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Joint Statement on the GNU Project (gnu.org)
117 points by uncletaco 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 281 comments

The only joy I get from these threads is in watching a whole bunch of newbies to GNU get upset that politics, social policy, and GNU are intertwined.

They have always been! You could at least have the dignity to read Stallman’s writings (a fine start is available at: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/essays-and-articles.html , a more advanced diet is available at Stallman.org ) to understand just how politically charged GNU, the FSF, and Stallman have always been.

So now some members of a social movement disagree with the leader of that social movement you feel upset to see social issues discussed? That seems dishonest.

Why should any social and political movement remain beholden to one original star of the old guard as the world moves forward.

How ought the community respond to a trend to controversy and irrelevance other than by asking Stallman to step aside from the figurehead role? Is the argument here really that once you are a figurehead for a social movement you earn that position for life? I can’t think of any successful movement or organisation for which that has been the case.

GNU has always been political, the politics needed to bring software freedom to all users is different now than it was in the 90’s. Some battles have been won, others have been lost hard, new battles have arisen. An honest discussion of whether Stallman is best placed to lead those new battles is overdue.

There's no one in that project that is such a fanatic and well-known personality that they'd be able to lead it.

After being embraced, extended and diluted by corporations, software freedom will slide even more into irrelevance.

This also doesn't seem to be a discussion, it's a statement towards Stallman to GTFO.

> There's no one in that project that is such a fanatic and well-known personality that they'd be able to lead it.

Ignorance of the fame and effectiveness of several people on that list says more about your awareness of the current state of the FSF and GNU than it does about those organizations.

Werner Koch led FSFE. Ian Jackson led Debian and SPI. Matt Lee is responsible for many of the FSF's major publicity campaigns. Joshua Gay put together Stallman's book. I don't volunteer any of them or have any knowledge of whether they want to run the project, but any of them easily could.

I don't doubt that they could lead the project from a purely administrative perspective, just like any of the other Tesla executives could in theory lead that company :)

That may well be true. Certainly, and reserving judgement on exactly what this means, nobody who could lead it quite like Stallman.

But, I find the implication hard to accept.

It would be to say that Stallman’s continuing presence is essential to the success of free software; surely a frightening responsibility for any one mortal person to carry through their remaining years!

Free software has had success as a movement. To believe otherwise is to take away more than just Stallman’s position, but his entire contribution to our modern society!

That means there are others who will, and for a fact do already, take care for the well-being of the GNU projects. Not all of these will believe in everything Stallman has said or represents, and things would certainly change without him.

A large and successful movement lives beyond its founder, and grows to challenge the new status quo. If it fails to grow, new movements fill the vacuum.

I'm not worried about GNU projects or any project, I am worried about the idea of free software, which has and has had many supporters but only one champion.

I don't think it will survive. Rich corporations like Google or Microsoft will continue to fund open source projects when it suits them, while locking out users through the cloud and hardware. Those other supporters will play along, because the corporations are paying their salaries or donating to their projects.

I'd say an interesting question could be what was the reach of Stallman's leadership. I haven't followed GNU and FSF at all in my years while I am a comp sci guy and I do wonder on each new project which license to take. Free software is something which affect pretty directly every person on the planet yet few have heard about these movements. Software piracy is an example of a similar movement to free software which has had way more publicity with regular people. I'd say this has a lot to do with the persona of Stallman and the way he interacts with the world. People learn about who made the telephone and who discovered Americas but no high school coursebook mentions who created Linux or Python. Software has in many ways been instrumental in shaping the last 20 years yet people have never been more detached with the technology they use. Everything is a black box nowdays. Even concepts like client server communication is completely unknown to a laic. This is a failure of computer and software movements which have alienated themselves and the rest of us programmers from the public.

> That seems dishonest.

There are few honest people opposing Stallman who has, at the very least, been _extremely_ honest! You can dislike Stallman (as I do) and still believe that he is an honest man.

> Why should any social and political movement remain beholden to one original star of the old guard as the world moves forward.

The real question here isn't whether GNU should be political (all institutions are political), but whether the world is really "moving forward".

Do you object to “moving” or “forward”? If the former, I disagree; I see new battlegrounds emerging for free software and the developers and users of free software. Many of these new battlegrounds are commercial as we voluntarily hand over our data to opaque computing platforms, some are societal as we redefine how we expect work to be done, and who we expect to do it.

If the latter, it doesn’t hurt my argument for you to pretend I never used the word forward at all, and I’m very happy for you to do so. Our common ground here is that things feel as though they are changing.

Many great leaders are as much a product of their time and circumstances as they are a reflection of their innate talents. Whether you see the world progressing or regressing you might still agree that Stallman is not necessarily effective in the current climate.

> Do you object to “moving” or “forward”?


> Whether you see the world progressing or regressing you might still agree that Stallman is not necessarily effective in the current climate.

This is an amoral (and depraved) approach to this topic. The issue of what constitutes an healthy culture takes precedence over whether an individual is "effective" in that culture. There are many ways to recognize this fact, the simplest being to recognize that humanity's most horrific monsters (Hitler, Stalin, Mao) were highly "effective" leaders in their respective monstrous cultures.

Naturally GNU and free software movement is intertwined with politics, but as someone who remember the time when people debated if they were communists I remember the answers. When Creative commons came out with the No Commercial variant we saw the same discussions pop up, and again with the same answer. They said GNU and the free software movement was not communist, socialists, libertarians, left or right. It was a new political movement based on the four software freedoms, pulling activists from both side of the political spectrum. You could have multiple project leaders, including RMS, in the same room and have as larger political diversity as there were people. The one thing that united them is that they believed in and advocated for free software.

The reasons some people are now getting upset is because that answer seems to have change in very recent time. It is no longer a new political movement that recruits activists from all sides, nor is acceptable any more that there is political diversity among contributors. In that environment I am not suprised that RMS do not fit with his unconventional view on multiple political topics. He is neither a true democrat nor a true republican, and if GNU want one of those then indeed there need to be a discussion for a new leader.

Back when we collectively ousted Brandon Eich from Mozilla, I thought we were doing the right thing. However, that slope is awfully slippery, and we are now ousting people from their own projects for sins that have no real bearing on the project. This isn't making our community better, for there is nobody that exists that doesn't have skeletons in their closets.

People are claiming here that they can have just as much an impact on open source as Stallman, but if this is the case, why haven't they already pushed Stallman out on their merits alone? Why has it taken airing Richard Stallman's dirty laundry for them to step up in the community's eyes?

Perhaps their sins are less objectionable than Stallman's - more acceptable when combined with their lesser impact than Stallman - but what about tomorrow? Who will replace them when their actions from 20 years ago come back to haunt them?

What level me mediocrity will we have to endure in 10 years just to have the least objectionable person possible in a position of power?

the ability for women to be able to contribute and simply be a part of the free software community without harrassment does not fall under "no real bearing on the project", just so we're clear here.

Unless I'm dramatically misreading all the various articles, only a few women that were directly approached by Stallman for a romantic encounter felt discouraged. This did not impact a vast majority of the women who have, and do, contribute to GNU projects.

Yeah, he fucked up in approaching those women and making them uncomfortable. However, a couple of data points do not a trend make.

Yes, you are dramatically misreading the situation.

I've been in attendance at an RMS talk (HOPE 2016) when he opened by asking the organizers to turn the house lights back up so he could see if there was anyone in the crowd he might want to have sex with. I saw how many women immediately got up and left in response to that, and I don't blame them for doing so. I would've done the same, if I'd felt myself to be one of the people Stallman made a joke about maybe wanting to fuck. (And, if I hadn't thought it might be worth sticking around for the Q&A and a chance at a callout. Some goober ended up yanking the mike cord, which was fine. A lot of people thanked me for saying what I did before he got to me.)

How likely do you think it is that those women had any inclination to contribute to free software after an experience like that? How likely do you think it is that I did - knowing that to do so would associate me with people who had no problem with a figurehead whose behavior was so completely out of step with modern mores, and so discouraging to such a wide segment of the community?

Since then, I've corresponded with others more familiar than I with RMS, and from that correspondence I've learned that this kind of thing was in no way out of character for him - I don't know firsthand, because that was the last RMS talk I chose to attend or will attend in future, and decided no longer to donate my time, money, or support to any FSF project for as long as he remained chairman. I don't want to be associated with behavior like that, and I most certainly don't want to enable it - both for its own sake, and because where the culture tolerates something like that, there's reason to suspect it will tolerate worse, besides.

I'm glad that so many people who have such a strong hand in making FSF and the GNU Project what it is today - far more of a hand than RMS has had in many years now - have chosen to speak so well on the subject. I know their statement has elicited a torrent of garbage. I hope they won't let it distract them from the fact that they're doing the right thing.

> "he opened by asking the organizers to turn the house lights back up so he could see if there was anyone in the crowd he might want to have sex with"

There's video. This alleged event occurs at about 6:11 in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uckLT7mPPIw

I think your words mean the opposite of what RMS actually said. So much for justice.

Your words:

"so he could see if there was anyone in the crowd he might want to have sex with."

