coworkers to lay down topless on a mattress in his office.

-Threatening a colleague to kill himself if he/she didn't go on a date with him.

-Posting up signs in his workplace along the lines of "Knight for Justice (Also: Hot Ladies)".


Please don't copy/paste the same material on HN. Even if the discussion is getting repetitive, making it more repetitive makes it worse.

More importantly, please don't post in the flamewar style to HN, even if the topic is inflammatory and divisive.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


The second is unacceptable if it happened as told. I don't know what to think of the first point without context. The third point seems like an innocent joke to me, if slightly inappropriate.

I don't mean to defend him from any kind it accusation, but all of this is meaningless without full context and hearing the story from both sides.


> The second is unacceptable if it happened as told.

I've seen enough narrative flipping over the years that this is the one I find least plausible, and requires more information.


Hence "if it happened as told". These kinds of allegations are tough because while these things do happen, they're also strong enough allegations that they require serious proof, while also being essentially unprovable. I never know how to feel when something like this comes up since on the one hand I don't want to discourage victims from speaking up, but on the other hand, no good ever comes from them.


Interestingly, in a world with strong norms against speech having career consequences, people would have been empowered to speak up earlier. The expectation that unpopular speech will have consequences for them makes them keep quiet until they are sure their views are popular.


Oh, certainly. The way it is now encourages both wielding controversy as a weapon as well as remaining silent to avoid a conflict (for their own sake, but also the other party).


Would there? A friend of a friend hit on my under age sister at a party at my house. He later hit on my girlfriend in front of me in Spanish because he didn’t know I understood. There were witnesses to both events. I’ve gotten a couple complaints from other women attending my parties as well. And he’s always had a “creep” vibe and being generally inappropriate but my friends think of him as “harmless”. I had to tell mutual friends he wasn’t welcome. They had no idea and I’m not sure they really believed me. I’m sure to them this was all a bunch of stories coming out of the woodwork but to me it was suspected in the beginning and confirmed repeatedly over time.


There are accounts of his behaviour going back decades, so I'm not sure what you're claiming with this?


By which you mean a bunch of Twitter nobodies and one somebody who happens to speak for the gnome project.


or that another nobody who actually worked with him?

https://archive.is/https://twitter.com/thomas_lord/status/11...


A handful of anecdotes over two decades does not make for "consistent creepy and inappropriate behaviour".

I also think those deciding they didn't want anything to do with him are a tiny minority if you exclude those who have never met him (and even then, probably still a small minority).


[flagged]


Please don't.

Salem G. made a mistake in desiring to address a problem that is worth discussing, but did so with a hasty ill-conceived reaction constructed through gossip and hearsay. It shouldn't happen, but it does.

The various publications should have checked their facts and performed due diligence, but something, anything MIT related is money in the bank right now. They sold out.

Breaking down Salem for her mistake isn't going to help Free Software, rms, or the FSF, but reason and facts, and holding the publications accountable for their disinformation by correcting it, will.


If only so much goodwill were extended to everyone we would not have reached this insane situation.

EDIT - I see that she is an adult with a job. I hope RMS sues and gets some damages. Defamation should have consequences.


Gavin McInnes is really a misogynist and founder of Vice.

She's really building weapons for the US department of defense.

I'm not doing anything, just doubting of her qualities as a spoke person of a movement that targeted RMS for no reason other than ignorance (taking for granted that there isn't anything else behind it)

If we can doubt Stallman as a leader, we can as well doubt Selam G.

And I'm saying it because she put herself there, nobody pressed her to write a hit piece titled "Remove Stallman and every other toxic person", she spoke as a movement leader, a toxic one if you ask me.

Remove is not a word I would ever use in regard to other people.

> The various publications should have checked their facts

That's why I think that she chose Vice for a reason, and not by coincidence.

I guess, but I can't prove it, that she was sure they would have listened and published the whole thing without checking, and even if they did, they would have published it anyway as it is.

It's too juicy.

I'm not trying to break her down, just exposing facts.

It is what it is, I haven't invented anything here.

People need to have all the informations available to make their own opinions.


I understand ignoring her goes counter to your notion of justice, and this is somehow fair play. You have every right to doubt her, but you should realise it doesn't matter.

No matter how much doubt you could reveal about her person, you will never see a headline: "MIT alumna found to be axe-murderer, RMS cleared and re-instated as FSF president".

She doesn't matter, and any attack on her will be seen as petty at best by those who only read the articles.

Any effort expended on her could have been expended on dispelled one of the falsehoods being propagated about rms.

The truth takes time and patience, and you can't expedite matters by stooping to the levels of those maliciously perpetuating this smear campaign.


> She doesn't matter, and any attack on her will be seen as petty at best by those who only read the articles.

I don't care about being being popular.

And I don't even care of being judged by internet nobodys, I'm over 40, I've grown some skin for teenager's shitty destructive behaviour.

I care about not covering facts.

She'll be paying for what she did in the future.

That's for sure, I would never trust at my job someone who leaks information like some sort of enemy spy.

Stallman has a reputation, she doesn't.

Alan Turing was incarcerated for being gay, after all he did for his country.

At least Stallman roams free (for now).

But I've canceled my yearly donation to FSF and I encourage everyone I know to do the same.

It was (physically) a drop in the ocean to help them doing the right thing, not what is popular at the moment.

And I did it despite disagreeing with Stallman on different points, I knew it was for a good cause, now I don't care if they burn in hell, they're just like Google or Apple to me.

If they can't defend their most honorable member, they can't defend anybody.

If they prefer to be on the side of those building killing machines, it's their right.

But they've become useless.

If they had some self respect, they would shutdown the FSF for good.

> Any effort expended on her could have been expended on dispelled one of the falsehoods being propagated about rms.

I did it on several occasions.

And I'll keep doing it.

The two things are not at odds, I can do both.


> Gavin McInnes is really a misogynist and founder of Vice.

He has been fired. I don't much care for people like him but he is not part of the problem with Vice.

> She's really building weapons for the US department of defense

Can I get a link or reference for this? It is a big fact...


> He has been fired. I don't much care for people like him but he is not part of the problem with Vice.

He left on his own, at the top of his career, while he was still admired as "the godfather of hipsterism"

He turned from hipster god to far right extremist

And that's more or less what happens to everyone thinking to be "edgy" and "modern" and "free" when they start to understand they have power over people's life.

They become shitty persons.

Stallman never became one, because he was always unpopular, boring, pedantic, never cared for power or money or being socially acceptable and that's why he's been a good person after all.

> Can I get a link or reference for this? It is a big fact...

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/selam-gano-089895ba/


Wow.


What's wrong with building weapons for the US department of defense?


Probably all the innocent people that die for no reason due to the use of these weapons.


It is as odd with the self claimed moral high ground.

If you write a piece titled "remove Stallman and all the other toxic people" and you build weapons, I understand better why you build them and what you really meant by "remove".


> I believe free software will be recognised as one of the paradigmatic changes in how science itself is done.

I think we're already there. I'm an astronomer, and we (and many others) are already building platforms with software like Jupyter, dask, holoviews, etc.

While RMS may have started with a great idea, I'm not sure he's super influential in actually making progress and writing software. If anything, the idea that companies will sponsor open source software has (and I'm not sure many saw that one coming). For example, nVidia supporting dask, or Bloomberg supporting Jupyter.

It's the idea that was important, and less so the person IMHO. RMS had a lot of ideas, some good, and some bad. But like evolution, people take the good and run with them, and leave the bad. And we rarely remember who started the whole thing, since having the idea is generally such a small part of actually making it a reality.

"We are told to remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail. He can be caught, he can be killed and forgotten, but 400 years later, an idea can still change the world."

- V for Vendetta


> While RMS may have started with a great idea, I'm not sure he's super influential in actually making progress and writing software.

I had to re-read this to be sure it's not sarcasm. RMS has some of the largest footprints in software among the living people. How can one hold an opinion about his contribution and not be aware of that?


Maybe its a sign of your greatness when people think your contribution to the world somehow arose spontaneously, like a hurricane.


That's not a sign of greatness, so much as a sign of a cult of personality.

If people believe that Free Software could never have existed without Richard Stallman, and cannot continue without him, that calls into question whether it has any lasting societal or cultural value of its own. Other software licensing paradigms don't have this problem, real or percieved. No one believes that open source will die if ESR gets hit by a bus, after all.


Free software might continue without Stallman, but it doesn't follow that it would have ever existed without him. Read his auto-biography, he lays out in very convincing terms just how bleak the world of software looked when he started the FSF.

You don't even have to jump back 30 years to see what that world looked like, it still exists today, inside every large corporation that hates free software, except when they can steal it and not give anything back. That nasty, back-stabbing world is what it all would have looked like without the constant efforts of the FSF to continue to advocate sharing and cooperation.

It might have come about anyway, but Stallman accelerated it by at minimum decades. It should also be noted that the timing of the FSF's and GNU's founding was important, if they had tried even five years later when all computers were ensconced behind protective legal walls, they might not have gotten anywhere at all with the effort.


Apologies, and you're right. I meant to have recent in there. No doubt he's written a lot of great software (even if I'm a vim user). But I think his ideas about free software (GPL, copyleft) are more important (and hopefully more long lasting) than his code contributions, and I think he has been focusing on that impact more as well with his work at the FSF, which is good. The thoughts and ideas that he has had about free software will live on.


> It's the idea that was important, and less so the person IMHO. RMS had a lot of ideas, some good, and some bad. But like evolution, people take the good and run with them, and leave the bad. And we rarely remember who started the whole thing, since having the idea is generally such a small part of actually making it a reality.

While true, there's a difference between forgetting a person, and making that person forgotten. The latter seem to be happening now.

> While RMS may have started with a great idea, I'm not sure he's super influential in actually making progress and writing software. If anything, the idea that companies will sponsor open source software has (and I'm not sure many saw that one coming).

So a garden finally bloomed (though RMS would probably think some of these companies are weeds). It would however be unfair to say that the people that built and maintained this garden (which is an artificial hydroponic garden in the middle of a volcano) for decades weren't "influencial". The Free Software movement benefited from having someone with clear and unyielding vision. Actually, scratch that. The Free Software movement benefited from RMS the way you benefited from having a biological mother - it wouldn't be born otherwise.

That some companies will sponsor Open Source wasn't that unexpected. That some of the players that now do would (Microsoft?!), that was more surprising.


He wanted progress to happen in the field of freedom. Jupyter, dask, holoviews are free as in beer, and that's why there's little progress if not degradation in freedom.


>It's a shame that RMS has to spout forth on every issue, and in the current climate of outrage, science may have lost an important transformational voice.

The four freedoms are truly revolutionary and have grown on me over the years. If he had been a bit more focussed and perhaps even a little pragmatic it wouldn't be hard to view him as a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates like figure. At the very least we would be having conversations about software in terms of non-free and free versus proprietary and open source.


> The four freedoms are truly revolutionary and have grown on me over the years. If he had been a bit more focussed and perhaps even a little pragmatic it wouldn't be hard to view him as a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates like figure.

If he had been a lot more pragmatic, he probably could have put the whole free software thing on hold for 20 years, and been one of the early microcomputer billionaires either alongside Jobs and Gates, or even instead of one (or both!) of them.

Then go back to free software--except now it would be backed by the several tens of billions of dollars of the Stallman Foundation, which would generate enough annual investment income forever to easily afford to award tens of thousands of $100k grants for free software development each year.

A decade of that, and there would be GPL replacements for pretty much everything.


> If he had been a lot more pragmatic, he probably could have put the whole free software thing on hold for 20 years, and been one of the early microcomputer billionaires

I think you're mistaken about the chances of becoming that wealthy. If anything, I'd guess it's more likely now than decades ago. Planning what to do after becoming a billionaire is akin to spending your lottery jackpot before winning it.


I don't think you really understand him. What you are suggesting is akin to saying to someone deeply religious "If you spend 20 years making a fortune from drugs and prostitution you will have loads of money to spread your religious message." To do what you say he would have had to go against his most fervent and deeply held beliefs.


Yeah, Gates was born wealthy, so Microsoft isn't exactly a rags-to-riches story.


No.

In the intervening years somebody else would have done substantially what RMS did: it's not like he's the only hacker of his era who believes software should be free.

There's no guarantee he would have been successful in business and, even if he was, he would have undermined his moral authority on free software. People don't in general have serious doubts about RMS's motivations even if they don't agree with him - he's a true believer - but they can be much more cynical about Google or Facebook and their open source efforts.


> In the intervening years somebody else would have done substantially what RMS did

There's no reason to believe this.


I don't think Free Software would have arrived where they are now if it wasn't for the RMS and his specific personality.

Him, being how he is, is what made on of the big part of the success of Free Software.


Free software isn't about making data openly available.

Stallman, at https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.html , argues that free software developers should "charge as much as they wish or can, ... if you are redistributing copies of free software, you might as well charge a substantial fee and make some money."

If you have useful data, the free software principles say that you might as well charge a lot of money for it, which is not what most chemists and biologists think of in discussion of data openness.

FWIW, the discussion in science started independently of free software. Here's an example from structural biology. Previous to the 1980s, it was common for crystallographers to withhold structure data from a publication, and perhaps only publish an image showing the C-alpha backbone. This was because they wanted to be able to publish additional papers from the same data set, without competition. By 1987[1], there was a push to require coordinate submission into the PDB as requirement for publication. Most journals adopted this new policy in 1989, and funding agencies started to do so as well[2].

While the GNU project started earlier (1983), there is no connection between free software and the open data availability requirements for publication and funding in structural biology.

[1] https://search.proquest.com/openview/0a93cbb72da63b2899793bf...

[2] https://journals.iucr.org/a/issues/2008/01/00/sc5004/index.h...

Open Source also isn't about making data openly available. Both are only applicable to those who acquire software. It just happens to be that most free and open source developers also make their software available at no cost.


> Free software isn't about making data openly available.