RMS's actual words (speaking to a darkened room where he can't see anyone & conference organisers are having trouble getting their projector working, so he has to improvise to fill the time):

"And I always like to be able to see the people I'm talking to but it's so dark in here I can't see you. Now, I mean, I might conceivably enjoy sleeping with some of you but that's not what we're here for. Uh, so if it's possible to increase the light on the audience please?"

That's poorly judged joke/banter: If there's one lesson we're learning from all this, it is avoid jokes that are likely to be misunderstood. I don't doubt that some women got up and left, and were put off contributing. Someone should have had a word with him about how it was received.

My guess is RMS would be mortified if he thought people, such as yourself, were misunderstanding his words to that gross extent.

Frankly, given the severity of the accusations, what you have called him out for on this occasion looks to me like a brazen outright lie on your part, as evidenced by the video to correct the record.

Yeah, I actually posted the video you linked, transcoded from the con's DVD of the talk - so it's hardly as if I'm afraid of its content being known. It's a two-parter, by the way, and the Q&A is in part 2. My commentary is timestamped in the description; if you haven't yet seen it, you're really missing out on a great opportunity to call me names.

You're welcome, of course, to maintain whatever interpretation you like of the events under discussion. But the video doesn't show the 20 or so women who got up and left immediately after he said that. You've yet to offer a compelling argument for why I, or anyone, should rely on your interpretation rather than theirs.

You almost got me convinced by your alleging RMS asked organizers "to turn the house lights back up so he could see if there was anyone in the crowd he might want to have sex with". I thought, whoa, that sounds not good, bad joke, nothing criminal, but it definitely isn't a good look.

However the moment I found the video with the actual quote and the extent of your mischaracterization of the situation I reverted back to my former opinion on the whole issue (which is very close to "this is witchhunt").

Nevertheless I feel grateful to you for reinforcing me in the belief one should never ever trust any accusation without a concrete proof. I'm deeply indebted to you for this important lesson.

As I said to another interlocutor here, you're welcome to your opinion. How finely you need to split the hair to preserve it is no concern of mine.

As I also previously mentioned, the video does not show the people who immediately got up and left in response to that remark. It seems I'm not alone, either, in being more concerned about their opinions than about yours. Judging by the content of the statement here under discussion, many of those who have in recent years, by volume of code and effort invested, been the actual leaders of the GNU project, incline to a reading of the situation which rather more resembles mine than yours.

I doubt you will find it easy, with intellectually honest arguments, to convince anyone that these people are engaged in a "witchhunt" which, if it were so, would critically endanger the reputation of the project in which they've invested so much.

But, again, that's your problem, not mine.

I wouldn't find it too surprising that all of those 20 people left at the mere mention of words "might conceivably enjoy sleeping with some of you", since the joke was in poor taste.

That doesn't necessarily support your interpretation.

Even had I not seen the effect in action, here and elsewhere, I'd still be willing to take people at their word when they say, as they have and do and will go on doing, that this kind of arrant nonsense does in fact depress their desire to participate in projects whose leaders engage in it, because it evinces a lack of essential respect on the part of those leaders for members of the groups whom those "jokes" target.

If you think they are lying about that, or can't be trusted for some other reason, here's your opportunity to explain your reasoning on that.

> that this kind of arrant nonsense does in fact depress their desire to participate in projects whose leaders engage in it

I don't doubt that. And you're right to point that out.

You'd be even more right if you didn't exaggerate the words he said while paraphrasing because your version changes the story from "poor taste in jokes alienating women" to basically accusations of sexual harrassment.

And a lot of us don't like to see exaggerated accusations toward anybody, but especially given the recent scandal where RMS suffered a lot of misrepresentation and emotional overreactions all over the Internet.

Now, the change in leadership (or, to start with, decentralization) might ultimately be a good thing for the GNU project, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't treat the reputation of the outgoing FSF president with at least some respect.

So let's be correct and factual, this will really help discussions like this be more constructive from all sides.

I'm being as respectful as I can be. For example, I haven't yet raised the point that, the conference having taken place in NYC, an identical comment in the context of employment almost certainly would be considered unlawful sexual harassment under the provisions of NYC's Human Rights Law ([1], cf. also "Some Examples of Sexual Harassment" in [2], provided as an example of sexual harassment information required to be posted as described in [1] and [3]. Note also the hero image in [3], which, while perhaps not a legal document in its own right, is extremely on point for this discussion.)

Now, of course, a conference speaker does not typically employ his audience, and I don't argue that RMS is eligible for the civil penalties which, per that statute, may attach to the comment he made. I would nonetheless, in light of this information, find myself somewhat embarrassed to have chosen "it's just a joke, not sexual harassment" as the hill on which I wished to die.

I have a great deal of respect for RMS's legacy. For example, had he not invested the effort to bring GNU Emacs into existence, I would almost certainly not now be at the point in my profession and my career where I am; I have found Emacs an invaluable tool for something like a decade, and have no intention of ever replacing it at any time in the future. I own a signed copy of the Emacs 24 manual - bought at that same conference, and signed by RMS himself just a few hours after those events took place. I have no plans to destroy it, as I gather some have done. I was honored, and remain so, that he was willing to sign my book at all.

But the respect I cherish for the technical work RMS has done, does not extend to excusing his failures of respectful behavior, or the fashion in which they hinder rather than advance the goals of the GNU Project and the FSF as a whole. Nor does that respect extend to any longer keeping quiet about what he said or about the effect it had. Indeed, I should've spoken up long before now.

I understand the grievances of those who would hear no ill of their idol. I hope they'll someday learn to understand that facts don't care about their feelings.

[1] http://library.amlegal.com/nxt/gateway.dll/New%20York/admin/...

[2] https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/cchr/downloads/pdf/materials/Sex...

[3] https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/media/sexual-harassment-campa...

> an identical comment in the context of employment almost certainly would be considered unlawful sexual harassment under the provisions of NYC's Human Rights Law

Sorry, I couldn't find the definition for "sexual harrassment" in the first document. And I'm not from US, so maybe we have different expectations for the term.

Could you clarify which of the 6 examples in the second document you found pertinent to the story?

> had he not invested the effort to bring GNU Emacs into existence, I would almost certainly not now be at the point in my profession and my career where I am

Cheers to you from one of the current Emacs developers, then!

> Nor does that respect extend to any longer keeping quiet about what he said or about the effect it had. Indeed, I should've spoken up long before now.

Maybe you should have. Hopefully not in the way that the current Twitter mob has organized, though.

The way the scandal broke out, there's little opportunity now for the stories like this to have an ultimate positive impact, unfortunately. I doubt Richard is going to get a lot of speaking engagements in the near future.

NYCHRL isn't straightforward in its language, for sure; it's written for lawyers. It's also the legislation that applies in the jurisdiction in which the comment was made. In any case, seeing as RMS is, to all accounts, determinedly heterosexual, I'd say that it falls neatly into the category of "sexist remarks based on gender", the sixth bullet in that second document.

Maybe you think that's an unworthy bit of lawyerly ratiocination, but even so, consider that a comment like that would get anyone who made it fired from any tech company with an HR department and an employee base the size of that talk's audience, and for the same reason around which the GNU maintainers' statement revolves.

To your last point, I don't think it is unreasonable to hope for some positive impact out of all this, or I wouldn't have said anything even now. I'm not here to try to dogpile the guy; I'm here to talk about how, no matter from whom they originate, comments like this aren't "just jokes", that they aren't harmless, and that there's nothing honorable or worthwhile in defending them or the people who, as in this case, persist in making them past all reasonable expectation or effort of curtailment.

I feel like that's worth talking about, if for no other reason than because the man's been regarded as a hero by many, some of whom may really need to be told that there are some aspects of his behavior which are not acceptable, and which they cannot expect to get away with.

I'd prefer it if someone like that were to understand why this is the case, and agree that it should be. But I'll settle for someone like that getting the idea that, whatever he may think of this whole idea, he'd better learn to keep his mouth shut instead of saying things that hurt marginalized groups, or else expect to be made sorry.

Maybe that sounds harsh to you, I don't know. It sounds harsh to me. Being made fun of for being a woman, or gay, or a person of color, or Jewish, or trans, or disabled, or... - that's a hell of a lot harsher, and it normalizes and, as is amply exemplified in history both recent and otherwise, encourages behavior that's far harsher still - discrimination, exclusion, robberies, beatings, rapes, murders. That sort of behavior, I'm absolutely fine with being harsh in an effort to dissuade.

Nobody gets to choose to be - or not to be - a woman, or gay, or of color, or Jewish, or trans, or disabled, or part of any of the other axes of marginalization in our societies. Everyone, though, has the power to choose what they say. I want people to choose wisely. If their native empathy doesn't suffice them as cause to do so, I have no problem in principle or in practice with the fear of punishment taking its place.

That, after all, is the tool societies ultimately use to discourage behaviors they regard as unacceptable. What our societies find acceptable is changing. I understand that some people really don't care for that. But, again, facts don't care about their feelings. And when we have the US Supreme Court considering whether to explicitly exclude LGBTQ people from civil rights protections, and Germany's AfD frightening Jewish people into hiding their ethnicity - when those aren't even the worst examples you can find, just the first two that came off the top of my head - it's getting awfully late in the day to take a softly-softly approach.