You must be allowed to redistribute the software, and you must be allowed to get, modify, and redistribute the code. Binaries and code are data.

Maybe what you mean is that the biologists' and x-ray crystallographers' journals developed their push for data access independently of the free software movement, but it's a stretch to say that access to the data that a programmer creates and access to the data that a biologist creates have nothing in common.


"Allowed to" is not the same as "required to."

Open science people generally want people who publish papers to be required to publish the data. This might be in a public repository, or with the journal, and if there is a fee, that fee should effectively only cover cost.

Stallman's conception of free software says that you should be able to charge as much as you want. Hence, these are different concepts.

What I mean is that the statement in the original comment, "Now chemists and biologists have started talking about making data openly available and so forth" is wrong. Chemists and biologists "started talking about" this decades ago. The evidence I showed is that it was no later than 1987. It's almost certainly older - I just happened to read about this example.

I'm not saying they have nothing in common. I'm reacting to the hyperbole in the idea that the free software movement was instrumental to "the paradigmatic changes in how science itself is done".


> Stallman's conception of free software says that you should be able to charge as much as you want.

Yes, he was referring to the service of duplicating and mailing tapes pre-Internet. You seem to have mistaken that for a key philosophical issue of some kind, when it's secondary.

> reacting to the hyperbole

I worked for national labs back in the day. Every dept. wrote their own terminal applications, plotting programs, etc. which consumed serious grant budgets. Free and open source software has been a huge boon to science. The most important? GCC and family. Second is probably Linux, which is GPL. See a pattern yet?

It really sounds like you need a history lesson on the FSF, because you're way off base.


Really? Because I think it is part of the key philosophy of free software.

Consider #1: I think of an improvement to gcc. I get a copy of the gcc source, modify it, and prove to my satisfaction that it works.

I stop at that point, intellectually satiated, tell a few friends, and don't release any software (source or binary).

The principles of free software say that I am not forced to release any changes. I am not even obligated to send improvements upstream.

Am I wrong about this?

Consider #2: The same as above, but I know that Yoyodyne could save $1 million per year with my improvements. I don't tell them. The free software principles say that I have no obligation to tell them.

Am I wrong about this?

Consider #3: The same as above, but I go to Yoyodyne and say that I'll sell my gcc modification to them - under the GPL - for $250,000. They of course can then redistribute those changes, including back to mainline.

Is that contrary to any free software principle? I don't think so, according to my years of reading the history of the FSF and the free software movement.

But, suppose you are correct, and Stallman's essay only applies to "the service of duplicating and mailing tapes pre-Internet". If so, there's a simple workaround:

Consider #4: I have the idea, implement it, and distribute it to a single organization - a tape duplicating service - and it's that organization which sells the software to Yoyodyne, for $300,000, of which $250,000 comes back to me. (My brother just happens to run the tape service.)

Is that against the principles of free software, and if so, how?

I don't think Stallman's "selling free software" essay was meant to be so easy to work around.

Just because free software is generally distributed at no price or "reasonable cost of physically performing this conveying of source" (quoting GPLv3), doesn't make it the same as saying that there's an free software principle which obligates that.

While the open data movement in science does have the principle that the data should be free, or should only cover the "reasonable cost of physically performing this conveying of" data.

How am I off base?


I don't think you are. Trade secrets aren't covered by GPL except in the case of v3 on software accessed through a terminal. Even in this essay, he makes clear than open patents aren't the same as Free Software.

That being said, the Free Software movement was obviosly seminal in all of the open data talk, and for that matter open patent talk; it's not the same thing, but a strong and heavily influential idea in one context inspires analogues in other contexts. I think your overall point is wrong, although I think your supporting point is completely correct.


Your #4, by the way, is basically the "bounty" model of open source funding, and is not unheard of. For example, Blender was open sourced this way.


You're not wrong, however... if you sell the software, you're obligated to provide source. A better analogy would be if you publish the paper, you're obligated to release your data. Nobody ever suggested that individuals or companies can't do private research at all. You just shouldn't be able to have it both ways. If you want the credit, show your work.


Yes, that analogy is the argument in open data.

My argument is that that analogy doesn't follow from free software principles.

If it did, then it would follow that if you publish the paper, you're obligated to release your source.

And we don't see that coming out of the free software movement. We do see that coming out of the open data/open science movement.


Yes, if you publish, you're required to release everything necessary for a practitioner reasonably skilled in the art to reproduce your results, without undue effort. For example, releasing a tarball of source code missing the Makefile that runs the arcane build process is not within the spirit of free software and you will be soundly ridiculed and if GPL is involved may be sued. Dumping a database that, together with your paper, still requires n > 1 grad-student-years of effort to reproduce is not really open science, although it's a huge step up from Elsevier. Is this broadly understood? Probably not, but it is at least well known by some. Honestly, free software people have been working out these "reproducibility" issues in practice for decades before the biologists even got on the bus.


Free software is only concerned with software.

If you publish your software, you are required to release everything needed to develop it further, yes.

However, if you publish your paper, you are not required, under the free software principles.

If I am wrong, show me where the FSF/GNU say that.

I believe your argument is that there's a clear parallel to publishing a paper and publishing the software.

However, there's also a clear parallel to, say, publishing an internet service based on free software, and publishing the software. This lead to the AGPL.

The GPL does not have that requirement, which means it isn't a free software principle. It could have - I think I've heard Eben Moglen say it was discussed early on. But if so, then having a telnet server, or ftp server, or anything reacting to the network, would require the ability to download the source.

> free software people have been working out these "reproducibility" issues in practice for decades before the biologists even got on the bus.

While biologists were working out other "reproducibility" issues long before there were buses.


You're correct about FSF/GNU having narrow focus. Also that the GPL doesn't say anything about what biologists can't publish. Analogically we can make the arguments but we can't attribute these arguments to the FSF. Whether the west coast hackers influenced the open access science movements -- it's obvious that they did, this is not all post hoc parallels that everyone missed at the time.


Well, when you purchase GPL licensed software, the author is required to supply you also with the source code, and you must be allowed to redistribute this (under terms and conditions.)

Sure, there are distinctive features for each domain, but in broad strokes, I don't see the above description as very different from the one following:

When you purchase access to an open-data paper, the author is required to supply you also with the raw data, and you must be allowed to redistribute this (under terms and conditions.)


"when you purchase GPL" .. sure.

But there's nothing to force me to provide you with the software until you've given me money. Even if I used someone else's GPL'ed software in my software, I can simply not distribute it until someone gives me $100,000.

"When you purchase access to an open-data paper"

Some provisos first. Some papers are gratis, and don't require being purchased. (Eg, author-pays papers.) Also, I think you are defining "open-data paper" that way, making your argument a bit tautological.

Those aside, I'm pointing out that the "open-data paper" movement started independently and likely co-temporally, if not earlier than, the free software movement.


> I can simply not distribute it

Of course, you haven't infringed on anyone's freedom yet, there are no users. I guess the thing is if you massively overcharge without providing any corresponding service of value the first person that purchases it has the option to throw the source code up on the internet and it can be forked.

I guess you also have to find a buyer that is willing to pay you the large sum while also knowing they can't charge others for it without also handing over the source code, so it's doubtful anyone would do so.

There are other options though, if a single person or entity owns the copyright for the entire code base, with no outside contributors, they can dual license it. GPL for the public and then commercial proprietary license for businesses. That way the business can build on it if they wish without redistributing the source.


Exactly! I am free to talk about it, boast about it, write papers about it, etc.

While, to go back to my first comment:

"If you have useful data, the free software principles say that you might as well charge a lot of money for it, which is not what most chemists and biologists think of in discussion of data openness."


If you have useful data, you might as well get a big research grant to publish it. If the buyer (in this case the government or university) were to demand reproducibility, this would cost more, because reproducibility takes work, and it would be worth more; overall scientific progress would accelerate, because reproduction with variation (sounds familiar) has value.


> Stallman's conception of free software says that you should be able to charge as much as you want.

Yes, once. After this your first customer is now free to undercut you and bring the price as close to zero as they like, as is their first customer, etc.

The analogy is: you can charge Nature as much as you want for the rights to publish your paper, but when you do, you have to give them the raw data, in replication-ready form, which they will then publish to anyone they sell the journal to. And Nature's customer is in turn allowed to republish and if they do is required to again make the source data available.

I think you're reading more than is warranted into rms selling some emacs tapes by mail order back in the day.


> Open science people generally want people who publish papers to be required to publish the data.

Free software requires that if you publish (or sell) binaries you MUST release the source as well, with full rights to modify and redistribute.

You are not required to publish, just as you are not required to release software.


If I'm understanding right, those journals still kept it copyrighted, without copy-left provisions. It's more like the notion of open source, where the source may be viewable but isn't necessarily available for redistribution.

While Stallman says you can charge as much as you can, his terms say that once someone buys it they can immediately undercut you, and he admits that limits the amount you could charge sustainably.


> It's more like the notion of open source, where the source may be viewable but isn't necessarily available for redistribution.

That's incorrect: open source software is necessarily available for redistribution. What you are referring to (source viewable but not necessarily available for redistribution/modification) is commonly referred as "source available" software [0].

Now, the distinction between open source and free software is more a social/political one rather than a practical one. Free software encompasses an entire philosophy while open source is simply concerned with software licensing.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Source-available_software


>If I'm understanding right, those journals still kept it copyrighted, without copy-left provisions. It's more like the notion of open source, where the source may be viewable but isn't necessarily available for redistribution.

The publication, yes. The structure, no. You can go download the structure of any and every known and published protein from any organism in the world for free with no copyright restrictions from the PDB. And that structure will be heavily scrutinized and reviewed before it's accessible.

That said, working in structural biology, it's incredible how quickly that field attached to open source, and in particular, free software. The big players in the field (coot, Relion, PEET and IMID) are all GPL. Additionally, software like PyMOL, Chimera, Phenix etc are available for free, sometimes with source. Those are basically all the software in the structural biologist toolset, with HKL2000 perhaps being the only paid software on anyone's workstation.

I suspect there's probably multiple reasons for this phenomenon. There's not many structural biologist, and of the few that there are, many are in academia and have no money to spend on software. Additionally, the field moves so rapidly that most software is actually piecemealed toolkits from tons of labs. Also, anything algorithmic requires substantial analysis if you want to publish data acquired with it, meaning it needs to be open. Finally, 99% of structural biology is done on Linux, so there's simply a culture aspect as well.


I think you refer to the publication, and not the journal? I was referring to "making data openly available", quoting the top-level comment, and "If you have useful data" in my comment you replied to.

The data repository I mentioned is the PDB. Quoting http://www.rcsb.org/pages/policies :

> Data files contained in the PDB archive (ftp://ftp.wwpdb.org) are free of all copyright restrictions and made fully and freely available for both non-commercial and commercial use. Users of the data should attribute the original authors of that structural data.

That means it's available for redistribution.

BTW, the general trend is to use "source available" instead of "open source" when the source is available for viewing and perhaps local modification, but not for redistribution. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Source-available_software


Ah, I didn’t realize what the PDB was, sorry.


> It's more like the notion of open source, where the source may be viewable but isn't necessarily available for redistribution.

I think you misunderstand the distinction between open source and free software. Open source software also needs to be available for redistribution. The main practical difference is Free Software also requires that if you make any changes to the software, those changes must _also_ be released under the same licensing, whereas open source may or may not have such provisions.


No, you are thinking of copyleft software. "Free software" means the same thing as "open-source software".

See for instance this GNU page where permissive licenses like the MIT license are also described as "free software licenses":

https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html


That is incorrect. Stallman defined 'free software'. He has said:

"The term “open source” software is used by some people to mean more or less the same category as free software. It is not exactly the same class of software: they accept some licences that we consider too restrictive, and there are free software licences they have not accepted. However, the differences in extension of the category are small: nearly all free software is open source, and nearly all open source software is free."

In particular, he notes the example of DRM software. DRM software can be distributed under an open-source licence, but by design and in practice it serves to restrict the freedoms of its users, not to enhance them.


It's up for interpretation. Toviozation clearly restricts freedom of modification.


Really though? When the inventor of the concept of "free software" and the founder of the Free Software Foundation says that free software is not the same as open source software I don't really think you can seriously declare that "it's up for interpretation".


With Tiviozation, the Software can be modified and used in any way you want, on your own hardware. It's the Hardware that is being locked by Tiviozation.


There are a lot of things free on archive.org. Some people download categories, burn them on DVDs, and sell them for a few dollars. I find that worth the money rather than laboriously downloading things one by one, and bought a few.


The complaints about stallman aren't a matter of thoughtcrime, they're a matter of entirely inappropriate behavior, not just once but repeatedly, over the course of decades.

This was the one that disturbed me the most:

"Going to an RMS talk in the early 90s and meeting with him in person was among the worst of my experienced - I was fifteen, still obviously underage, and skipping gym class to hear him speak at a professional conference (that I'd snuck into). He actually pointed to me in the back and proclaimed, into the mic, "A GIRL!" causing the audience to turn and look. Mortifying. Then he proceeded to gesture toward me every time he referred to "EMACS Virgins." (I cannot believe that he is still doing the same talk 10+ years later.) I was young and terrified of calling out someone that I'd previously idolized."

Did he commit a crime? No. Should we overlook it, and should he remain in a leadership position at a prestigious organization? I can't imagine so; what kind of message does that send?

Anecdote from: https://geekfeminism.wikia.org/wiki/Experiences


Same thing ten years ago. I had lunch with a young lady who was maintainer of a popular GNU project, and much of the conversation revolved around the creepy advances RMS had made toward her.

She was older than the 15 year old you quoted, and I think she knew how to take care of herself. But obviously his behavior had caused her quite a bit of discomfort.