> In any case, seeing as RMS is, to all accounts, determinedly heterosexual, I'd say that it falls neatly into the category of "sexist remarks based on gender", the sixth bullet in that second document.

Aren't sexist remarks statements like "a woman couldn't manage to do xxx as well as a man could", or "make me a sandwich"? The statement was (one might say, carefully) gender-neutral, and even if you can infer a gender it might have been referring to, what negative thing would it have been implying about said gender?

> consider that a comment like that would get anyone who made it fired from any tech company with an HR department and an employee base the size of that talk's audience

It could have, but I hope nobody would call it "sexual harrassment". "Inappropriate language at the workplace", maybe? It might not (since there's no single person it targeted, to report it to HR). It probably wouldn't cause any firing at any of the places I've worked, though. shrug

> I don't think it is unreasonable to hope for some positive impact out of all this

Let's hope so. And let's hope your comments don't end up drowning in people arguing about details, like a lot of us nerds like to do.

> there's nothing honorable or worthwhile in defending them or the people who, as in this case, persist in making them past all reasonable expectation or effort of curtailment

I hope you can see that, given the unfortunate circumstances, there really is something honorable in defending the person, at least to make sure that the accusations are valid and not overblown.

> I'd prefer it if someone like that were to understand why this is the case, and agree that it should be

BTW, you know you could email him directly, right? Before that all happened, or even now.

> he'd better learn to keep his mouth shut instead of saying things that hurt marginalized groups

Again this language of emotional escalation. It's manipulative.

Making someone uncomfortable doesn't always imply hurting them. Even if they're feeling entirely disgusted by a speech, like some of the women in the audience might have been.

You don't have to equate X with Hitler to prove to people that X is bad. X can be bad on its own rights.

> If their native empathy doesn't suffice them as cause to do so, I have no problem in principle or in practice with the fear of punishment taking its place

There is still such a thing as disproportionate punishment.

Of course you know I haven't equated anyone with Hitler. Nor need I. It's quite enough that the comment under discussion moved people to walk out, to leave, to turn their backs on the talk and the speaker and the subject he was there, in the end, to promote.

That's harm, but it's not the only harm. It's not all that easy for someone to start a career in this industry, if they don't already "look like us" - the concept is typically treated under the name "culture fit": white, male, straight or at least nonthreateningly upper-middle-class gay, went to college for a degree in CS or a nearby discipline or else started programming at minus three years of age, laughs at our jokes and tells ones like them, drinks the same kind of beer we do, stuff like that. People who don't check those boxes, who don't exude the same ant smell, have a harder time. A higher standard is imposed. One way to meet it is to demonstrate both technical skill and ability to work with others via contributions to well-known projects - such as, for example, those that constitute the GNU project.

So it doesn't just hurt the project, when people are discouraged from trying to make such contributions by leaders making comments that, yeah, to people who look like us it's easy to mistake for just a joke, what's the big deal. It's easy for us not to see the problem, because people who look like us aren't accustomed to being the butt of jokes. For people who are, of course it's not "just a joke". It's the latest in a lifetime of "jokes" which, with enough experience of the sort that people who look like us are not likely to have, you learn are warning signs of a defect in the culture where such "jokes" are accepted. You learn that such a culture will not be kind to you, in the way it is to people who look like us. You learn you won't be welcome, that it'll be a constant fight to even try to establish and maintain yourself there. You learn there are better ways to spend your time, that piling that extra bullshit on top of the concerns that come with just trying to live a life in the world of the future is something best approached with great care and vast effort at self-defense, or maybe not at all.

So the project loses contributions, and you lose a chance to prove yourself to the higher standard imposed on you than on people who look like us, and our industry and our field of endeavor lose people who had the potential to be great engineers and, being not superhuman, needed encouragement and support to realize that potential - encouragement and support that people who look like us failed to provide, all while asking why's there all this fuss, anyway, over what was just a dumb joke, honestly, who even cares.

You're welcome to go on not seeing this as a problem, if you like. I don't know what more I can do to convince you. If you won't believe the stories women tell about experiences like this and the effect they have, if you won't listen when someone who looks like us corroborates those stories and says, yes, this happened, things like this happen every day, and they really do run people out of projects, out of jobs, out of careers, that if you take even a moment and look around just a little, you'll see it too - past that, I don't see what more I can do to convince you that this matters.

It's enough to make me understand why those who bear the brunt of this problem are getting past the point of trying to convince anyone of anything. It's enough to make me want to get behind them and push. If that means adding my voice to those demanding RMS, having so misused his platform for so long, now have that platform taken from him, then so be it. His work will stand forever as a legacy of what one person can do, and inspire others to do. That should be enough for anyone. And if the manner of his departure from that role inspires even one young engineer who looks like us to think twice about making some "dumb joke" that'll force whatever women or PoC or queers like me who hear it to consider whether they really want to spend their whole working life around people who act this way and worse toward them - well, there's a kind of legacy worth respecting in that, too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uckLT7mPPIw here is the video where RMS asks for the house lights to be raised. You have mischaracterized his statements and the whole situation.

What is the particular time in the video when he asked that?

Edit: About the 6:20 mark.

I find it interesting that you told this story without linking to the video, in light of admitting you posted the video itself. Curiously you do not admit having posted it until called out on the discrepancy between your paraphrase and the actual words RMS spoke. You paraphrased his words even though it would have taken seconds to get the (utterly different) exact wording from your own video. I think you are deliberately spreading misinformation. An honest commentator would have posted the exact wording and the link, especially if he is the source of the very video in question.

I find it interesting that you have no stronger argument in support of your own interpretation than to argue that all others, including mine, must be lies with some scurrilous ulterior motive behind them.

Again, I understand that you regard this statement of RMS's - and the many similar statements attested by others - as innocuous, and any interpretation otherwise to be false and motivated by a witch-hunting desire to tear down a great man for no better reason than because his greatness makes others feel small. You've been quite clear about that.

You haven't done a good job arguing for it, though. You reiterate the same unsupported assertions that you've already made, and in between times you sling accusations at people who disagree with you - all the while hiding behind anonymity, lest you risk having your behavior reflect poorly on you - in the hopes that those following along will be suckered into mistaking such personal attacks and unsubstantiated claims for an argument.

You're welcome to do that, of course, if it doesn't embarrass you. I'd hope that it would, but I suppose the concealment of anonymity helps with that, too.

Nonsense. I did not say I think his statements in the video were innocuous. I (and others) pointed out that you misrepresented his statements. I've said basically nothing else with this account and all of the handful of comments I've made with it are about this one issue of you misrepresenting your video.

Nor did I say anything about other peoples' views or mention anything about "witch hunts bringing down a great man". Can you answer point blank why your paraphrase is so far off from what was actually said? If your paraphrase is valid then perhaps we might find that "20 women left the room" is something of a paraphrase too?

Edit: fix unclear wording, add question

The uncharitability of my paraphrase does not make it inaccurate, and even at that I've already conceded that it was a joke. Specifically, it was a joke about wanting to see who among the audience he might want to fuck. No one has disagreed that this was the substance of the comment to which I and others took such exception.

All that remains is to argue over whether or not that exception was merited, and "it was just a joke, god, why are you being so emotional, jeez" - another uncharitable but accurate paraphrase - doesn't strike me as much of an argument. Neither does, again, claiming that I must be lying about what people did, or how many, in response to that comment of his.

Would you please step up your game? Answering the same tired objections over and over again, as they're reiterated in slightly different ways, grows dull, and it's difficult to distinguish one's interlocutors from one another when they're all saying the same things.

"Specifically, it was a joke about wanting to see who among the audience he might want to fuck."

Except it's not.

You're misinterpreting his joke.

It is a joke, but he's saying that:

1 - keeping the lights off is conducive to having sex

2 - although he might enjoy sleeping with some of the people in the room, that's not what they're there for

3 - instead, he would prefer to see the audience

4 - so he's asking for the lights to be turned on

Haven't you ever heard it said that a joke you have to explain is a joke that does not work? And look at all the effort that's had to go into trying to explain how this one was perfectly innocuous, a little in bad taste perhaps but hey, we're all broad-minded fellows here, and if a few silly women can't go along, well, more's the pity for them, eh?

Are you really sure that's a place you care to stand? Because, whatever you may think you're saying, that's how you're being heard - and how your audience hears what you say is not a phenomenon subject to your control, or RMS's.

This is a pivotal piece of information. I’ve been following the recent RMS developments fairly closely, but I was entirely unaware that he was pulling this sort of nonsense. I was under the impression all the fuss was over a philosophical yet taboo series of statements he made in regards to human trafficking and pedophilia.

Why am I not hearing about these encounters? These are the voices I want to hear. Why have these stories gained no traction until now? Why does it take a scandal to bring these issues to light? Am I just living under a rock, or is there an overarching issue with OSS culture that extends far beyond Stallman? I’m incredibly disappointed that I’m only discovering this deep in HN comments.