It's notable that all of these anecdotes are from back in the '90s and before; since I assume Stallman's accusers dug around very hard for material and this is the best they could find, it stands to reason that he probably has long since improved in that regard. Moreover, the same cluster of people among others has seriously been arguing (https://medium.com/@selamie/remove-richard-stallman-appendix...) that a mattress in the office of someone whose every public profile involves a mention of how he slept in the office for years to develop GNU is unambiguous sexual innuendo (quote: "He kept the door to his office open, to proudly showcase that mattress and all the implications that went with it."). I am not sure how trustworthy their accounts can be considered to begin with.


I don't think it is even worth focusing in on specific issues; throwing mud at Stallman's character is post-hoc rationalisation for a situation created by thoughtcrime.

Even if the mud sticks, the major problem is that Stallman was forced to resign after what appears to be (from public info) a moral panic. People acting on moral panics is really bad; good process is slow process.

There are real complaints about Stallman. There have been since the 90s. If it looked like he was resigning because of those then that would be a totally different kettle of fish.


I don’t mean to quibble and I really want to strsss this next point: I’m absolutely as lost as we all seem to be regarding how some people in our communities should be dealt with. I don’t yet know how we’ll choose to handle them. But anyway, using the term “thoughtcrime” feels incredibly disingenuous and could easily be misconstrued as intentionally inflammatory. Obviously you wouldn’t be intentionally inflammatory on HN so Im guessing you’re accidentally using the incorrect term–since most of the accounts we’ve seen are actual actions he has taken, it did not stay inside his mind, it was manifested into actual action in the real world towards other people, this just isn’t “thoughtcrime.” Even the people who were closest to him are very publicly discussing that there were a great many actual real world actions which made them feel everything from uncomfortable to intentionally avoiding him, again, even the people closest to him say these incidents were happening out in the open and happening regular enough to make them uncomfortable even when they weren’t the targets of his behavior.

Like I said, I had an immense amount of respect for him, I met him quite a few times, but I’m as lost as we all seem to be on how our communities should deal with folks like this. Either way, let’s at least try our best on HN to not accidentally inflame or accidentally mislead people.


"Thoughtcrime" here refers to the mere expression of taboo opinions, independent of a person's actual behavior towards others.

It seems to be the case that Stallman did engage in inappropriate behavior - which perhaps should have been dealt with differently by CSAIL, MIT, the FSF board etc. The appropriate response may very well have been to ask for his resignation.

But those behaviors are not why he was asked to resign. Reference to his past behavior was a post-hoc rationalization. It seems the real reason he was fired was because he expressed a difference of opinion over the nature of Marvin Minksy's guilt as a result of his association with Epstein.

Well, it wasn't even about the opinion he expressed, rather he was fired because someone publicly misinterpreted his opinion, and that mistaken opinion was picked up by the media.

Well, it wasn't even about the misinterpreted opinion. He was fired because MIT is (I'm sure) facing some very serious scrutiny over it's entanglements with Epstein, and the very real concern that one of it's famed professors may have been a co-conspirator in a powerful and depraved criminal ring. The whole Stallman affair serves as a nice deflection from that scrutiny.

As it stands, it does not even look like Minsky ever participated in said criminal activity (as far as I can tell, the victim only said that she was compelled to offer herself to Minsky, and another witness claimed that Minksy turned her down). While there likely were many powerful people who were knowing participants in Epstein's activities, it seems that Epstein was also someone who liked to befriend very smart STEM folks, and not all of them may have been aware as to what exactly Epstein was involved in.


People in public positions have always had to be careful about what they say. It really lowers the quality of discussion to talk about "thought crime" in this context. Stallman isn't being thrown into prison for expressing his political views. He's being fired from his job (to the extent that it is a job) for making ill-judged and offensive comments.

> It seems the real reason he was fired was because he expressed a difference of opinion over the nature of Marvin Minksy's guilt as a result of his association with Epstein.

No, thats not it. The inflammatory comment was the following:

>“It is morally absurd to define ‘rape’ in a way that depends on minor details such as which country it was in or whether the victim was 18 years old or 17".

This statement is as clear as mud, but it certainly seems to suggest that age shouldn't be considered as a factor in determining consent.


It doesn't suggest that age shouldn't be considered. It says the difference between 17 and 18 years old is minor. The justification is that depending on which country or even state within a country you're in you could be committing "rape" in one and not committing any crime in another. As rape is a word most people understand as awful violent crime it is absurd for it to depend on details like exact location where it takes place.

It could (and should) be called differently. If you call a consensual sex with 17 years old "rape" you're doing disservice to real rape victims.


There has to be an age of consent. Sex without consent is rape. I don't see the problem. Different countries have slightly different definitions of pretty much every crime in the book. Whether or not you are committing fraud, burglary, assault, etc. etc., will also depend on a number of "minor details" that may vary between jurisdictions. Either RMS thinks there should be an age of consent, in which case it's obvious that the age in question must be somewhat arbitrary, or he doesn't think there should be an age of consent. Given RMS's previous comments on the same subject, it's pretty clear what he's saying here: https://www.stallman.org/archives/2006-may-aug.html#05%20Jun...


The point is that consensual sex with 17 years old is not rape no matter what the law in particular jurisdiction says. Call it something else like sexual misconduct for example. By calling it rape you're demeaning the term. You can't reasonably use the word rape for something that vast majority of people in Western culture consider to be perfectly ok behavior or maybe a bit indecent but certainly not criminal. You're just demeaning the term of you do that.

Just because it's called statutory rape in US law doesn't mean it's a serious crime in all cases and shouldn't be called in a way to suggest that. That's the point Stallman makes and imo it's the obvious one.


I think in the case where there's such a huge age gap, and where the girl is a sex slave, it is serious crime. The girl could not meaningfully have consented.

But in any case, the poster that Stallman was responding to was merely pointing out that what Minsky allegedly did probably would constitute rape in the relevant jurisdiction.

If Stallman, for whatever weird reason, has some kind of a semantic program for reforming terminology relating to rape and sexual assault, then he chose the worst possible time, manner and place to put it forward. Especially given that he is previously on record as believing that sex between adults and much younger children can be 'consensual'. He's a best a goof on these topics, and at worst a serial creep and harasser. He has only himself to blame.


> Given RMS's previous comments on the same subject, it's pretty clear what he's saying here

While I do disagree with Stallman's statement here, I think it's important to point out that your insinuation is not justified.

He did not say that he thought pedophilia was good, only that he was skeptical of the claims that it was bad because he'd only ever been presented with examples of involuntary pedophilia. In the intervening years since this comment was made and the present, his mind has been changed on the subject.


He said that he was "skeptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children". Thus, it's not surprising that he thinks age is irrelevant to the question of whether or not someone was raped. I feel that my insinuation is therefore entirely justified.

> because he'd only ever been presented with examples of involuntary pedophilia

This framing only underlines the point: if you think that children can "voluntarily" have sex with adults, then clearly you don't think age is relevant to consent! It's overwhelmingly obvious what RMS thinks here. He thinks that it's ok for old men to have sex with "willing" teenagers. I.e., he rejects the entire basis of an age of consent.

>In the intervening years since this comment was made and the present, his mind has been changed on the subject.

Can you provide a reference to his supposed retraction of this statement dated before September 2019? As far as I can see, he only retracted this statement - which remained on his website for many years - after this whole shit storm started. And without apology or any hint of shame. You can see Stallman saying similar things about the age of consent as late as 2018: https://web.archive.org/web/20180924231708/https://www.stall...


Just to reiterate, the subject under debate is what Stallman meant by the claim that the difference between 18 and 17 years old "is a minor detail".

You claim he means "there should be no age of consent"

Others are arguing he means "the difference between those particular ages is minor, and both could be considered reasonable ages of consent".

We could debate endlessly on what Stallman feels in general about the age of consent, but with regards to that particular comment I cannot see how your interpretation is justified given the particular words he chose for that specific comment. If he had wanted to argue that there is no need for an age of consent, then I'm sure he would have chosen words that meant that.

> Can you provide a reference to his supposed retraction of this statement dated before September 2019?

No, but Stallman doesn't seem to be the kind of person who would be dishonest in that manner.

> You can see Stallman saying similar things about the age of consent as late as 2018

That's a stretch. He does not mention age of consent (although he does not seem to be bothered by the fact that the young woman was 16). He does however draw a distinction between adolescence (late adolescence in particular) and childhood, which would seem to be relevant.


>Others are arguing he means "the difference between those particular ages is minor, and both could be considered reasonable ages of consent".

That does not make it "morally absurd" to set 18 as the legal age of consent, so I don't think that's a plausible reading of what RMS said. He could only find the idea morally absurd if he found the idea of the age of consent morally absurd - which is consistent with everything he's ever said that touches on the issue. If he was merely quibbling about the age, he'd say "I think the age of consent should be a bit lower."

>No, but Stallman doesn't seem to be the kind of person who would be dishonest in that manner.

It's not clear what you are referring to here. I'm not much impressed by someone later saying that they changed their mind a long time ago (if you have a reference to RMS saying that - I don't). Grossly wrong public statements should be publicly retracted. If they're not retracted, then they're fair game for criticism.

>although he does not seem to be bothered by the fact that the young woman was 16)

He says "she may have had — I expect, did have — entirely willing sex with him, and they would still call it 'assault'". That is, he thinks the fact that the girl was a teenager (and he didn't know she was 16 specifically in the earlier version of the comment) is no barrier to her having "willing" sex with an older man. It's painfully obvious what RMS thinks. He thinks that age should not be a factor in deciding whether or not someone was raped or sexually assaulted, since people of any age (or at least, teens up) can "willingly" have sex with much older adults.


> That does not make it "morally absurd" to set 18 as the legal age of consent

Looking again at what he said, I think his main point was about whether the particular hypothetical should be dubbed "rape". Now, you may say "someone under the legal age of consent cannot give said consent, so ergo the act is rape". Which is true, but even when the law has to draw a bright line regarding the age of consent, the law still does distinguish between "statutory rape" and "forcible rape". Both are wrong, but the latter is generally considered moreso. Furthermore, statutory rape tends to have more exceptions when the victim is closer to the age of consent.

If we are going to use the term "rape" in an unqualified manner, then the usual connotation is "forcible rape". I think it is fair to object to the unqualified use of the term where the victim was appeared to be a willing individual above the age of consent.

It's a bit like calling Martin Luther King Jr. a "criminal". Yes, he was put in jail, and technically he did violate local law, but the activity he was engaged in (non-violent protest of unjust laws) hardly fits the expected model of what is typically implied by the word "criminal".[1]

Now I bring this up not in order to compare the character of either Minsky or Stallman with MLK, but merely draw attention to a fallacy of reasoning known as the non-central fallacy[2].

An edge case in the manner of statutory rape (where the victim seemed to be willing and of age, and was in fact close to the age of consent) is still likely illegal and wrong, but we should still take care to note how such a case differs from a more central example of forcible rape.

> It's not clear what you are referring to here. I'm not much impressed by someone later saying that they changed their mind a long time ago (if you have a reference to RMS saying that - I don't). Grossly wrong public statements should be publicly retracted. If they're not retracted, then they're fair game for criticism.

My understanding is that he did make a public retraction of sorts this month. It's still an open question as to when he thinks the age of consent is, but I do believe he thinks there at least is one. Despite the timing of his retraction, I do think he was sincere.

[1] You've mentioned elsewhere that you are English, so I don't know how salient the example is to you. I hope it makes sense. [2]https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/yCWPkLi8wJvewPbEp/the-noncen...


It's difficult to see why Stallman would choose this case to make a point about rape vs. statutory rape. If you look at the context, the person he was replying to was pointing out that Minsky having sex with the girl in question (if this happened) might have legally constituted rape.

Statutory rape may in some cases not be a serious crime (e.g. an 18 hear old having sex with a 17 year old), but we are talking here, hypothetically, about a 70 year old man having sex with a 17 year old sex slave. And yeah, when you are a 70 year old man being offered sex for free by an attractive teenage girl who for some reason lives on your weirdo chum's private island, I do think some degree of due dillegence is required.

>My understanding is that he did make a public retraction of sorts this month

I know - I mentioned that. I asked if there was any evidence that he'd changed his views prior to September 2019. There appears not to be. And he has never apologised or shown any hint of shame.

>Lesswrong

No idea why you think this interminable blog post is relevant. But of course it's no surprise that you're linking to Lesswrong, which has a history of burying serious discussion of rape and sexual assault in endless reams of pseudorationalist bafflegab.


Do you think RMS argument is wrong here though? Why?

Age of consent in my (European) country is 16. Do you think we are all rapists here? And looking up the law 14 is permissible (with a few caveats), even if the other person is over 21.

In the United States it depends on the state. So Minsky would have done a horrible rape crime in the US Virgin Islands (age of consent 18), but in Massachusetts (age of consent 16) ... it would be all perfectly fine and A-okay? This appeal to law seems a bit relativistic for making a moral judgement?


I don't see how what you're saying is relevant. RMS said that the age was a "minor detail". He didn't make any claim about what the age of consent should be. Given his previous comments, one suspects he doesn't think there should be one: https://www.stallman.org/archives/2006-may-aug.html#05%20Jun...


He said age "17 or 18" is a minor detail, which from my perspective, coming from a country which has an age of consent under both, I agree.


I don't understand what he means by that. If there is an age of consent, then some people will be under it by a year. What is the alternative? In your country, there are also people a year under the age of consent. Whether not someone is above the age of consent cannot possibly be considered a "minor detail" in determining whether or not they consented.


Put it this way a member of the Norwegian government has been widely reported to have had sex with a drunk 17 year old (I am not certain whether the reports are true since the teenager has declined to comment). If the age of consent were 18 then the minister would have been investigated by the police. Since it is 16 the minister continues to serve in the government without stigma. Big difference in outcomes but the teenager is the same age.

Of course there has to be a cutoff. 16 seems reasonable to me. But I would not have sex with any teenager.


>Of course there has to be a cutoff.

In which case the difference between $AGE and $AGE-1 is not a "minor detail".


Legally speaking no it is not. Morally speaking yes it can be (depending on many factors).