Much of what is being said are opinions or interpretation not facts. And because they are controversial, and often connected to trauma,, people don't tend to broadcast them until a "crisis" like the current one encourages sharing stories and makes it safer to do so.

But view the video linked to in child comments to the one you're replying to, and draw your own conclusion about what RMS actually said and the context in which it was said.

My view is that the comment you're replying to describes an incident that grossly mischaracterises what actually occurred. There were problems, and there was an inadvisable sexual joke, and probably some women were probably put off contributing to OSS, and it echoed some aspects of misogyny taking place in the rest of their lives - workplace, home, everywhere.

Consider, at the same event, the person you replied to admits that someone thought what they were saying was problematic too (thus the yanking of the mic from their hand). So, at very least, there were strongly differing views at the time.

I think it's good that people, on occasions of heightened awareness like this, feel able to share their presumably long history of traumatic and unwelcoming experiences, in OSS and in society elsewhere.

The shit women (among others) have had to endure, and still do, continues to be awful, both in OSS and elsewhere.

But it's terrible that the same phenomenon involves people empowering themselves in groups by gathering to destroy other people from more or less the same "side", when the social errors being committed by each person are not that different from each other, and what I'd call the "real criminals" (rapists, abusive partners, abusive bosses etc) are strangely not targetted in the debate.

For a movement that is supposed to be based on high principles of inclusion, empowerment, and social justice, it's tragic to those principles made weak and breaking down, because people don't know how to apply them in situations like this.

I like that you want to talk about the danger of tendentious interpretation! I also like that you'd clearly rather skate by on "problematic" than talk about how, as can be seen in the part 2 of the video you linked - the only other video I posted on that account, so should be easy to find! - my callout in the Q&A had to do with RMS's "get saved or fry in hell" contempt for ordinary users who prefer software they can use, and the way that GNU software's typically execrable usability and accessibility militates directly against its appeal to the nontechnical, goal-oriented wider userbase that RMS, in his talk, by turns spoke of wanting to attract, and lavished with contempt.

That was what got my mic cord yanked. That was what the people who thanked me after, were thanking me for saying. I understand why that happened, and I understand why you might not want to talk about it, but don't you think it's a little inconsistent to complain about tendentious interpretations in the same breath in which you utter one?

It's also interesting to me that you understand this kind of discussion to be taking place instead of, rather than alongside, that about "what [you'd] call the "real criminals" (rapists, abusive partners, abusive bosses etc)".

Wherever do you come by that idea? It's certainly an odd one. In any case, we're not talking about those people here; those conversations are taking place, even now, elsewhere, and thanks to the Internet, you can find them if you so choose. This conversation is about Richard Stallman, and the fashion in which much of his recent behavior (and not so recent, I gather) has affected both people involved with and adjacent to the GNU project, and the prospects of that project itself. Please don't use matters irrelevant to the topic at hand to try to steer this conversation away from its purpose.

I guess my point wasn't made clearly.

What I mean it looks to me like RMS made social errors such as the one shown in the video, which are indeed problematic and need to be dealt with. But many people now villifying him are almost certainly guilty of plenty of social errors of a similar magnitude of harm to others themselves (thought not all the same kind of harm), and they are being hypocritical in focusing on grouping him with the "real criminals" in public perception, while said hypocrits aren't really all that perfect themselves, could in many cases find the same thing happens to them someday, and are quietly benefiting right now from the spotlight not being in their direction, and safety in group dynamics.

A remarkable theoretical twist on argumentum ad hominem, I concede - but argumentum ad hominem all the same.

It's in the context of public character assassination.

The debate is to determine what is right, just, fair, and proportionate.

Fairness in justice does, in fact, depend on the character and behaviour of the assasinators and wider social group, not just the target in isolation from them.

If you want to argue against those principles, that's fine obviously, but argumentum ad hominem fallacy does not apply where the character and behaviour of the debators is properly relevant.

(Character and behaviour are also relevant to the question of estimating how much to believe, when people are acting as witnesses rather than debators.)

This is the same argument that's frequently used against victims of rape and other sorts of assault - used to deny them justice, on no better grounds than that their own past behavior has been merely human, and thus fallen short of whatever arbitrarily absurd standard of impossible purity that unsympathetic interlocutors choose to establish - and to re-establish, as often as necessary, in order to make absolutely certain that the standard cannot be met.

I wouldn't find that a terribly comfortable place to stand. That you seem to find it congenial gives me to wonder about the quality of your own character. Ordinarily, of course, such doubts would be unworthy of this sort of discussion. But since you've found it meet to broach the subject, why shouldn't we start the inspection of character with you? Clearly you feel yourself above reproach in this regard, so I'm not sure what reason you could possibly have to demur, when I require that you prove, to my satisfaction, your standing to argue as you do on this subject.

That story is, quite frankly, incredible. I would like to hear more accurate quotes and confirmation from additional sources.

They did not have a video? This is the first I'm hearing of this, in the blur of stories. No video?

If the nicest thing we can say about a leader of an organization is that most women were not harassed by him because they didn't get to meet him, then maybe it's time to look for a leader who is, you know, capable of actually meeting people without creeping them out.

No, the nicest thing we can say about the leader of this organization is that he lead it with principles around free software that nobody else can match. That he has been outright prescient in his outlook on what will happen as corporations disrespect the rights of users via their software.

He created the free software movement, created GNU. We're standing on his shoulders, only now (after 20+ years of standing on his shoulders) caring that yeah, he's not a perfect person we had hoped for.

Yes, yes, Stallman did many good things, he was right about a lot of things, and we are all indebted to him, but... "The Leader of GNU Projects" is not an award or honorary title. It's an actual role with expectations.

The question is not how much work Stallman has done in the past 20+ years (few will have an issue with that) - the question is whether having Stallman at the helm of GNU benefits GNU projects, right now.

> If the nicest thing we can say about a leader of an organization is that most women were not harassed by him because they didn't get to meet him,

This is extremely unfair statement, completely misrepresenting the issue.

If you rephrased it as "one of bad things we can say about a leader is he allegedly tried to push somebody into relationship in 1985" you'd be closer to the mark.

I'm not sure how you're getting any kind of round statistics here. especially since its well known that most people who suffer harassment never report it, never say anything, for precisely the reasons being demonstrated on this thread today. And that was only one of the things wrong with that post, another being: people who choose to take a stand on harassment are somehow going to be mediocrities compared to stallman.

So, statistics. Allow me to fabricate a few number using some well known ballparking methods.

In November of 2010, 4,600 people contributed to GNU.

If we follow the 1-9-90 rule of speaking out, for every 1 woman who went to the authorities, 9 women have spoken out publicly, and, 90 others have not. I'm aware of 6-7 who have gone public with their accusations, and none who went to the authorities. As such, it seems safe (if likely excessive) to say that less than 100 women have been actively harassed via awkward romantic advances over the last 20 years.

So, in this scenario, not even 2% of the contributors from one month were harassed by Stallman. If we consider GNU to be on par with other software projects and say that about 30% of the total contributors for that month were women, then about 7% of the woman contributors from one month were harassed by Stallman over 20 years.

It's still too high a number, but it's not exactly a vast majority.


falcolas 16 days ago [flagged]

What part of "Yeah, he fucked up in approaching those women and making them uncomfortable" and "It's still too high a number" consists being "cool with harassment"?

FWIW, I will not be responding to you any further, as your comments seem to have devolved into personal attacks.

Statistics is statics, but do you know someone rejecting something valuable because of the gender? How is harassment defined in this respect?

Women will never "be able to contribute and simply be part of the free software community without harassment", because any online community is a reflection of society at large, which is becoming more fragmented, agressive and embittered.

Did female harassment get solved in society at large? No. You can't solve it in online communities, you're only building bubbles of false-safety which will pop once the pressure from the real world becomes high enough.

America in particular is under so much political and social tension that it's starting to show cracks and online lynch mobs are a part of the problem.

Can we guarantee that there never will be any harassment? No, of course not.

But what we can do is strongly oppose any harassment. Clearly tell off anyone whe participates in harassment.

Of course, the leaders of any community should be a role model in not supporting harassment.

Er, what? The harasser is aggressive and bitter? They harass people in real life? It sounds like they have some problems. Maybe they can go work on themselves and come back to the community when they're ready to be civil.

We wouldn't tolerate sexual harassment, etc., in the workplace or in civil society. I don't see why we wouldn't expect a basic level of decorum in respectable online communities.

How would you solve harassment then? If you dont believe in small changes in smaller communities, do you believe that change has to occur in all of society at once?

I believe change has to happen in the real world and start with educating children and then continue in schools and colleges. We literally have to grow generations for which equality is self-evident.

And people will know what's fair and when they're being bullied. The change has to work towards equality, not revenge and entrapping others.

Currently the exact opposite is happening: the changes are forced by small online groups, mostly associated with software development. Which bully others into submission.

You've probably noticed how in the real world, society is quite divided, with basic civil rights being questioned. This is what happens when people "win" in their little software bubbles.

You didn't collectively oust me, and Mozilla even said so at the time (https://blog.mozilla.org/blog/2014/04/05/faq-on-ceo-resignat...).