Some legal systems attempt to account for this. E.g. England and Wales have two key ages. Having sex with someone under 16 might be (to use US terms) rape or statutory rape depending on whether the person under 16 consented. Both are illegal but rape more so. Having sex with someone under 13 is always rape since children under 13 are not considered able to consent. But in some cases 16 is not the cutoff if e.g. a teacher has sex with a pupil under 18 this is also always illegal. On the other hand if the defendant genuinely did not know the chief witness was under 16 and there was consent this is a defense.


RMS was objecting to the legal definition of rape (hence the reference to it varying between countries). But if you want to switch to the moral issue, then that’s even more black and white. Is it ok for a 70 year old man in a position of power to (hypothetically) have sex with a 17 year old girl? Erm, no. Can sex in such circumstances be fully consensual? No, it can’t. So if your suggestion is that RMS was making some kind of defensible moral argument, I can’t imagine what it might be.

I happen to be English so I’m familiar with the laws in England. I don’t see how any of that is relevant. The English law has cutoffs of exactly the same kind (it’s just that the relevant age threshold is usually 16 rather than 18). Obviously, no-one thinks that any such threshold can be completely non-arbitrary. It is just as "morally absurd" for sex between two 16 year olds to be legal and sex between a 16 year old and a 15 year old to be illegal. But unless - like RMS - you fail to recognize that age is a factor in consent, you have to make a cut somewhere. Apparently, from RMS's point of view, the most troubling feature of such laws is that they may prevent 70 year old Profs screwing 17 year old girls.


> it ok for a 70 year old man in a position of power to (hypothetically) have sex with a 17 year old girl. Erm, no. Can sex in such circumstances be fully consensual? No, it can’t

I provided an example with a government minister in Norway already... The minister in question remains in the government (the allegations are unproven but would easily be enough to destroy a British politician). Clearly two very similar western countries have very different moral stances on sex between consenting adults!

With regards most of the rest of your post we are largely in agreement.

Except regarding your misunderstanding of RMS's position. I invite you to read what he wrote yourself and revert if you think that is what he actually meant to say! Or to edit your post.


We're both discussing what he wrote.

Terje Søviknes seems the closest match to your description. For an adult in a position of power to get a 16 year old drunk and then have sex with them is obviously wrong. It's certainly caused a scandal in Norway: https://exepose.com/2018/02/15/endless-sex-scandals-in-norwe...

You apparently regard the case as one involving "consenting adults", even though you describe the girl as drunk! It does seem that at bottom, the tiny minority of people who think they've found a morally defensible interpretation of RMS's comments are the people who are basically ok with adult men sexually exploiting teenage girls. Or at least, who think it's very important to sharply distinguish these people from "real" rapists.

I assume that the politician you are referring to remains in power because the allegations are (you say) unproven.


> We're both discussing what he wrote.

I'm not prepared to discus that further with you until you can justify or retract your libelous interpretation.

As for the government minister that is not the one in question. I found the one involving Trine Skei Grande far more comparable https://www.vg.no/nyheter/innenriks/i/a2Wp1M/han-var-17-skei.... Even so you will note that the minister you mention can continue to serve as an MP.


What made you pick out the Terje Søviknes case over the Trine Grande case?


So many to choose from! You didn't give a name, and I can't read your mind.


I said explicitly that the minister in question remained in government, that the teenager in question was 17 and that there was no suggestion of coercion. There was no need to even name names these facts stand on their own.


At the time the age of consent was 16 in the US Virgin Islands...


Thoughtcrime is an apt description for the events that triggered this moral panic.


>how some people in our communities should be dealt with

Fork. See the glimpse project. If it's more inclusive, it will naturally accumulate all alienated contributors.


The contemporary misinterpretation of the mattress aside, RMS already had already earned his reputation in the 90s, as had at least one other OSS luminary of the time.

Case in point: RMS's incredibly uncomfortable St iGNUcius routine was already legendary.[0]

Does he intend for it to be awkward at best, and offensive at worst? I doubt it. Has people told him that it is not received as he intends? Definitely. Does he change his behavior to better reflect his purported views of inclusiveness? Nope.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter what you intend your actions to be interpreted, it only matters how they actually are interpreted. That failure to adapt to clear feedback, is problem.

[0] From 2009 https://mjg59.livejournal.com/113408.html


I do not think that a tacky joke about "emacs virgins" as part of a comedy routine parodying real religious movements past and present deserves being treated as a punishable offense at all. Not only do I think that this should not be objectionable and those who try to make it out to be are contributing to our society being a worse place than it has to be, calls for punishment on the basis of it also strike me as plainly hypocritical in an age where beloved and respected media and tech figures can use the sexual history of members of their political outgroup as an insult ("incel", "cuck") and are applauded for it.

Long before the current iteration of our dominant ideology, people talked about the slut-versus-stud distinction[1] as one of the ways in which sexism manifests itself in our society. It seems to me that both the circumstance that we would find Stallman joking about female sexual inexperience intrinsically scandalous, and the circumstance that we find $twitterpersonality taking actual malicious shots at male sexual inexperience okay, would serve to reinforce this double standard, not combat it. Consider the possibility that at the very least, the people who are now actually interpreting Stallman's remark as offensive may at least not have been considered good feminists back in 2009, when mjg59's post and my citation were written. Should we fault Stallman for acting ineptly but ultimately in line with what was probably the "best" advice at the time?

[1] https://www.gender-focus.com/2009/11/22/slut-vs-stud/


Assuming good faith, I’m old enough to remember not only 2009, but also the 1990s.

This tacky joke wasn’t considered to be in line with the best advice at either time. While you may need to take my word for 1990s, the very fact that there are multiple contemporaneous articles about the inappropriateness of the 2009 skit, is evidence of that. I will concede that the tolerance for the tacky joke may have been a bit higher in 1990, or even 1999, than it was 2009. Also, to reiterate, I do not think that it is RMS’s intention to offend, but offend he none the less does.

I am confused by the line of thought about someone that may not have been considered a good feminist in 2009, but in 2019 may be considered a good one. People are always welcome to change and adapt their behaviors and opinions to be more inclusive. Furthermore, it is especially welcome to acknowledge past behavior that doesn’t rise to one’s current standards. That is the expected outcome of education, growth, and maturity. To steadfastly refuse to change behavior when it is brought to their attention that is inappropriate, and perhaps not in line with their professed ideas, seems suspect to me. Is there something I’m missing, or perhaps you accidentally got the years reversed, and I misinterpreted?


Some might have found it funny, others might have found it tacky. It's the way jokes work. Important here is that his is not the first time it happened or where it was used disproportionally against him:

https://stallman.org/articles/texas.html

From the above, from someone at TI he met later who was amused by his joke:

"The plant incident, which I found rather humorous, provided a reason for people in the later camp to become offended. This was convenient as they had been looking for one. They were subsequently able to blow it to suitable proportions to gain the attention of management. "

Stallman will always offend people because he speaks about their unethical behaviour. Those offended will use whatever he does as an excuse.


Most people understand the difference between business and professional controversies and those that are demeaning to people based on immutable identity.

It is disingenuous to consider all (mis)behavior equal in severity or kind.


All sensible senior academics keep their doors open. It is one way to avoid exactly these sorts of accusations!


if you can be accused for keeping a door closed, US society is way more fucked up than I thought and these people are much more scary than italian mafia.


fun fact: Selam G. the author of the post on medium builds weapons for the US defense department.


> The complaints about stallman aren't a matter of thoughtcrime, they're a matter of entirely inappropriate behavior, not just once but repeatedly, over the course of decades

Indeed. A lot of people leaping to his defence have only a very surface-level understanding of his past record and think the accusations are something new or recent.

Nobody expects the people who change the world to be perfect, but it really doesn't do to defend people based purely on their reputation. It's unjust to let influential people off the hook just because they're influential.

Please note: I'm not pronouncing any opinion on whether his condemnation and dismissal are justified.


I'm sure not all are aware of his history of inappropriate behavior, but some of us are. I think those of us who are bothered by his ousting are bothered for two reasons:

1. The triggering event was someone misquoting him and the media running with that misquote

2. The timing and manner in which MIT handled the situations suggests that they were hypocritically trying to deflect from their own complicity in the Epstein scandal, rather than addressing Stallman's behavior in good faith.

3. While Stallman certainly benefited from some protection for his behavior, the organizations which supported him also greatly benefited from him. The FSF saying that Stallman does not speak for them is particularly rich, considering they exist to promote his ideas.

I'm not saying I care for his behavior, or that all of it should get a pass. There's also a lot that I just don't agree with him about. However:

1. I don't like seeing the media twist people's words

2. I don't like seeing organizations throw people under the bus during moral panics

Also, I fear that it's becoming harder to be a weird nerd in tech[1].

[1]https://medium.com/@maradydd/when-nerds-collide-31895b01e68c


See, that's sounds like a fair rebuttal to the situation to me, though I'm not sure that point 3 really stands — who benefits from whom makes no difference to the matter in question, exaggerated though it is.

Point 2 is quite strong, though I wonder if they might also have been looking for an excuse to good rid of him for some time? I'm not suggesting that's true at all, that's just musing based on some recent politics at the place I work.


Regarding point 3 - I think that even if you have to cut ties with someone because of their transgressions, if they did a lot of good then it is still appropriate to have some gratitude for that good. From what I recall of the FSF statement about RMS, I did not see any of that there.


>Also, I fear that it's becoming harder to be a weird nerd in tech[1].

The thing is, tech can embrace "weirdness" without also embracing sexual harassment, hostility and toxicity. Not every behavior that deviates from the "politically correct" norm needs to be worn as a badge of honor and celebrated as cultural quirkiness by tech people.


I'm not saying that tech should embrace "sexual harassment, hostility and toxicity" (though I do think we should be careful how we define such terms). I said I didn't think his behavior should get a pass, and elsewhere in this thread I acknowledge that asking for his resignation may even be the correct response to his past behavior.

My point is that it wasn't his past behavior that lead to his forced resignation. If it had been (as is my understanding of what happened with Kalanick at Uber) I would not be so concerned.


>My point is that it wasn't his past behavior that lead to his forced resignation.

Maybe not directly, but I think it certainly added weight to the scales that tipped against his favor.

At the very least, Stallman's present behavior is the product of his past behavior.


If I had a de-platformed individual every time they made a comment someone took offense to, I'd end up with an animal farm. Definitely, his comments should not be overlooked, but intellectually benching someone because of what they've said is not how you handle these types of situations.

Furthermore, his leadership qualities depend only on his ability to lead a group towards a goal, which he was doing swell at.


> his leadership qualities depend only on his ability to lead a group towards a goal, which he was doing swell at

It sounds like his behavior was alienating people who would have been willing to work toward that shared goal, but were instead pushed away. So based on what I'm reading, he was a poor leader in this regard.


Would the people who were pushed away actually have contributed much?

The few I've seen mentioned seemed a bit fragile and easily upset to be suitable for doing reasoned public advocacy.


He has many zingers on record. This last one finally caught up with him.

I almost feel sorry for him-- like maybe if he had someone who could just tell him: "Dude, Slow your roll!" he would not have gotten into this situation.

On the other hand, he's an adult, old and wise enough to know better, especially as a spokesperson and thought-leader. He did it to himself.


Or maybe people would just be more cautious about saying horrible things on the record.


"Horrible" is completely subjective.


"Horrible" is sometimes subjective. There are things that pretty much every reasonable person would agree are horrible.


> pretty much every reasonable person

Reasonable is subjective.


No, it isn’t. The “reasonable person” standard in lots of laws exists exactly because we can agree on it as an objective standard.


We don't agree what it actually is, though.

In practice, the "reasonable person" standard is achieved by asking a jury. In a jury, the members apply their life experiences to the case they're deciding and then persuade each other to reach a unanimous conclusion. That's an entirely subjective process, and if you repeat it with another jury you can get the polar opposite answer.


Juries might disagree about what a reasonable person would do in a given situation. But that was just a digression.

I think that almost all juries could agree on some subset of behaviors being labeled as “horrible.”


Wow. Terrible. Hope she wasn't put off computer science / IT by that.


> The complaints about stallman aren't a matter of thoughtcrime, they're a matter of entirely inappropriate behavior

Who are you exactly to think you can decide what is - without doubt - "entirely inappropriate behaviour"?

are you in charge of the thought police?


Sorry, I’m not understanding. Is inappropriate actions a thoughtcrime? Like. I thought thoughtcrime and actions are separate- you can think about how women are just pieces of meat all you like, once you start treating them as pieces of meat then you’ve moved from thinking (thoughtcrime) to action (serial killer)?

(Edit; to be clear, since this was a point of confusion, I do not believe anyone I am responding to thinks women are meat! This is a rhetorical tactic to use as an example.)


You're not in charge of deciding what's inappropriate or not.

Talking about dicks is inappropriate, but if you are an urologist speaking with other urolgy students, it makes perfect sense.

Stallman was writing to other students about the correct representation of the Minsky situation, because they were using Minsky's name in an inappropriate way to protest against MIT-Epstein case. (Unless you think that accusing a dead person without proof is alright)

His entire life has been devoted to finding the precise combinations of words to express what he wanted to say, in the most exact possible manner.

Can you blame him for doing what he did best, among his peers?

I blame the weapon builder who felt triggered and accused him of something he did not do.

> you can think about how women are just pieces of meat all you like

Pathetic...

Nobody ever said that.

You're embarrassing yourself.


Sorry, I should’ve clarified that this is a rhetorical you! My apologies for not being clear; I was under the impression that the structure of my post would’ve implied as such. Sorry for the offense I’ve caused.

As for the rest of it- well, the post questioning thoughtcrime wasn’t about the individual email defense of a friend at all, but about the decades of complaints! So, again, totally out of context there. Can you re-respond with relevant conjecture?


[flagged]


> Also, if the idea is to protect under-18s from any minor adult banter, how come 6th grade has an LGBTQ club?

What do these have to do with each other? Nothing about an LGBTQ club has to be "adult".


Maybe I'm reading the GP's anecdote incorrectly, but the behavior in question seemed like targeted harassment, not just "a bit of adult off-color talk".


People are throwing these words around so much they lost all the real meaning. Harassment is someone seriously interfering in your life. Bad jokes during a public talk where you are obviously safe from unwanted advances does not qualify. Neither is Joe Biden anything. Al Franken maybe deserved a slap on the face or some other minor consequences around the time things happened (if they did as alleged) but not an unpersoning. The most easily offended person in the society does not get to be a unilateral tyrant over all functional adults with normal offense thresholds.


> incredibly sheltered.

> privileged

I'm coming to realize more and more—those aren't the same thing.


The latter often results in the former, and sometimes the former illicits expectations of the latter in the sheltered, so there is significant coincidence of the two, but no they are certainly not the same nor do they necessarily imply each other.


Thoughtcrime came and went years ago. We are now entering the precrime era.


Perhaps the real problem is that we build personality cults around ideas.


Or that we fight the person to destroy or weaken the idea.


It seems this thread and others like it has fueled a controversial honeypot, as some users are mass-downvoting comments that are perfectly in line with the content posted, simply because they stand for or against ousting Stallman, and others are doing the opposite -- mass upvoting comments that align with their predisposed view of the situation.

I'd like to take sometime however to reiterate that freedom applies to all views. The ability of a user to use software regardless of their personal beliefs or background, what they want to use it for, or against. The choice of usage is completely and wholly up to the user, they may modify it to their heart's content, and the community can use those modifications freely for their purposes. Restricting viewpoints you don't align with is completely antithetical to the purpose of having free-as-in-speech software, and it is truly a shame, regardless of how you interpret the situation, that the poster-boy for these ideals has fallen from his position due to alternate views.


But consider the possibility that this might be perfectly rational behaviour for people who care about some side of the cause (even if it comes at the expense of HN as a forum): the victory condition for any belief is to be so universally accepted that its negation can not be expressed in polite company. If you come into a HN thread believing X and then see that every post stating X got downvoted into oblivion, maybe you will think twice before mentioning that you believe X next time you are considering to do so in any setting, real-life or online, that you have a persistent identity of any value in. The next undecided person in that setting might never hear the case for X and come to believe not-X to be as uncontroversial as gravity, and before long it will actually come to be.


> the victory condition for any belief is to be so universally accepted that its negation can not be expressed in polite company.

Well, to quote our host: No one gets in trouble for saying that 2 + 2 is 5, or that people in Pittsburgh are ten feet tall. Such obviously false statements might be treated as jokes, or at worst as evidence of insanity, but they are not likely to make anyone mad. The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed. I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true.

I don't think people talking about Bigfoot are usually subject to ostracization, unless they're really overbearing about it (keep changing the subject back to Bigfoot, start insulting or yelling at those who disagree, etc.). And I think not-Bigfoot is basically in the victory condition. I think the victory condition is "universally accepted" and it doesn't necessarily imply "negation cannot be expressed in polite company".

But you might be right that "its negation can not be expressed in polite company" is one of the steps along the way for some beliefs. I hope that's not true (because it might justify what I consider abhorrent behavior), but it might be.

That said, I recall seeing a study that said that extreme protest tactics were counterproductive in advancing an ideology. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314949726_Extreme_P... is probably the one I'm thinking of. I hope the principle extends, or can be extended, to "nasty behavior to suppress ideological opponents is counterproductive". It seems at least possible. Lots of argumentation consists of saying that one's opponents are nasty, which at least is evidence that many people have the potential to react strongly to (perceived) nasty behavior...


I'm not sure what to make of your Bigfoot example; it seems more driven by the circumstance that nobody really at all cares whether Bigfoot wins or loses outside maybe of some scientific fields. I could imagine that claiming that Bigfoot does exist at a zoology conference would land you in some professional trouble, though not nearly as much as something that people actually do care about such as whether vaccines cause autism. (Conversely, I don't think not-Bigfoot is in fact in the victory condition outside of science: 14% of people [1] profess to believe in it, and I figure that if tomorrow SciAm posted an article that Bigfoot had been discovered, most people would shrug and accept it. I suspect this should bother any people outside of science who actually have an interest in not-Bigfoot, and I do have a vague recollection of seeing some post on FSTDT back in the days where Christian fundamentalists were agitating hard against Bigfoot because they were afraid it would be used as "missing link" style evidence for evolution.)

Maybe a better rephrasing of the victory condition is something like "nobody who will ever be in a position to make a significant decision that depends on this belief can get away with disagreeing with it". By that definition, non-Bigfoot wins because approximately nobody except maybe for people controlling federal animal conservation budgets will ever make any significant decisions based on non-Bigfoot, and those probably are judged by scientists; on the other hand, the pro and contra on Stallman's cancellation materially influences decisions all of us will make every time we decide which conferences to sign up for, universities to accept jobs at or Twitter accounts to bolster the influencer status of.

Downvoting itself is not perceived as nasty behaviour. Seeing somebody else be nasty in defense of a belief X harms belief X; not seeing anyone ever defend or even bring up belief not-X because anyone who would do so is afraid of becoming a target of nasty behaviour, on the other hand, surely would help belief X.

[1] https://www.publicpolicypolling.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/...


> this might be perfectly rational behaviour for people who care about some side of the cause

I dispute this is rational. Creating echo chambers polarises and intensifies opposing viewpoints. The rational thing to do would be to engage in polite and meaningful discussion with people with whom you disagree. This would diffuse extreme opinions and allow people time to consider whether or not their position is justified. Rather than reacting in a knee-jerk defensive manner that serves to protect identity by strengthening belief, they are then given space to examine beliefs in order to strengthen identity.


Can you elaborate on why you dispute it is rational? I'm working with a definition of "rational" that is more or less "the optimal way to attain your goals", and assuming that the goals of Stallman's detractors imply that everyone agrees that Stallman/people like him should be cancelled. My argument, then, is that (1) upvote/downvote patterns on a forum like HN are a useful tools to reduce the frequency of the case against Stallman's cancellation being made in other settings than HN, (2) in the long run, the case against the cancellation being made less frequently would result in more people assuming the belief that the cancellation was good. (Of course, if this were at all realistically attainable at this point, many in the pro-Stallman camp would also want "cancel Stallman" to be downvoted so hard that people would be afraid to argue for it in public.)

I don't really see how the rest of your post argues against that, or what your argument for "the rational thing to do would be to engage in polite and meaningful discussion(...)" is. Maybe we are using different definitions of "rational" and/or different assumptions about people's goals, in which case it would help if you could state yours.


Let's start by assuming that a rational agent might choose as a goal the complete cessation of a particular belief. In that case I'd argue that downvoting patterns, as previously described, are not rational because, rather than having the intended consequence of reducing the likelihood of the expression of that belief, they would in fact simply cause that belief to strengthen and then be expressed elsewhere in alternative echo chambers. In order to establish which of our claims is correct we'd need to empirically observe the propagation of beliefs as a result of downvoting patterns. That would not be an easy thing to do.

However, I would also argue that choosing a goal like 'bring about the complete cessation of a particular belief' would be irrational. Although I accept that once I make that claim the conversation is directed towards very shaky territory. The question of how to choose rational goals is probably impossible to answer definitively.

But I will say that when I claimed that the rational thing to do would be to engage with a disliked belief in a meaningful and polite manner, my assumption was that a rational agent would choose to behave in a way that facilitates growth for both the agent and those with which they engage. Of course, once again, this choice of goal is by no means self-evidently rational.


I suppose it all depends on whether you think persuasion or group membership signalling is what primarily influences people's beliefs. I was under the impression there was a wealth of studies suggesting that people basically do not respond positively to logical argument but are easily swayed by what they think everyone around them believes, but I completely failed to find any of them (or studies to the contrary, on that matter), so barring someone producing links where I failed, I suppose we can only recognise that we have different beliefs about reality that we do not have easily serialisable/communicable evidence for.

One issue I take with what you said, though, is the notion of a "rational goal". I don't see how this would be defined in my understanding of the terms; goals are axiomatic, (ir)rationality is a property of candidate actions in pursuit of a particular goal. I still get the impression that we probably use different definitions, and yours is much closer to something like "rational"="conducive to intellectual growth". (So in my world a better paperclip maximiser would be more rational, and in yours a better paperclip maximiser would be less rational...?)


It's definitely an interesting question as to whether goal-choice itself can be a rational activity. Of course, it is necessary for a rational agent to begin with axioms and from there make choices. It seems perfectly coherent to me that we could, from those axioms, choose a further set of goals, each of which can be attained following a course of actions, and so on.

And so I would contend that the goal 'cause the cessation of a particular belief' is not axiomatic at all, but an instance of a goal that serves something more fundamentally axiomatic. Like 'make the world more comfortable'. Or 'make the world conform to my expectations'. Or something like that.

From this model we could absolutely talk about choosing goals in a rational manner that aids certain axioms. The question then would be: could the axioms themselves be chosen in a rational manner? Probably not but then it doesn't seem impossible to argue that some sets of axioms are better than others. It would be nice, say, if the axioms guiding the behaviour of a rational agent, didn't contradict each other.


Goal choice is adaptation activity. For humans two approaches to adaptation were identified: social and empiric. Monkeys use them too (fun fact: monkeys are more likely to resort to empiric adaptation than humans).


Doubtful. Racism is way down since it became completely socially unacceptable to support among most social groups.

This reminds me of The Racist Tree: https://lardcave.net/text/the_racist_tree.html

> By Alexander Blechman

> Once upon a time, there was a racist tree. Seriously, you are going to hate this tree. High on a hill overlooking the town, the racist tree grew where the grass was half clover. Children would visit during the sunlit hours and ask for apples, and the racist tree would shake its branches and drop the delicious red fruit that gleamed without being polished. The children ate many of the racist tree's apples and played games beneath the shade of its racist branches. One day the children brought Sam, a boy who had just moved to town, to play around the racist tree.

> "Let Sam have an apple," asked a little girl.

> "I don't think so. He's black," said the tree. This shocked the children and they spoke to the tree angrily, but it would not shake its branches to give Sam an apple, and it called him a n-[censored].

> "I can't believe the racist tree is such a racist," said one child. The children momentarily reflected that perhaps this kind of behavior was how the racist tree got its name.

> It was decided that if the tree was going to deny apples to Sam then nobody would take its apples. The children stopped visiting the racist tree.

> The racist tree grew quite lonely. After many solitary weeks it saw a child flying a kite across the clover field.

> "Can I offer you some apples?" asked the tree eagerly.

> "Fuck off, you goddamn Nazi," said the child.

> The racist tree was upset, because while it was very racist, it did not personally subscribe to Hitler's fascist ideology. The racist tree decided that it would have to give apples to black children, not because it was tolerant, but because otherwise it would face ostracism from white children.

> And so, social progress was made.


I think you've conflated online downvoting behaviours with real life social conformity pressures, each of which probably have quite different effects on the propogation/extinction of certain beliefs.


IRL ones are probably stronger, but they still look fairly similar to me.


I would expect the strength of the effect is only one of many differences between the two.


> the victory condition for any belief is to be so universally accepted that its negation can not be expressed in polite company.

This is a little bit terrifying to me. For me victory would be that the opposing view merely doesn't gain any traction when expressed, not that it can't be expressed - presumably due to social consequences. Any view that "wins" in this way doesn't deserve its victory - how do you know it's actually a good idea? Bad and good ideas alike can win in this way. Only good ideas are stable in the presence of the constant ability to question them.


> the victory condition for any belief is to be so universally accepted that its negation can not be expressed in polite company.

What about the belief that any belief should be expressable in polite company, including the negatiom of this belief?


This is a fascinating take on the purpose of discourse. I'm not sure if I agree but I'm upvoting it because it made me think.

> the victory condition for any belief is to be so universally accepted that its negation can not be expressed in polite company.

Kind of! That's been the measure of progress as a society; several beliefs that were once fringe have become almost mandatory in polite company.

But we're still not talking about the linked article which is about a distinction between freedom and openness.


Personally, I wouldn't identify an echo chamber as perfectly rational


> the victory condition for any belief is to be so universally accepted that its negation can not be expressed in polite company

That's the victory condition for a mind virus. I hope that my beliefs (like the belief in free speech) aren't mind viruses and don't have that as a victory condition.


As you can see in this thread and everywhere else it’s been recently discussed, Stallnan’s actions have detracted from his message. Now we talk about pedophilia because that’s what RMS introduced to an environment that should be discussing free software. He failed his own message by doing that. No one else is to blame.


The pedophilia thing was over a decade ago. The age of consent thing was more recent but that's a separate issue.


> Stallnan’s actions have detracted from his message. Now we talk about pedophilia because that’s what RMS introduced to an environment that should be discussing free software

Do you have an original source, or are you just parroting what you heard in the media?


Yes I’ve read the original email thread.


If you have the source material, why don't you quote it directly.

Since we're talking about the recent email thread, then you'd know RMS didn't start that conversation, so you can't blame him for injecting the discussion anywhere.


RMS has no children. RMS is not trained/educated in child development or child care. RMS is entitled to his own opinion, however he has no basis for an informed opinion. RMS shit the bed more than one time on the subject of children. RMS has had the protection of others for too long. His backward opinions on children over many years caught up with him. RMS has done great things for free software but that does not give him a free pass to be a terrible human in other aspects of life. If RMS stuck to his area of expertise we would not be having this conversation.


You didn't add anything to the discussion here, you just parroted talking points.

> If RMS stuck to his area of expertise we would not be having this conversation.

Show me where he didn't?


Do your own research... https://stallman.org/articles/children.html

https://www.stallman.org/archives/2006-may-aug.html#05%20Jun...

https://stallman.org/archives/2012-nov-feb.html#04_January_2...

There are 3 links. Its pretty clear to me that he fears being a parent and has no concept of child development.