But let's pretend this isn't HN, and argue the other party's side as best we can. Suppose I was ousted, because I wanted to (a) nullify marriages and (b) leave same-sex couples without the legal protections of marriage as defined by the state of California?

Then I'd deserve ousting, at least as CEO (see the Mozilla FAQ on "remain at Mozilla in another C-level position"), because many people at Mozilla would find (a) and (b) intolerably unjust and wrong.

In fact, (a) and (b) are both false, and were in 2008. Retroactive law is unconstitutional, and then-AG Jerry Brown (who let Prop 8 on the ballot) said so at the time:


As for (b), even Obama, who said in 2008 that he thought marriage should be between a man and a woman, although he also said he did not support Prop 8, did support civil unions for same sex couples, which in California are governed by Domestic Partnership law:


I supported that civil unions law from inception through amendments to bring it to parity on positive rights with conjugal marriage, as did the majority of Californians. And I support the ancient principle against retroactive law.

This is all obsolete, due to court decisions culminating in Obergefell, and I accept the law of the land as it has been decided. But if one is ignorant of (a) and (b) being false, or if one chooses to hide the truth and paint me as a hateful person, then it's easy to see why others would want to oust me. I would too, if I believed the charges.

But the charges are false in my case. And they have nothing to do with RMS. I wish I had a nickel every time my name was dropped on HN to make invidious comparisons, and a dime every time I was compared to RMS.

The truth matters, and right vs. wrong matter. I agree with so-called SJWs that justice is not just a matter of law, that the law won't deal with sub-criminal behavior that social groups must confront and reject. Obviously we disagree on whether I'm guilty of such behavior! Still, better to agree on there being a category of social justice, and then argue the facts if we can.

To your closing point: it may be we should prefer mediocrity as the price of ousting toxic people, but we first should try harder to be sure of our collective ousting judgment. It was way off in my case, and in any event, the ousting pressure was not why I left Mozilla. There was an immediate anti-Mozilla reaction after I left, and the net effect on Firefox market share is hard to detect amid the long grim slide downward.

This statement makes clear to me that I can no longer trust (parts of) the GNU project to prioritize software freedom and making good software over catering to hateful lynchmobs and virtue signalling.

There's no meaningful way for me to act on this current, since "boycotting" GNU does nothing to harm these bad elements and I do not contribute back to GNU. I can merely convey my profound disapproval.

This is a disgrace. This is no way to treat someone. It's nothing short of utterly disrespectful and self-serving. RMS is, in my view, a completely innocent man; even in the most negative sensible reading of the situation, he is guilty of a minor transgression at most. Even in the most negative sensible reading of supposed transgressions spread over decades, he does not deserve this.

RMS has done more to empower all computer users than all of these signees combined. I'm very saddened by this torrent of hate, short-sightedness and obedience to the mob. To me, GNU represents fighting for freedom even if nobody else believes in it; this is the opposite of that.

> RMS is, in my view, a completely innocent man

Note that the Joint Statement does not take a position on the statements that the most recent controversy has been about. Instead, it speaks about "behavior over the years"[0]. Of course, the recent controversy doubtless played a role in bringing all this to a head, but it is possible for someone to believe both that RMS is "completely innocent" of wrongful conduct and that he has engaged in behavior that harms the cause of Free Software.

[0]: > Yet, we must also acknowledge that Stallman’s behavior over the years has undermined a core value of the GNU project: the empowerment of all computer users.

Hence why I followed up with saying that that supposed behaviour over the years does not justify this either. But I don't think that behaviour is what this is about to begin with. Everything about this smells of "well, what about that time you ..."; reaching back in time when they can't justify their outrage. A problem is being manufactured to justify bowing to public outrage caused by yellow journalism.

I could respect the signatories of the joint statement if thy sent it to RMS; Like this, what are they hoping to achieve? Ponder it for a second. They're calling for the lynch mob, they're disapointed that the lynch mob seems to have "stopped too soon". These are not people who honestly want to quit over principles... if they were, they'd send this in private to RMS. These are people who want RMS out for their own personal agenda (which they may even believe is the "common good" agenda... but, that's presumptuous on their part).

What makes you think this wasn't sent to RMS privately? Or that there haven't been personal discussions with RMS in the past years?

What's the purpose of making this public? Discuss this in private circles within GNU. If it doesn't go anywhere, and you care so much about it, just leave.

What they did will fracture the community anyway. You can bet there are Stallman supporters in GNU, too. If the undersigned have it their way, others will leave (or disengage), in protest. There's no winning in this. From my pov, what they did has only downsides, and no upsides whatsoever.

You don't like GNU? Fork their software, make your own GNU with vodka and hookers. Just, don't throw a public tantrum. Use official channels and due process. If the organization doesn't respond, and doesn't match your values - just leave.

I think your post summarizes my view of the whole situation.

Stallman created that movement and has a lot of community support. Outing him to the public without discussing in private or even giving something actionable is just inviting outrage.

If you disagree with an organization, quitting and/or forking (and announcing your reasons) is less damaging to the cause than this.

I agree. Or at least it could have been worded better. "behavior over the years" sounds like scolding a child.

Either way, I think a lot of it is social posturing, as part of individual distancing from the transpired scandal. E.g. some of the friends/relatives of the signatories now view RMS strictly negatively, so they try their best to distance themselves (or, interpreting charitably, the corresponding GNU subprojects) to try to salvage some reputation.

Oh my god.

"all computer users" with the implication that Stallman is not representing the ones who demand to go straight to lynch mob behavior without a shadow if due process as soon as the word "sexual" is mentioned? And therefore Stallman should be thrown out of the project that is his creation and life's work?

That's got to be one of the most forced political readings ever of that point in the manifesto. Well, if that's the argument, I'm a computer user too and every one of these signatories have just demonstrated themselves unfit to represent me. Enough of the witch hunt, and hands off Richard Stallman's thoroughly earned standing in the GNU project!

Stallman's behavior has been known to the community for a long time. He's been banned from multiple free software conferences that I've visited for his behavior; the first one of such was 7 years ago. This isn't a new "witch hunt", it's been boiling forever, it's been known forever, but now the climate has changed enough that people are believing the allegations, and he's finally facing consequences for his actions.

What due process do you want, given that it's taken at least 7 years for such allegations to be taken seriously by some subsection of the community?

What allegations ?

You came now after years with some people memories on what may have happened? Would you like to be accused of something that you may have said 20 years ago, that is not a crime but may have upset someone? Why not talk about the present, the last year and not dig ancient history because there is nothing recent to complain about.

> He's been banned from multiple free software conferences that I've visited for his behavior; the first one of such was 7 years ago.

Could you name at least couple of those conferences he was banned from? Preferably with surrounding circumstances?

I can't answer that question.

But this HN comment does a good job of describing events at a recentish conference, although not a banning:

Although I'm a big fan of RMS's deeper works (as will be obvious from my other comment), it's easy to imagine him (or to be honest, anyone insufficiently skilled at public speaking) making terribly misguided (at best) "jokes" and the like about how few women there are in tech and implying something about finding sex and girlfriends etc., and these being understood in some literal way as actual requests for sex (probably incorrectly). Just like the poor-taste sexist humour in the lower-scoring comments on Slashdot, only carried into the public, verbal arena, where it's a really bad idea, and indeed, alienating and oppressive.

That sort of thing could get a person banned at a conference these days. (It would have been treated as humorous banter a few decades ago, and I find myself imagining that's when RMS learned his trade.) But usually there's some kind of escalation process, where people are told to stop doing it, and, if necessary, have it explained to them what is unacceptable and why.

Interesting to see the latest replies to the linked comment debunk it using video. People’s memories are slippery indeed!

People don’t have memories, as such. People have opinions about what their memories ought to be. Then they construct false memories as needed.

Note: I am describing everyone, not just “other people”.

"Debunk" is a pretty strong word. If you haven't, you might want to look over the more recent replies.

Looking at it, I don’t see anything to change what I said. The person replied and doesn’t deny that they didn’t accurately state the words RMS said, just argues that what he actually said in the video is still bad since it’s a joke about sex, even though the words are opposite of what they claimed.

BTW, agreed sex jokes or talks should not have place in a technical conversation or conference. But I find misrepresenting comments to be questionable, and people criticizing others should at least spend the time to watch the video and transcribe the words correctly rather than misstate things.

This discussion would be much more productive if you discussed the specific things you're referring to. Just saying "the accusations" contributes to FUD.

Due process is for the court.

If you ousted yourself as an asshole in public, people not wanting to associate with you isn't legal, it's civilized society.

We, as a society, have established due process in the government and courts because we believe it's the right thing - the moral thing - to do. If it's the right thing to do for the most powerful entity in our land, what makes it not the right thing to do in all venues?

If I come to your house for dinner, and am an asshole to you and your family, do we need to get the law involved or should you just not invite me over for dinner again?

They shouldn't invite you over for dinner again, but it ends there. They don't get to come for your job, your career, your legacy.

Right, so if the assholery happens at work then the equivalent of "shouldn't invite you over for dinner again" is being asked not to come back to work.

Except that in this analogy, RMS is the one who invited them for dinner. You don't simply get to tell the host that "we don't like you but I think we'll keep meeting in your house for dinner.

So you're saying that RMS, is the sole owner of everything GNU?

No. This is equivalent to a threat to strike. RMS without the GNU project maintainers is just a dude with a blog. And this approximates a vote of no confidence.

No - analogies are imperfect. But it's certainly a better analogy, RMS is not just a rude guest.

Perhaps I pull you aside, call you out for your actions, and give you the chance to change your ways.

One strike and your out isn't even how we play baseball.

... from the sounds of it, I assume the pull-aside convo happened and failed.

Maybe I'm too trusting. I have no evidence that kind of a convo happened. But the allegations are that RMS has been a missing stair for well over 20 years. I find it very hard to believe that someone who's been causing problems in a community for 20+ years has never had a friend pull them aside and ask them to change their behaviour.

If we're changing the analogy to specifically look at Stallman again, we need to make a few changes. Specifically, a quick note that now you're visiting his house for dinner. This changes things a bit. He may have the best open source dinner spread out there, but it's ultimately your choice to keep participating.

It's absolutely maddening to see such vociferous "defense" of Stallman in ways we know he could not stand. If you think he would tolerate an "open source dinner spread", you don't appreciate what he's actually done and have just glommed onto the bizarre 4chan personality cult surrounding him.

He is no longer the sole occupant of that house.

yeah, the only way this makes sense is if you slide right past the "multiple conferences" part in the comment rooting this thread( which, apparently, you are). And of course also the "multiple women have come forward" part in the statements online. The mental gymnastics here to justify this is awe inspiring.

Then fork. Why don't they fork? The XFree86 group didn't have an issue forking and disbanding. Yet these people, with projects like Guix that noone has ever heard of, are simply using a GNU name to lobby against the hand that fed them.

Dr Richard Stallman is a person, too. It's no longer a secret that he likely has high-functioning autism. What is he supposed to be being now being disbarred from his own project that he founded in 1985? If people think he doesn't deserve to be credited as the founder of FSF, just fork, and be done with it. Instead what they're doing is trying to actively ostracise the very hand that fed them.

This is the important point frequently omitted.

They don't _have_ to do any of this. They _should_, though, as society demands it.

Folks are free to disagree, but this is very much the right move.

The problem is that they want to keep his ideas and achievements, but don't want to keep him.

They're free to walk away from Stallman and the movement he created, but they won't because they can't let go of the shiny. Instead, they convince themselves they deserve free software and GNU without the nasty man who built it.

I don't think that is what they mean by "all computer users".

You can not be a part of a lynch mob, and still take issue with Stallman's statements / behavior.

I only seen some accusation that appeared now after 20 years , where RMS said something and some people were made uncomfortable.

I agree RMS is not a sociable person but I would have preferred to see some significant "crime" , now I have the feeling that you can be kicked out from your own project if you made a stupid comment or thing in the past and the social media gets enraged by mostly FUD and exagerations of your said comment.

If that's your concern, I recommend reading up further on people's issues with rms. It's not "some accusations that appeared after 20 years," it's 30 years of pattern.


> I recall being told early in my freshman year “If RMS hits on you, just say ‘I’m a vi user’ even if it’s not true.”

I do not believe this. Stallman has no kind of irrational hate against vi beyond "church of emacs" memery. Stallman doesn't even take the editor war thing seriously.

>He literally used to have a mattress on the floor of his office. He kept the door to his office open, to proudly showcase that mattress and all the implications that went with it.

Stallman lived in his office. This is well-known and well-documented.

It's not mentioned in this article, but there's also the claim that women kept plants around to scare Stallman off. This is also patently false; besides being obviously ridiculous, one can also find plenty of pictures of Stallman surrounded by plants.

All of these claims are so utterly ridiculous, so absurd, that I not only feel confident to dismiss them without evidence; I'm also inclined to believe that most of them were made in jest.

It becomes hard to believe any of the accusations when so many of those that are repeated in earnest are so laughable.

Utterly destroying a person's reputation should come with a damn high burden of proof. That article would be laughed out of any courtroom.

Reading that has been a complete waste of time. To save everyone else some effort:

1. The man has problematic opinions. Welcome to democracy, where people with uncomfortable opinions are free to hold and discuss them. This is healthy.

2. He used a bad pick-up line, saying he'll kill himself if X doesn't go out with him.

3. The MIT report doesn't mention Stallman by name.

3. Had a mattress in his office.

The discourse level in the US has hit rock bottom lately, all I see are online mobs running amok.

  1. The man has problematic opinions. Welcome to
  democracy, where people with uncomfortable opinions are
  free to hold and discuss them. This is healthy.
People are free to hold and discuss them but others are just as free to exercise their democratic right of free association by choosing not to associate with you because of them.

This last is a major contributing factor to the volume of those asking for his ouster... they are free to walk away and not use GNU or other free software, but they don't want to. They want to have their cake and eat it too, they want to keep free software and get rid of the guy that makes them feel bad about it because he's awkward and poorly socialized... like very many computer savvy people are.

These people are arguing for their own desires more than anything. They want an FSF they can feel good about, not this one with a flawed person producing the software they can't give up.

If he doesn't sit well on a pedestal, push him over and set someone else there.

That's arguably what figureheads are for; to be set up and knocked down at the whims of the public. When a person becomes symbolic of an organization, they run the risk the organization will change (or they will) and dissociation will become necessary.

He's never really been a figurehead, at least not entirely. At the start, he was one of the most prolific programmers around, and I think he still writes code sometimes.

Can you honestly say that the others have merely chosen not to associate with Stallman?

No, they are coordinating a character assassination campaign and are pressuring everyone to disavow him. It's disappointing to see people cheering mobs on, just because they seem to attack "bad" people, while forgetting that anyone can be made to look bad.

"anyone can be made to look bad" is an opinion that basically throws the human capacity for discernment under the bus, and if humans can't discern things then why bother with anything?

No; rms is gross and creepy because rms is gross and creepy. Not because some conspiracy has worked to make him look like he is.

"If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged". This is why we have due process and innocent until proven guilty.

Even if he were gross and "creepy", that's no reason to oust someone from the organizations they helped create and destroy their reputation with absurd unverifiable anecdotes, like the ones about plants or vi. Or the note hanging on the door, which was likely a prank.

Creepy is also a meaningless word, best associated with ghosts and monsters, not people. Nowadays it seems to be used to criticize awkward male courtship attempts, as if trying to romance someone isn't tough enough and those that don't know how to do it have to be ridiculed too.

We have innocent until proven guilty as a guardrail against depriving people of their freedom. That doesn't even fully describe the entire US court system, which includes civil court (standard of proof is "preponderance of evidence"), and neither of these are the same as the softer standard of when we deprive a person of the privilege of their trusted station (which is what is happening to rms). In that court, "burden of association with tarnished reputation" is plenty. That's why concepts like "the appearance of impropriety is impropriety" exist.

Your article is fake news, RMS did not defended Epsein and the pedophilia thing is an opinion that he changed his mind about. From what I read about this topic the legal age for sex is not topic where 95% people agree one and RMS had a different view then the majority and he was convinced to change his mind (proving he is open minded)

I did not read the rest since it probably is as fake or exaggerated as the beginning.

If you didn't read it, you failed to read the part about "Richard Stallman has been contributing to a negative environment for women at MIT for over thirty years," with citations.

Then the anti RMS group could create a blog post that is 100% factual and fake. You can put facts and testimonials with names and time period when it happen, bonus points if you can mention any conflict of interest or personal biases this people may have.

I read in other places about RMS pathetic way of asking for a date so I know he was and is not perfect.

You seem to disagree that that imperfection, along with his other documented imperfections, isn't sufficient to induce people to want to walk away from his leadership.

You're entitled to your opinion, but other people would disagree with your opinion on the topic. And because free software is free as in freedom, they're certainly welcome to attempt to route around him (whether that fractures the community will be up to the community as a whole).

That article is basically a hit piece, meant to character assassinate Stallman based on lies and misinterpretations[0].

[0] https://sterling-archermedes.github.io/

I've seen enough written about it, even by Stallman's supporters who say they've had conversations with him about these things before, to indicate his behavior has been more than just a poorly worded conversation.

The existence of some folks who skew those things IMO isn't relevant when it comes to the things that I've seen that seem like believable accounts.

Some of those people that wrote against RMS are not in good relations with him so you need to consider those memories as biased.

I'm not sure that means something is necessarily biased.

Our memories are always biased, now if you add some grudge in the mix I am sure you will remember the bad parts as extreme and ignore the good parts.

> I agree RMS is not a sociable person

Project leadership is a social task. Sometimes, being well-suited to be a chief-of-doctrinal-purity or chief-of-technology is not being well-suited to being a chief-of-chiefs.

His job is to present his idea, mostly write and present it. He does not need to go in schools,bars and churches to trick people into his believes. He has a mathematical style of presenting things: primary notions, definitions, axioms . Though I liked his sense of humor (probably some religions zelot would dislike the saint joke)

But the lynch mob is still there and defends its cancel culture. You can see them all over Twitter. They are ruthless.