It is well known that changes in a growing adolescent brain can affect decision making. https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Fam... https://kids.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frym.2017.00053

And yet, RMS would like to carve out some kind of exception for sex with kids when the kid chooses sex 'voluntarily'. Its disgusting and goes against what we know from science about kids and decision making.

RMS is a would-be pedo and should be treated as such.


So, again, this is not on some work-related mailing list, this is his personal website. That's not what we're discussing here.

I'm not endorsing or defending his views on any subject, but there appear to be a lot of false claims around the items directly related to his resignation.


There is an on-going pattern of comments where RMS says that sex with children is acceptable under the right circumstances. To me, that position is indefensible and offensive. You seem to be very focused on some specific text in one specific instance. Maybe you are missing the forest for the trees.


Isnt that how all discussions about free software evolved since ever?


The free software movement campaigns for freedom for the users of computing; it is a movement for freedom and justice. By contrast, the open source idea values mainly practical advantage and does not campaign for principles.

If you read through more of the article, it becomes clear that the difference in viewpoint has actual real world impact on the type of licensing practices that result.

Promoting a particular principle or ethos matters because it is like the DNA of the idea. Different DNA gets you completely different results.



That's what makes me so furious at the morons who deplatformed RMS over some silly devil's advocate defense of Minsky on an internal mailing list. The guy has an important idea that he put most of his life into developing. In the process, he made programming much more inclusive than anyone could dream about in the days of proprietary operating system with compilers that sold for thousands of dollars. So even if having to deal with a difficult old man makes you feel a little less inclusive, it's not too crazy to give him some breaks. The kids who ran him out of town only know how to destroy, not how to create anything comparable to what he did.


It wasn't just this incident. RMS alienated so many women from open source and free software over the last 30 years, and we've lost all of those potential contributions. He's been getting breaks for 30 years.

That he has also done some very good things isn't a good argument for continuing to tolerate his harmful behaviour after he's been asked to fix it for literally decades, and hasn't.


Do you believe he has alienated more women from FOSS than he has inspired people to contribute to it? Considering the frankly extremely low percentage of female contributors, it seems that he would have had to personally (considering that all of the creepy behaviours listed seem to be limited to his meatspace circles) alienate multiple women for every one woman who did wind up working on in free software, which seems unrealistic simply on the basis that most people in FOSS never met Stallman. (On the same basis, I would actually be inclined to believe that he has probably inspired more women specifically than he has alienated, too.)

Note also that all of the anecdotes of actual bad behaviour that seem to come up are from about two decades ago, and we seem to be supposed to conclude that the pattern never stopped on the basis of that and a pathologically misquoted and misrepresented email he sent on the Epstein/Minsky case. Considering that the real email is at most slightly tone-deaf, the most likely model of reality to me seems to be that he has fixed that behaviour well over a decade ago, but a number of activists had resolved to never let it go until they found some way to completely destroy any status and reputation he has.


That's an interesting way of framing it—I expect that no, he hasn't directly dissuaded more people than he's encouraged.

But I expect that the second- and third-degree network effects have. MIT has had a huge influence on open source software. Keeping the number of women who contribute to FOSS lower has a snowball effect of discouraging other women from contributing—there are fewer leaders to look up to, and day-to-day misogyny in FOSS spaces goes unchecked more often.

As another commenter pointed out, I also don't think net impact is the bar. But besides that, it's very hard to measure, so I prefer to focus on having positive impacts and limiting/fixing negative impacts. I think the things he said on the CSAIL mailing list continue to contribute to a negative environment for women at MIT.


> But I expect that the second- and third-degree network effects have. MIT has had a huge influence on open source software. Keeping the number of women who contribute to FOSS lower has a snowball effect of discouraging other women from contributing—there are fewer leaders to look up to, and day-to-day misogyny in FOSS spaces goes unchecked more often.

Surely second- and third-degree network effects occur on the encouragement side of the equation, too. Why would we expect any putative discouragement of women by Stallman to travel further in the social graph than his encouragement of both men and women?

> I think the things he said on the CSAIL mailing list continue to contribute to a negative environment for women at MIT.

Which things specifically, and in what way?


I think the negative effects spread further because they skew the field more. I think women are more likely to avoid FOSS because there are few women, even without knowing who RMS is, than men are likely to go into FOSS because of RMS or someone who was inspired by RMS. That's an assumption on my part, but I think making tech more equitable for all people is a worthy goal in itself, even if that doesn't increase the total number of contributors.

> Which things specifically, and in what way?

Saying that we shouldn't call sexual assault "sexual assault", and implying that there's any way a rich, famous, 73-year-old man can "have sex with" (rape) a 17-year-old girl, whom he has extraordinary power over, and who, in in this case was his friend's trafficking victim.

The idea that Minsky's "honour" is in any way more important than harm in what happened to Giuffre perpetuates rape culture. It perpetuates the idea that women are worth less than men, and that it's okay for famous men in CS to rape girls. That emboldens other rapists and makes CS very unwelcoming for rape victims.

Minsky should have known. Implying there's any way what he did was okay creates an unwelcoming environment for women, especially young women and girls at MIT.

(Background and links from https://medium.com/@selamie/remove-richard-stallman-fec6ec21... )


> implying that there's any way a rich, famous, 73-year-old man can "have sex with" (rape) a 17-year-old girl, whom he has extraordinary power over, and who, in in this case was his friend's trafficking victim.

...what are the scare quotes for? Is "have sex with" not a definitional superset of "rape"? As far as I can tell, Stallman does not assert that Giuffre was not raped, only that Minsky would probably not have known. (As far as he knew, she could equally have been one year older and legally, voluntarily engaged in prostitution...?) You could argue that (and I think that if Minsky did indeed have sex with her, you would have a very good case) that Minsky was extremely naive and/or irresponsible to not suspect anything amiss in the setting, but sexual (or any other) assault, in the view of many people, requires intent to harm someone against their will.

Here, it seems that the intent, and hence the primary guilt for the assault, most likely was squarely with Epstein and his associates: if a gun salesman takes you to his shooting range and tells you to fire a weapon at a target that he actually secretly tied a person to the back of, and you shoot that person dead, you are not on the hook for murder even if you should really have known that something is off and recall hearing muffled screams from somewhere at one point in hindsight.

> The idea that Minsky's "honour" is in any way more important than harm in what happened to Giuffre

Where did Stallman claim that?


> Minsky should have known. Implying there's any way what he did was okay creates an unwelcoming environment for women, especially young women and girls at MIT

How would Minsky have known? It was 2001 or early 2002, before Epstein's trafficking came to light. From Minsky's point of view, a girl who worked at Epstein's retreat as a masseuse and was above the age of consent [1] offered to have sex with him. (Which, according to Gregory Benford, who was there, Minsky declined).

[1] 16. It wasn't until later that the US Virgin Islands raised it to the current 18.


https://www.theverge.com/2019/8/9/20798900/marvin-minsky-jef...

> In 2012, the Jeffrey Epstein Foundation issued a press release touting another conference organized by Minsky on the island in December 2011.

The press release is at https://www.pr.com/press-release/383199


> Do you believe he has alienated more women from FOSS than he has inspired people to contribute to it?

Almost certainly not, but at this stage it is not unlikely that he'll put off more than he'll encourage going forward. So by the same "net effect" argument you make for accepting his behaviour up to a point in the recent past, he should go. Live by the sword, get asked to resign because of the sword.

> Considering the frankly extremely low percentage of female contributors

That low number of female contributors is at least in part due to the impression people have of working in these areas. Allowing him to continue to alienate people works against efforts to rectify that impression (and where it is true rather than just an impression, work to fix the behaviours that are causing the problem).

> all of the anecdotes of actual bad behaviour that seem to come up are from about two decades ago

Perhaps most, but not all. I've definitely seen some more recent claims, and they were mentioned before this particular episode. They weren't as egregious as the earlier behaviour so he was at least controlling/curbing/changing the creepy behaviour for which I suppose there should be some credit, and there is definitely some curious timing wrt MIT and the Epstein contributions so there is presumably a bit of "throw him under the bus as a distraction" going on, meaning this is a case with significant grey areas, but I think painting him as an entirely innocent victim is a step too far.

Let's be fair handed: if we wouldn't accept it from a politician or other celebrity, we shouldn't accept it from someone whose other ideas we agree with either.


You are okay forgiving people as long as their "net impact" is positive? Is it okay for someone to murder a person if they saved more than one life before ?


In general, yes. Murder is a very peculiar case that is hardly suitable to be the benchmark for building our intuitions about trading off harm in general: human lives are not fungible, murder is not reversible, the victims do not generally get a meaningful way of influencing how the murder impacts them etc., all properties that do not apply in the case of being put off a pursuit like FOSS. (Even then, we're sometimes okay accepting murder to save more lives: e.g. the Allies' actions in WWII are considered a heroic even with nearly a century of historical distance) Arguably, the progressive argument for {affirmative action, inverted burden of proof in Title IX, ...} also amounts to "accept some harm if the net impact is positive"; few people claim that these policies will not result in some people being rejected from positions they deserve or punished for crimes they did not commit.

Some countries are more explicit about this and actually constitutionally single out matters of life and death as being prohibited from being traded off against each other (e.g. Germany), i.e. the state is not allowed to play in trolley problems. The corollary is that the state, and most everyone, finds it okay to trade off other harms: you can for instance choose to build an airport that will drive down the value of some people's homes and expose them to considerable noise in order to give convenience and good business to a large number of people. I think discouraging some women from participating in FOSS is much closer in quality of harm to "your home is now worth half as much and you have to put up with the noise of planes flying overhead everyday" than "you die a painful and untimely death".


Also notice how it is almost always okay for "women" to be discouraged and counted as collateral damage. The fact that you do that tells me a lot.


> Also notice how it is almost always okay for "women" to be discouraged and counted as collateral damage.

Quote one person in this thread who said that it wouldn't be ok if it affected men instead. Or just one person implying that.

You're assuming a lot here. If anything, I think it's likely less people would care if a bunch of men were alienated, since there's already so many of them in the field in the first palce.


> "women" to be discouraged and counted as collateral damage

this never happened though.

According not to me, but to Thomas Lord (if you don't know who he is, go and check)

> One remarkable thing about the FSF at that time, when we worked out of dinky spare offices on the campus of MIT, was the degree of participation by women. In the tiny society that was then the FSF, women were more prominent than I had seen in Silicon Valley, or acadamia prior.

https://archive.is/7qepC

And it says a lot about the amount of fabrication going around.


Wow I've seen everything on HN to protect RMS. The Allies action was to counter gratuitous aggression and persecution of large swathes of people. Are you telling me RMS has had the same experiences in his life to warrant his egregious behavior ?


I don't think my leap from murder to war was greater than your leap from some gauche remarks during a talk in the '90s and a handful of emails lawyering about word choice that might have put some people off working in the speaker's discipline to murder. Other than that, what exactly is your point? At no point did I imply that rms's life history should be compared to the Allied intervention in Europe; I merely brought it up as as an example that proves there is no such thing as a universally accepted rule against trading off murders and people saved.

("Wow, I've seen everything on HN to attack RMS. (...)")


If any other person did this, especially someone from FAANG etc. you'll be out with your pitchforks. The double standard is so real.


Let's accuse strangers of double standards based on our assumption of how they'd act. That seems like a constructive way to have a discussion!


I do want FAANG to threaten me that they will kill themselves if I don't go on a date with them.


That is what armies happen to do all the time.


Can you explain, in general, how armies and war are ethically relevant to Richard Stallman threatening coworkers to kill himself if they don't go on dates with him, or asking them to lay down topless on a mattress in his office?


I was answering to "Is it okay for someone to murder a person if they saved more than one life before ?".

Armies don't have much issue with that ethical question.


Yes? lol. Why does everything always come to the Trolley Problem?

I think anyone who was ever in favor of any war would agree that sometimes a death is justified when it saves many more?


It is not the Trolley Problem, you seem to misunderstand the issue. There is no binary choice here, it is not comparable.


There is one: (1) let Stallman keep his position and inspire/encourage one set of people, while discouraging/putting off another; (2) remove Stallman from his position, foregoing both the inspiration/encouragement and the discouragement/putting off.


> Is it okay for someone to murder a person if they saved more than one life before ?

That is a yes or no question. That is literally a binary choice. Yes or no - is murder OK if that murder saves more than one person.

That is literally the Trolley Problem.


That wasn't really the question, though. There was nothing there about saving lives _by_ murdering someone. It's more like "is it ok do do bad things if you've built up good karma beforehand by doing more good stuff".


Nope. That's a strawman right there.

The question is, is it acceptable to tolerate someones bad deeds because the benefits of doing so is greater than the harm.


It is not the Trolley Problem because the literal question is "Is it okay for someone to murder a person if they saved more than one life before?" and that is not the Trolley Problem, that is the "letting someone off the hook for present and future misdeeds based on past good acts."

It just isn't the same thing.


That's not a good analogy because murder are both one time actions. Punishing a murderer who saved before doesn't prevent more people from being saved. A more apt example would be granting clemency to a highly talented surgeon specialized in an operation nobody else can do.


> Is it okay for someone to murder a person if they saved more than one life before ?

Murder is a crime.

Where is the crime here?

It is ok to let go a "fuck you" if that persons did good before.


> Where is the crime here? The analogy is between a good thing not cancelling out a bad thing. The police are not involved. There isn't a crime. He has been pressured for making people very uncomfortable in pursuit of his sexual interests, which is a perfectly good reason to reprieve someone.

He has been accused, by several independent parties, of, among other things:

-Asking female coworkers to lay down topless on a mattress in his office.

-Threatening a colleague to kill himself if he/she didn't go on a date with him.

-Posting up signs in his workplace along the lines of "Knight for Justice (Also: Hot Ladies)".


> He has been accused, by several independent parties, of, among other things:

Who, exactly?

> -Asking female coworkers to lay down topless on a mattress in his office. > -Threatening a colleague to kill himself if he/she didn't go on a date with him.

Sooooo, your entire analysis is based on legends circulating since the 90s about a weird man who was even told to be scared by plants?

For reference, Thomas Lord, creator of GNU arch (think about Git before Git), who worked for FSF for a long time said

    One remarkable thing about the FSF at that time, when we worked out of dinky spare offices on the campus of MIT, was the degree of participation by women. In the tiny society that was then the FSF, women were more prominent than I had seen in Silicon Valley, or acadamia prior. 


    p.s.: In the closet-sized "office" Bushnell, McGrath, and I shared for a time we did have some spider plants as part of a running silly joke. They did not actually scare RMS away **OF COURSE** and he usually had helpful criticism and advice of our efforts, from my point of view. 
> -Posting up signs in his workplace along the lines of "Knight for Justice (Also: Hot Ladies)".

Can you tell an inside joke when you see one?

p.s. all of us have being young and done some innocent stupid shit, the kinds young people do, like having stupid signs on the door. It doesn't make any of us a criminal.


[flagged]


> your narrative of sexism in the software industry being a mostly made-up issue

Is this what this is all about? Stallman has approximately 0 sway in the "software industry".

I'm sure it is a real problem, but Stallman is neither the cause nor the solution to it. I would look into how paying high salaries for unethical work would attract abusive people, and one shouldn't want to work in those industries in the first place.


> Do you believe he has alienated more women from FOSS than he has inspired people to contribute to it?

If I save a hundred lives as a doctor and then murder one person, does the calculus go in my favor?


> If I save a hundred lives as a doctor and then murder one person, does the calculus go in my favor?

It can be. A sharpshooter killing a terrorist and saving 100 lives would be lauded as a hero.


Do you mean to say that your analogy is relevant to the claims against RMS being partly or completely dismissed as a "necessary evil" comparable to shooting a person who's on a killing spree, when weighted against his contributions?

I'm just asking. I got that feeling reading your comment. I get that feeling reading a lot of comments here. I could be wrong.

As a reminder, he has been accused, by several independent parties, of, among other things:

-Asking female coworkers to lay down topless on a mattress in his office.

-Threatening a colleague to kill himself if he/she didn't go on a date with him.

-Posting up signs in his workplace along the lines of "Knight for Justice (Also: Hot Ladies)".


Don't be obtuse, I said murder, not kill. Of course there are some justified instances of killing.

Again, if you save a bunch of lives, but then murder someone in cold blood, does the fact that you saved way more than you murdered mean that society ought to look past the murder? After all, your net contribution is very positive!


Except now he’s being investigated for kicking a handcuffed prisoner over a cliff.


Mortality from smallpox vaccine was small, but not zero.


Yes, but that's an inadvertent side effect of an otherwise-beneficial treatment. 'Murder' implies explicit intent.


That just can’t be true, a lot , I’ll go as far as say absolute majority of paid and hobby OSS developers have no interaction with RMS

Even projects under the gnu.org umbrella probably don’t interact that much with RMS, let alone have discouraging interaction.

I have no dog in this fight but have a bias for factual discussions


Pretty much. I think I've seen one of his speeches this year for the first time, yet his ideas hugely changed my life forever, since I understood them. My exposure was just reading some texts onf fsf website in 2003, and jumping into learning GNU/Linux back then.


I agree with you about all the past bad behaviour, but the e-mail about Minsky was a bad choice to be the "last straw". It was an email calling for accusation-inflation prevention, which the media portrayed as completely the opposite (and this way of manipulation information from the media should be criminal, in my opinion).


If we made deliberate or negligent defamation a criminal offence it might restore some sanity to society.


That's similar to how "free speech"* works in Germany, and you have people like crowder saying in public that "Germany has no free speech".

I agree in principle, but I think there's lots of good arguments against it as well.

More importantly than the question of whether it's legal, I'm amazed that people can still see themselves as "the good ones" after all the things they do to their fellow humans.

* In German, we use the word "Meinungsfreiheit", which literally translates to "Freedom of Opinion", not "Free Speech", so yes, technically speaking, we don't have free speech; only the right to express our opinions.


Sounds non-insane. Opinions should indeedbe free. Facts should be free. Lies that harm should not be OK.

A nice side effect of criminalizing defamation would be that the enforcment would be up to the state. When it is a civil affair only rich people can defend themselves.


Didn’t know about this. Where can I read more about his behaviour around women?


https://geekfeminism.wikia.org/wiki/Richard_Stallman and https://medium.com/@selamie/remove-richard-stallman-appendix... are good starting points; I also saw threads about it from women MIT alumns on twitter.


It would be horrifying to have meticulously documented notes on every thing you ever said that may or may not be true, and may or may not have been a joke. If his career had been a comedian and not a FOSS advocate, then would he still be crucified for saying the same things or would he simply be an awful comedian?

I would be dollars to doughnuts that the author of that site and the editors of that "wiki" have made or thought worse things at some point, but because they have not reached a certain level of celebrity, there's no dossier on them. It's truly ridiculous to me the amount of effort spent on trying to claw others down.

I accept that inequality exists and perhaps RMS has some awful opinions, but if that's the case then just ignore him.

If there are people who are choosing to make it incumbent upon themselves to take down these "problematic" individuals, then it must be because they think that all of the systems that have allowed a person to continue to exist despite those opinions must be unreliable in adequately judging them. If that's the case, then wouldn't it be more practical to fix the endemic problem rather than destroy a single person? I'm guessing that the latter is just easier to do and more profitable as well. You gain "credibility" by attacking someone else, so it's difficult to believe that they are doing it for altruistic means.

All in all, I'm pretty sick of this nonsense. A world where everyone is constantly being watched by eachother and reported on is already too authoritarian for me to want to continue living in, not to mention the already authoritarian governments doing the same.


Honestly, I think we let a lot of mean-spiritedness pass as "comedy", and I think sexist comedy causes a lot of real-world problems.

> I would be dollars to doughnuts that the author of that site and the editors of that "wiki" have made or thought worse things at some point, but because they have not reached a certain level of celebrity, there's no dossier on them. It's truly ridiculous to me the amount of effort spent on trying to claw others down.

"With great power, comes great responsibility." When operating in contexts where you have a lot of power, one has to be more careful with their words and actions. If he had voiced that opinion to a friend of his, no one would have complained. But voicing his opinion minimizing rape on a university mailing list has direct negative effects for a lot of people.

Also, some people do listen, apologize, and put in the work to learn.

> I accept that inequality exists and perhaps RMS has some awful opinions, but if that's the case then just ignore him.

The problem is that other people don't just ignore him. By ignoring his harmful behaviour, we let his negative impact spread further as others repeat his misogynistic ideas.

> A world where everyone is constantly being watched by eachother and reported on is already too authoritarian for me to want to continue living in

I'm sorry and hope you find a way to continue living in this world. And I agree strongly about authoritarian governments.

I don't really think calling out a post on a large mailing list counts as "everyone is constantly being watched by each other" though.


> on a university mailing list has direct negative effects for a lot of people.

That very mailing list was about to arbitrarily accuse a dead innocent man of a crime to help provide cover for actual criminals still walking the halls at MIT.

This charade around Stallman is an injustice against Epstein's victims, the decent people at MIT, and Minsky.


> his misogynistic ideas.

I can find nothing that meets this criteria in the above links. Do you have an unusual definition of "misogynistic", were you being rhetorical or do you have another source?


Those are terrible starting points.

For the actual background on the current chain of events at MIT:

https://sterling-archermedes.github.io/index.html

For earlier allegations, take the original sources including quotes and references:

https://stallman.org/archives/2006-mar-jun.html

(note: there are many more archives. This also gives you an idea of the effort it must have taken to find those few "damning" posts, and to skew those out of context)


> In 1993, he asked for birth announcements to be banned from emacs mailing list, unless they are announcements for seahorses, because then it would be the male that gives birth and therefore interesting.

I feel like that is pretty sensationalized. The argument being made there is that regular birth is a common thing, and should be left off the list unless it is something out of the ordinary.


Selam G. builds weapons for US Department of Defense...

That's not really feminist, isn't it?

> • Co-Principle Investigator for a U.S. Department of Defense SBIR Phase II research contract, prototyping autonomous ground vehicle (AGV) with collection system.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/selam-gano-089895ba


What kind of women and does anyone else find it sexist to assume that men will always be the offenders and women the offendees? Programming involves deconstructing complex problems into basic steps while ignoring full real world nuances in order to derive a reasonable abstraction. Like... deconstructing allegations against Minsky into basic aspect (instructed to have sex vs actually had sex, aware of lack of consent or not, aware of age or not, 16 can consent in jurisdiction X year Y or not). Successful programmers trend not super socially aware and often on autism spectrum. So maybe women genuinely interesting in programming would be like Ada Lovelace, a compulsive gambler with messy love life who dreamed of building a computer to beat poker? How long would she last in 2019 MIT?

And if you get alienated from a career path because of one bad professor, go and find something else that you want so badly that you are willing to tough it out. Otherwise you will always blame your professional success limits on people not supporting you enough, or cracking an off-color joke or two or microaggressions. Do you honestly expect to never have to deal with a problem boss/coworkers/customer in a super-competitive private sector job? Don't tell me nurses and schoolteachers never have to deal with someone like RMS or worse. And sure, some degree of bad behavior should have proportional consequences, but do we hear about how women get alienated from these professions en masse?


> RMS alienated so many women

[citation needed]


[flagged]


Some people are sympathetic for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with some cult of celebrity, like being generally fed up with shitty, hypocritical puritanical BS out in the world generally.

That would include me, which is why I'm speaking up: Your comment smears me, though I'm sure you didn't think you were talking about me.

Otherwise, I wouldn't have said anything. I think rehashing this instead of actually discussing the ideas he wrote about is just more disrespectful BS and I hate seeing it.


[flagged]


So hang on, you're happy to say that you are leaping to his defence because you're sick of some abstract concept against which you rally rather than the facts of the case himself?

There is nothing whatsoever abstract about the things I'm tired of.

This is neither the time nor place to rehash my criticisms. It wouldn't do any good anyway.

My previous comment was For the record. I don't intend to hash it out with you further in this thread.


He's defended based on rational merit and sense of justice.


Completely agree.


Agreed, the message is worth spreading and fighting for, the man can go, he's too toxic.


Until the latest stink I wasn't even aware that RMS still had a platform. I haven't heard from him in probably 15 years.

That may be a good thing. FSF isn't about Richard Stallman.

And some of the "kids" that ran him out of town know to keep plants at their desks because it turns out he's kind of a creep around young women, and also afraid of plants. None of that information has anything to do with mailing lists. There is always some reason that gets people to deal with a problem and that reason is often objectively kinda shitty. People overlook it because the problem is finally being addressed.

One of the things that's going on in the current political climate is that it's no longer enough to be a great developer but a horrible human being. Development in the 90's was punctuated by some truly titanic man-children that everyone had to 'put up with' because they were just so good at the rest of their job.

Gates seems to have grown up (I'm curious what Ballmer has been up to). Jobs, god bless him, died of his own stubbornness. They keep Ellison out of the spotlight, as they seem to have done with Stallman. Until he retires that leaves Torvalds (who I hope outlasts Ellison).

I am sure there were points in my life where I could be painted with that brush, and I can say with a bit of authority that we don't need that kind of behavior. And if behavior is tolerated at the top then it's effectively tolerated everywhere.


> and also afraid of plants

from someone who actually worked with him:

"p.s.: In the closet-sized "office" Bushnell, McGrath, and I shared for a time we did have some spider plants as part of a running silly joke. They did not actually scare RMS away OF COURSE"

https://archive.is/7qepC


> There is always some reason that gets people to deal with a problem and that reason is often objectively kinda shitty

The problem is that that reason is the one people think is the reason the problem got dealt with.

It has a nasty chilling effect.


I don’t think that’s fair to those who had a problem with RMS. Him arguing about peodophilia on a mailing list does nothing at all to help his ideas spread. It takes quite a lot away in fact. What was the purpose of his argument? To defend his friend Minsky? Again, that does nothing to promote free software, it only adds unneeded and negative baggage. That’s bad leadership and bad for RMS’ message.

Yes he had great ideas. They were so great that they exist beyond the man who created them and now benefit from him not being involved.


So just because he happens to be the president of an organization means he can’t defend his colleague on an unrelated private message board?

The chilling effect of such a policy essentially means that all advocacy groups must be led by slick marketing politicians, always on-point and on-brand, even if off camera.


If he’s defending his colleague having sex with a 17 year old who had been trafficked for sex since she was 15, then yes I don’t think any president of an organization should do that.


His entire argument was that it was possible that he had no idea that she was a trafficking victim when she approached him, it could have been a regular prostitute from his point of view. However Stallman didn't downplay the harm that's been done to the girl and he didn't rule out the possibility that his friend indeed knew about all of that.


> If he’s defending

That's a big "if"

Stallman was reviled not for things he didn't do, but for thoughts he didn't think.


Stallman was reviled because he has been accused, by several independent parties, of, among other things:

-Asking female coworkers to lay down topless on a mattress in his office.

-Threatening a colleague to kill himself if he/she didn't go on a date with him.

-Posting up signs in his workplace along the lines of "Knight for Justice (Also: Hot Ladies)".


> Asking female coworkers to lay down topless on a mattress in his office.

Even the initial accusation doesn't try to push the story that far:

"He literally used to have a mattress on the floor of his office. [..] (the mattress was also known to have shirtless people lounging on it…)"

Person has sleeping accommodation in place where he lives (odd thought it may be). Sometimes people use it as chair. No mentions of requests or toplessness.

> -Threatening a colleague to kill himself if he/she didn't go on a date with him.

Unsubstantiated: saying something like "I can't imagine life without you" can be interpreted just like that depending on a variety of circumstances. That was also decades ago.

> Posting up signs in his workplace along the lines of "Knight for Justice (Also: Hot Ladies)".