Cancel culture isn't a thing. Being held accountable for one's actions and freedom of assocation, those are things.


That's not really relevant to what the folks who wrote that letter means by "all computer users".

The GNU project still allows you to use, read and modify all their work with no restrictions other than you must not place restrictions on your derived work.

How have they stopped you from doing so in their signed open letter?

If I believed for a second that any successor candidate to lead the GNU project gave as much of a fuck about software and personal freedom as Stallman did/does, I might support them. My confidence that this will transpire, however, is not high.

I can tell you for a fact that Chris Webber, one of the signers on that list, does indeed give a fuck about personal freedom as much as stallman does. Indeed it is precisely because these people believe in such freedom that they are standing up for the women who no one has chosen to listen to and its beyond gross the reaction of every fool who's never so much as filed a bug report or attended a meeting spewing out hate for them.

I really don't hate these people, especially not Andy Wingo. But if the likes of him or Chris Webber were to assume leadership of the GNU project, they would be one minor slip-up away from being purged themselves.


As far as I can tell, your substantive comments are mostly getting upvoted while your flamewar comments are mostly getting downvoted and flagged. That doesn't seem ideologically motivated.

Would you mind reviewing https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and using HN as intended? Regardless of how right you are, perpetuating flamewar is destructive here.

There are lots of us who care. We can preserve software freedom with the same stubborn, uncompromising attitude without having to also alienate the very people we wish to help.

you are reframing (weakening) the OP's standard.

the standard is not "care", it's "gave as much of a fuck about software and personal freedom as Stallman did/does".

RMS used an absolute garbage computer because it was, in his words:

> the only laptop one could buy that could run a free initialization program and a free operating system.

i'm certainly not taking it on some contributor's word that these 20 or so odd people are as principled as RMS that i trust the project to be led by them. my guess is a large fraction are pragmatists (like most normal people) who use a nonfree BIOS setup for productivity, or have an iPhone/android because "normal", etc.

so, while certainly more like normal people, they aren't as principled. and what you want in a position like RMS's is someone so principled that they basically are immune to attack and inspire others to take on those principles. nobody's taking RMS seriously if he's giving talks from his macbook air.

as far as i can tell, RMS is so principled that it actually hindered the long term success of GCC. it would have behooved the long term strategic goals to make GCC the best/"only" compiler by making a BSD/MIT style version, so as to accept more liberal contributions, but he didn't.

he seems to be principled to a fault. is this group of 20 or so people as consistent as he was? i sincerely doubt it.

I completely agree with you. Moreover, I witnessed the same scenario in other projects, and it always ended the same way: once the charismatic leader was eliminated, people gradually lost motivation and everything dwindled. When people realized it was not worth it, it was already too late. Now that we lost Stallman it will be extremely hard to find a person even remotely as principled as he was.

One of Eric Raymond's innovations was to establish clear principles for the OSI at its outset, and then retire from the board out of a desire not to become one such "Jesus nut" for the movement.

The entryists have a response for this too: call for the removal and replacement of all the leadership of relevant organizations, as they have already done with the FSF.

That's the thing: "open source" is not a movement. And ESR wouldn't be a particularly charismatic leader (he's more of a controversial one).

Open Source would never be where it is now without the Free Software movement (which is an ideological one). Maybe some corporations would still promote the OSS approach due to its economic benefits, but probably not. It likely wouldn't have the same midshare among developers that it has today.

Stallman as the modern day st. Francis?

It would be valuable to see your group put up a statement articulating the specific actions taken by Stallman and how they have caused "those who [you] want to reach out to" to be alienated. You may think that some collective consciousness is both aware of these actions and fully in agreement with this statement, but as the comments here will indicate, it's entirely possible that either one of these or both isn't true. It may only be a court of public opinion, but I believe the accused deserves to know what they're accused of.

That's already been publicized ad nauseum by others in the past few weeks. I don't think the authors owe anyone any duty to reiterate it.

Considering that a big chunk of what was publicized was lies and deliberate misquotes, I think it'd be best if the GNU project said specifically what their issues are.

At this point the truth or falsity of the minutiae, or whether the conclusions are fair or not are irrelevant. Once a former leader no longer has the political capital to be seen as effective, or their involvement proves to be a greater distraction than it's worth, no more needs to be said.

You're legitimizing character assassination campaigns. But only as long as they're successful.

Have we really stopped being human beings at this point? Does even truth even matter anymore or just the shouts getting most retweets?

> We can preserve software freedom with the same stubborn, uncompromising attitude without having to also alienate the very people we wish to help.

You have already failed. I, for one, feel extremely alienated by your "joint statement".

And when one of you will make someone uncomfortable(without even realizing it) will you resign?

That may never, ever happen. Don't you know that only old awkward male hippy sin^H^H^H (are reported to) make/say unacceptable things?

And when it's your head that Sarah Mei and Sage Sharp are calling for, will you hold the line?

They'll never call for my head because I wouldn't suggest that minor-aged victims of sexual assault could have been engaging consensually.

Neither did Stallman. What he said was that it likely appeared that she was engaging consensually. And he was certainly no fan of Epstein, whom he called a serial rapist.

Lest you think this is a niggling distinction, Sage Sharp pronounced Linus guilty of inciting violence by making a humorous comment about his friend Greg Kroah-Hartman's height. (Something like: "Greg is a giant; watch out or he might squish you.")

That's how they operate. They go digging to find the six words that will hang you, and if you don't capitulate they go to your boss (read: corporate sponsors if you have your own project).

"They." You'll have to be clearer which conspiracy you're talking about; I don't have a binding for that pronoun.

By "they" I mean the principals involved in social-justice entryism into free software. None that I know of are signatories to that list. They include:

* Coraline Ada Ehmke

* Sage Sharp

* Aurynn Shaw

* Valerie Aurora

* Sarah Mei

* Matthew J. Garrett

* Steve Klabnik

These are some of the loudest voices calling for the removal and systematic reputational destruction of key free-software developers based on behavior which ranges from bad but not worth a purge to downright innocuous.

The list signatories, near as I can tell, are doing damage control on the optics of being affiliated with Stallman and are, to my knowledge, not themselves calling for purges the way the above named individuals and their fellow travellers are.

(Edited to include Klabnik. He expressed the need for a "tech antifa" and approved of the use of violence by the same. I think he counts.)


* Former GitHub Community Management senior developer

* Linux kernel contributor

* Eiara Limited founder

* ext2 dirty bit, ChunkFS developer

* Chief consultant at DevMynd

* Linux contributor and winner of the FSF Free Software Award

* Frequent Hacker News contributor, author of "The Rust Programming Language," member of Rust core team.

Seems like some solid contributors to the ecosystem and people who have earned a seat at the table defining what the community looks like; not sure why we're singling them out. Or should we also disapprove of the time rms founded an entire Free Software Foundation for the purposes of putting political pressure on various institutions, organizations, and people to respect the Four Freedoms?

Are you sure you disagree with the methods of the people you listed? Or do you merely disagree on what behaviors someone's reputation should suffer for?

Yes, I'd say that there's a world of difference between setting up a project and a foundation to attract people with like-minded goals and practice advocacy while always showing your hand and keeping a focused scope for your activism on the one hand, and a long march through the existing open source institutions on the other with the aim of subverting and controlling them and assuming their moral authority to redefine what open source is and what our values are, and to drive out all dissenters, on the other. It is literally the difference between a startup and a hostile takeover.

Or the difference between an entrenched status-quo closed-source commercial software ecosystem and an industry-disruptive open-source free software movement, perhaps?

the downside to revolutions is that sometimes the revolution gets away from the control of those who start it. ;)

Indeed; sometimes you just want to overthrow the cruel Tsar and the Bolsheviks end up taking over. Case in point: https://i.imgur.com/g3cD5C9.png

Here's Sarah Mei declaring her intent to character-assassinate Uncle Bob and have him written out of programming history. And for what? Well, apparently Uncle Bob made some remarks that "C++ is like testosterone", meaning that C++ programmers take an overly "macho" attitude to their work and look down on other programmers. Sarah interpreted this as toxic masculinity.

This is where we are today. The old standards of discourse between speaker and audience have passed away. Instead, you must now assume that your statements will be interpreted in the least charitable way by the least reasonable person on earth -- and that person has the phone number of your current employer and every future employer you might apply to.

This is how Bolsheviks operate. The means of production (in this case, open source and the discipline of programming in general) belongs to the proletarian vanguard party (the social-justice left purporting to speak on behalf of women, PoC, LGBTQ, etc.) and any kulaks (old-time hackers, overrepresented by straight white males) still clinging to their piece of it must be crushed without mercy.

"But silly bitwize," you may counter, "You are comparing losing your reputation in open source with being killed or sent to the gulag. Surely a ridiculous comparison." Apparently Jon Sterling, one of the other thought leaders you admire so much, was "only 30% kidding" about sending his political opponents to real actual gulags: https://i.imgur.com/rlqa73W.png?1

But you will maybe have an unpopular opinion in private and is leaked to the public(like it happened with Mozilla CEO) or you used some bad words 20 years ago or made someone uncomfortable and they will remeber it tomorrow.