Really now? Incidentally also the only one of your accusations of which there is evidence instead of hearsay or urban legends. Furthermore, "a sign" not "signs".

flatb 19 days ago [flagged]

How excellent of you to redact the most damning part of your quote of the initial accusation, that literally says:

> He kept the door to his office open, to proudly showcase that mattress and all the implications that went with it. Many female students avoided the corridor with his office for that reason

Now go ahead and tell me it's a coincidence you kept that part out, and it was probably not a big deal, and they were all exaggerating in some inexplicable coordinated effort to be disturbed.

So your arguments basically consist on half-quotes, "it happened long ago, so it isn't true", "unsubstantiated; since there's no recordings of it, he probably just said something nice and was misinterpreted yet again" and "maybe that happened, but since I, a man, who'd never be targeted by his sexual advances, think it's ok, it's ok", completely disregarding the fact that all these accusations have been corroborated by witnesses, ranging from people interviewed on several media and dozens of reports and online comments from people who claim to have worked with him over the years, let alone the several unrelated victims of his "urban legends", and most of all, the fact that people repeatedly let him know about his attitude and he didn't give a damn.

In short, yet another big, somehow coordinated witch hunt by overly sensitive SJWs.


I've been in grad school offices that had cots or bean bags in them. Is the contention in here he explicitly said that "people fuck me in my office" or something as coarse as that? Tbh, the only purpose those beds served was for people to rest on them during late nights working. Now, the issue of course why they need to spend so many late nights at the university working, but that's besides the point.

Btw, you seem to be citing something. Could you share it here?


Sure. There are plenty of first-hand accounts of his behavior, a quick Google search will lead you to many.

Here's a link to one I've most recently run into from someone who worked at MIT. Yes, it's a Reddit comment, but if you check out his profile you'll see the user's been on the site for 11 years, has close to 140k karma, and has many posts in the past that refer to his professional career.

https://www.reddit.com/r/programming/comments/d59r46/richard...

>A lot of people are acting like this is just about the Epstein comments. The MIT community was up in arms not just over that but at the mountain of shit Stallman has gotten away with over the last few decades, including crap like telling female researchers he'd kill himself unless they dated him, keeping a mattress in his office and inviting people to lay topless on it, defending pedophilia and child rape. He's been making women at MIT uncomfortable for years

>I wish there were more to tell but it's exactly what it sounds like. He had a mattress in the corner of his office and he'd leave the door open and if you were a woman who happened to walk by or heaven forbid need to talk to him for academic reasons he would find an excuse to invite you to use it

You'll also find other similar stories on that thread.


Of course that's not a coincidence, hence the ellipses of omission. I left out the bits that weren't factual. Even then your "Asking female coworkers to lay down topless on a mattress in his office" comes out of nowhere.

"He kept the door open to proudly showcase" could have easily been "He kept to door shut to hide his actions", that is: both cases would be equally damning from the writer's perspective, and hinges only on their "implications that went with it" which are their invention alone.

Facts remaining, he had a mattress in his office. He left his door open. Sometimes people were sitting on the bed.

> "it happened long ago, so it isn't true"

No. It happened a long time ago. People, over time, remember the emotional impact of something on them, but no longer the precise wording. She remembers the gist of someone talking about suicide, because that's what she thought he meant. Without the exact wording and cirumstances, it can be very difficult to figure out what transpired. So it's not "it isn't true" or "she must be lying", but the account is unsubstantiated, likely irretrievably so, because "it happened a long time ago."

> completely disregarding the fact

I don't disregard them, I check them one by one, and so far I found them lacking.

Why are you angry at me for reading what other people said before believing them at face value?

> that all these accusations have been corroborated by witnesses, ranging from people interviewed on several media and dozens of reports and online comments from people who claim to have worked with him over the years, let alone the several unrelated victims of his "urban legends", and most of all, the fact that people repeatedly let him know about his attitude and he didn't give a damn.

Please provide links outside of twitter. So far most accusations lead back to the initial article on medium by Salem G.

> In short, yet another big, somehow coordinated witch hunt by overly sensitive SJWs.

I don't know, and frankly, I don't care. I read the allegations, try to find the various sources, and try to put them into a logical context. I guess I'm simply a Knight for Justice (also: old weirdos)


[flagged]


>You are part of the same system that vilifies assault / harassment victims

"I'm out of arguments, so you're just a ..."

Please don't do that.

>by saying accusations are "too old" / "he / she isn't remembering correctly".

It's been nearly a week now. That's a long time for people to come forward with police reports, official complaints, etc. So far there is "Knight for Justice (also: hot ladies)", and, "I hear people have spider plants in their offices to keep him away."

>You have the gall to call anyone who does care SJWs,

I do? Feel free to quote my stuff back at me. I know you won't, because you can't, so you resort to making stuff up about things you hope I would have said.

Please don't make stuff up, it's all there for you to read.

>I guess I didn't expect anything more from you.

I'm sorry if I disappointed you. But I can only start caring the moment someone presents me with something substantial to care about.


Church of GNU / Emacs video..."a virgin girl who hasn't used Emacs before". If that isn't alienating then I don't know what is.


You are aware that the St. IGNUcius bit is a spoof on dogmatic religion, right?

Maybe that offends you as a religious person, but it's hardly fair to hold that against Stallman whose audiences are usually mainly fellow atheists, or religious people who can tolerate being the subject of a bit of light satire.


Conveniently ignored "a girl who is a virgin". How frustrating must that be for a girl in the audience.


Wondering about your effort to maintain an argument in good faith, I read up a little:

"mav3rick: What about the KoolAid that HN drinks against anything Facebook, Google ?"

"mav3rick: He seems like an out and out terrorist."

I think these are indicative you will say whatever it takes to discredit rms, because he takes a stand against everything you believe in.

You are being dishonest in your motivations. I think I'll conveniently ignore you all together.


You both have been breaking the site guidelines. Please stop, and please avoid this sort of spat on HN in the future, regardless of how right you are or feel, or how wrong the other person is.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

mav3rick 18 days ago [flagged]

Nice, attack the person and not the point I made. Did you address the "virgin girl" that RMS uses in his stupid speech.

Even your comments are all pro RMS yet I'm engaging you.


You both have been breaking the site guidelines. Please stop, and please avoid this sort of spat on HN in the future, regardless of how right you are or feel, or how wrong the other person is.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Oh so now it's the audience's fault to not be "tolerant" of RMS' bullshit.


Again, please read what I wrote. I'm starting to doubt you are providing an argument in good faith here as you are constantly generalising.

If some religious members of an audience, who are very serious about their faith, go to see a known outspoken atheist, maybe that wasn't the best idea. As far as I know the St. IGNUcius skit is fairly well received in general.


I don't care about religion. I care about alienating women. The 'virgin girl' bit is clearly gratuitous and peddles gender stereotypes about men in CS.


[flagged]


> You get to decide how much time is enough to exonerate someone of all accusations i.e. 1 week

Not at all. Again, something I didn't say or imply. Please make an effort to read what I write, not what you think I wrote (e.g. "That's a long time", empatically not: "That's enough time"). If something substantial comes up at a later time, I will make sure to critically read it.

> You say that other accusations are "too old"

I said that one specific accusation is probably too old to retrieve the exact words and circumstances, and as such can be considered unsubstantiated.

> this is precisely why victims are afraid to come forward in every such case.

What case(s) are you referring to? To put it differently: what, exactly, do you think Stallman is "getting away" with here? And why do you think he's getting away with it?

> No one takes them seriously and in fact vilifies them more than the alleged perpetrator.

That is of course very regrettable, but again, how does Stallman fit in here? You can't just take a person you obviously dislike, ascribe various characteristics and motivations to them, and then rile against that.

> Have fun being a "Knight of RMS", defend him on his most egregious qualities.

I'm not having "fun", and I don't see why you would assume that. I find the whole situation very regrettable.


In point of fact, nobody has accused Minsky of having sex with the girl. Well, not anybody who could know. Someone who was there has stated specifically that Minsky turned her down. AFAIK nobody (who could know) has contradicted that.

RMS was simply saying that bullshit was being perpetrated in that CSAIL mailing list, about his dead friend and colleague. If Minsky had been alive, no doubt he'd now be suing.

RMS has been traduced by Selam Jie Gano, Vice and TechCrunch, and goodness knows how many others (the bullshit and distortions seem to be everywhere). I regret that FSF have accepted his resignation; I am now resigning my membership of the FSFE.


"an unrelated private message board?"

Was this an unrelated private message board? I was under the impression it was on a mailing list at MIT.


The list is semi-private, CSAIL-affiliated students and faculty only


So not a private message board?


Having a leadership position comes with its own checks and balances. RMS isn't special to go over that.


you are wording the sentences to create a vague wrong impression Of what transpired

Be specific about what he said that you find abhorrent

This topic is uncomfortable and a lot of people stay out of it or strongly self censor. he didn’t.


> This topic is uncomfortable and a lot of people stay out of it or strongly self censor. he didn’t.

This is my point. As the president of an organization it’s not your job to make people uncomfortable about things that have nothing to do with that organization’s goals. Debating what is and is not statutory rape is not a discussion that should take place in any professional or technical environment.

This instance is actually even worse than just debating something in the inappropriate context. Epstein is a huge scandal. He raped dozens if not hundreds of girls. He loaned them out to other powerful people. It is within this context that RMS’ statements are most damning. He’s wading in some very murky ethical waters and it should be no surprise he caught a backlash.


> As the president of an organization it’s not your job to make people uncomfortable about things that have nothing to do with that organization’s goals.

Did anyone claim it was his job?

> Debating what is and is not statutory rape is not a discussion that should take place in any professional or technical environment.

Why?

> This instance is actually even worse than just debating something in the inappropriate context. Epstein is a huge scandal. He raped dozens if not hundreds of girls. He loaned them out to other powerful people. It is within this context that RMS’ statements are most damning.

Why is that? Does the fact that someone commits a crime make it inappropriate to defend people associated with them against incorrect accusations? How do you square that with the rule of law?

> He’s wading in some very murky ethical waters and it should be no surprise he caught a backlash.

He also should not be surprised that he gets a lot of opposition for promoting free software ... so, supposedly, he should not promote free software either?


Rms is an extreme proponent of freedom, the GNU software aspect is part of his larger beliefs. While not a follower most of what I hear is him talking from a freedom angle. Censorship limits his freedom

I can’t comment on the rest of your point because again you talk about the horror of the crime and it’s not clear what of what he said or did you find abhorrent


I said exactly what I find abhorrent. He should not have addressed this topic at all.


I saw a tweet on Mastodon that claimed Git was a "major barrier for people of color" or some other nonsense. Meritocracy is dying here.


That kind of talk always seems downright racist to me.


Yeah, I wouldn't put anything under a "GPL or any later version" for the time being.


Writing anyone or any organisation a blank cheque is problematic. Even if they are perfection personified now, will they be in the future? Will it be run by none of the same people? Will they have an entirely different agenda to the one you agree with?

If you can't know these things with sufficient certainty, definitely pick your license. Then only change it deliberately for your own purposes with your own goals and ideals driving it.

Devils advocate: maybe gpl will never have a later version you could possibly disagree with as it's too important to too many people just like you.


OSS predates Stallman, and will outlast him. His contributions are overstated, as is the benefit of Free Software, generally, as compared to more permissive licenses.


I met with Stallman once, in a room of two dozen people, around Stanford in 1987 or so .. I can tell you the "OSS" or whatnot you are referring to, existed in a very different world then. Stallman had a twenty minute talk, which was a strict and tightly worded explanation of the significance and reasoning behind his proposals. It was very much the utter opposite of a two line throw-away judge-and-jury declaration of conclusion, as seen above.


Free Software is transparent science. I don't see how you could argue that the benefit is overstated. Ideas are built on one another and that is precisely how advancements are made. What he pushes for is extremely important.


The term “open source software” was invented by Christine Peterson in 1998 (edit: thanks!) to distinguish from GPL-style free software.

Open source (inclusive of both) never really had any traction outside a few limited domains until the GNU project.


> invented by Christine Peterson in the early 90’s to distinguish from GPL-style free software

Invented by Christine Peterson in the 90s, yes (though it was 1998); to distinguish from GPL-style, no. The Open Source Initiative immediately listed the GPL as an Open Source license, and the FSF had already described permissive licensing as free software (as distinct from copyleft licensing).

https://web.archive.org/web/19980119061702/http://www.fsf.or...

> The X Window System illustrates this. The X Consortium releases X11 with distribution terms that make it non-copylefted free software. If you wish, you can get a copy which has those distribution terms and is free. However, there are non-free versions as well, and there are popular workstations and PC graphics boards for which non-free versions are the only ones that work. If you are using this hardware, X11 is not free software for you.

https://web.archive.org/web/19981201223102/http://www.openso...

> GIMP

> Gnome

> Linux

> Open Source is a marketing program for free software. It's a pitch for `free software' on solid pragmatic grounds rather than ideological tub-thumping. The winning substance has not changed, the losing attitude and symbolism have.


If it's a marketing name, it completely misses the essential point that it's about Freedom, not the "open" part of it.


That's what FSF and OSI most disagreed about at the time!


Yeah, and it's a relevant point to disagree on :-)


Absolutely!


>losing attitude Good ways to talk.


> OSS predates Stallman

If you are talking about the term OSS, then you are completely wrong. It came long after "Free Software" was coined and was named differently to mark a different movement.


> His contributions are overstated, as is the benefit of Free Software, generally, as compared to more permissive licenses.

That's certainly what companies which made their fortunes out of taking software out of the commons and turning it into products want people to think. Enough programmers don't want to be turned into unpaid employees that copyleft licenses have substantial uptake.

Also:

> OSS predates Stallman, and will outlast him.

... refusing to see a distinction between OSS and Free Software? Neat rhetorical trick.


The downvotes without replies are proof I've hit a nerve, and am saying things others cannot stand because they cannot refute them.


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