Question is (at least in case of Brendan Eich), when does an opinion stop being an opinion and start being just harmful hate? Surely we can all agree that there is a line to draw somewhere.

The problem is can we measure and who measures what is harmful or uncomfortable. I am sure if it was just an opinion he would have shared with a group of people and then leaked would have had a similar effect. I do not agree with the guy opinion but I dislike when social media mobs put pressure on organization to fire people.

Setting/measuring what's considered harmful is (or should be) society's job (with the help of journalism).

I don't see it very critical when society puts pressure on an organization to fire a high-profile leader (and decision maker!) who publicly does something harmful. But I do acknowledge that this could generate a dangerous dynamic if spun in the wrong direction. It's a tradeoff: Either you allow cancel culture or you allow bad actors in powerful/influental positions.

Private opinions of CEOs have repercussions. But in Eich's case, it went beyond "private opinion;" he contributed $1,000 to support Proposition 8.

Eich didn't get forced out for having a "bad private opinion;" he got forced out for supporting something materially that would cause material harm to Mozilla staff, then making clear his opinion on the topic was unchanged. Staff that had a lack of confidence in his continued leadership were entirely justified.

It is complex situation but as a CEO or project leader or random open source developer that I am not that well informed with the latest social media culture how do I know what is a controversial opinions?

I am legitimately asking this, say maybe I think that X feature is nature not nurture, and there is a discussion at an event about X , what do I Google to know if I should talk about X or not. The problem is more complicated if my opinion today would be controversial in the future.

I think you're looking for guarantees in the social world.

There are no such guarantees (much as there are no guarantees in the tech space... That, say, your favorite language today won't be obsolete in five years and therefore diminish the value of all the time and effort you invested in memorizing its quirks). There are some useful heuristics, such as "try and be a good person, minimize your judgement of others, avoid speculating on things that other people have concrete experience with." Also, be informed about the latest social media culture; Proposition 8 was huge in California (and around the U.S.) and it should have been self-evident to Eich that supporting it was a bad call (I'm a lot less forgiving of Eich than some people are, because it's real hard for me to see his behavior and interpret it as anything other than "He put money behind his convictions and mis-estimated how much political power homosexual people and their allies had in his company to hold him accountable to putting money behind his convictions," which isn't exactly a stellar review of his behavior).

We in tech seem to like to believe that the technical world is above politics. It's not; technology serves people, so politics is, of course, part of the story. Politics is just what happens when people interact.

Thanks for the response, but I get the feeling that you need to censor yourself and if you are asked and forced to tell your opinion on X you should probably give a political response. Should I express my personal opinion on abortion,drugs,prostitution,religion, alchool, smocking or should I censor myself.

It depends on your goals and how much you trust the people you're communicating with (or the medium) to not turn your words against you.

"I should always speak in an uncensored fashion" is, honestly, one of the poison memes of the modern internet. It's never been wise in any human interaction, and moving to the Internet didn't change that fact. It did, for a brief time (until de-anonymization and search caught up with the technology available) let people obfuscate opinion origins behind a sea of anonymity and momentarily disrupt the words from the responsibility of having reputation tied to them. But when you go looking at the most anonymity-enabling communications channels on the Internet, you don't exactly find humanity at its best. Words divorced from reputation have yet to be proven as a net positive. Hell, even on Hacker News, our handles have karma points attached.

We social creatures developed concepts like "reputation" and tools like "memory" for a reason, and it wasn't a bad reason. Like any tools, they can be abused or over-applied, but no; saying exactly what you think all the time isn't virtuous (it is yet another tool, which can be abused or over-applied).

this sucks, Internet was supposed to be place where I can meet people and discuss different topics including some controversial ones,I am not talking about racism but more intellectual things like abortion, differences between male and female , gender topics. I may have an opinion on x and someone could make an argument and change my mind (in general most of us are ignorant and have a single point of view)

There are places on the internet where such things can be argued in a more intellectually supportive way. Just not all of the internet.

The internet is not just a place for meeting people and discussing opinions.

For many, many people, the internet is a socially supportive space, and an activity space, and those things don't work if challenging discussions are constantly taking place in them.

For what you've just asked for, specifically about making arguments that might change your mind, may I suggest you might enjoy: https://www.reddit.com/r/changemyview/ and https://changemyview.net/subreddit/ (I haven't used them myself, just read about them.)

I will check those reddits, though should people create a different account when going there?

I haven't used those reddits, and I don't have a reddit account anyway.

I think the fact it occurred to you to ask, suggests an answer. If you would feel safer testing the water with a different account, then I'd recommend you do that.

People have an annoying habit of attributing expressed thoughts to a person long after the person has openly changed their mind, as well as misunderstanding the intended meaning of a stated view anyway. Same if the person was just constructing an argument for the purpose of thinking things through (for example as in devil's advocate).

Personally, I would also recommend a "listen first" approach.

Question then. Why has it taken the airing Stallman's dirty laundry to step forward? What has stopped you (that is, the "we" and "us" from your statement) from standing out on your own merits before now?

I'm going to go with: So women can participate without having to be asked out on dates? So they don't feel harassed? You want to run cover for people do it in your own org man. This is beyond obtuse.

> So women can participate without having to be asked out on dates?

What is so wrong about being asked by a man for a date? I (a man) have been asked lots of times for a date by women I worked with, some of them my superiors. Mostly I said "no", because I generally don't like mixing love life with work life, but the best relationship I've ever had was the time I said "yes". I don't see why RMS couldn't look for such a relationship.

bitwize 16 days ago [flagged]

In $CURRENT_YEAR it's considered harassment for a woman to be asked on a date by an insufficiently attractive man.

If Stallman looked like Chris Hemsworth, women would join the GNU Project for the opportunity to ask him on a date.

Actually, in a spooky way RMS _does_ look like Hemsworth in the last Avengers film.

This answer has nothing to do with the questions I proposed. I'm asking why these people who proclaim to be as good as or better than Stallman are only now stepping up.

What Stallman's dirty laundry is has been thoroughly discussed.

"these people" have been in free software for decades champ. I met Chris Webber in chicago, at free software events literally 10 years ago. Andy Wingo is similarly long term involved. Keep eliding everything actually about this to throw up straw men. Its clarifying, as I noted in another thread. And, his "dirty laundry" is driving women out of spaces supposedly dedicated to freedom. Not sure why thats so difficult.

It being open source means that you can in fact fork any part of it or even all of it. You can make OSAG (our software aint GNU) tomorrow and people might make fun but nobody will deny your freedom to do so. It's just that fracturing resources more based on ideology might not be terribly beneficial.

I personally think that Richard Stallman is both not getting fair treatment and to some extent brought this on himself.

For me, the GNU project becomes much less interesting without his blog articles, public talks, etc.

I had let my FSF membership lapse, was thinking of renewing, and now probably won’t.

Off topic, but I enjoyed seeing the leaders of the various GNU projects listed in one place as signers of this letter. I don’t agree with them but it is good to see their names and projects listed.

> Off topic, but I enjoyed seeing the leaders of the various GNU projects listed in one place as signers of this letter. I don’t agree with them but it is good to see their names and projects listed.

Notice that for most of the big projects, it is not the leader name that appears on that list, but only a particular developer.

> the leaders of the various GNU projects

The leaders of selected GNU projects who were likely to share the same opinion and sign. Others were not even informed of this initiative that kind of poses as speaking in their name.

Thanks, I didn’t know that other contributors were not consulted.

For anyone coming to this, I can't speak for all of the people on that list, but the ones that I've met personally, over a decade now in the free software world, are decent caring people actually following the creed of freedom to its rightful conclusion. The idea that this is a "witchhunt" is absurd.

I cant speak for any of the people on that list either. But if they are committed to the core values of free software and empowerment for all, then its plausible to me that, rather than words in a joint statement, they should fork the FSF. That is the course of action on which the FSF was founded and would be proof positive of their commitment to the core values they profess. They can then proceed to build a better project, with stronger core values, including universal empowerment. There is no one that has to be judged; there are no joint statements that need to be written. That is the wonderful thing about freedom. One can build, perhaps has the obligation to build, the better world that should exist.

I think GNU deserves a leader who is not only strong in freedom advocacy.

I hope GNU finds a similar passioned but also humble and emotional capable leader.

Could you tell us something more about emacs? Decent caring people is not the same as decent creative people.

I would suggest GNU people to not rush into decisions, the things are too heated at this moment, I am afraid we get a fracture of the project.

I am also having a bad feeling that Linus Torwalds is next, that a list of 20 years old emails is already prepared and some people are ready to tweat something that maybe happened long in the past that made them uncomfortable. Maybe that public apology Linus did this year was a defensive move.

I am also having a bad feeling that Linus Torwalds is next

No, he successfully capitulated to the mob and pinky swore that he will no longer use big bad meany words that might offend the children who currently police the LKML.

Who you should really worry about is Theo de Raadt. OpenBSD is a sitting duck for Ehmke, et. al.

Hasn't Linus already been critizised for his behavior last year-ish, then taken a break and changed the kernel dev culture (or something like that, I'm not up-to-date on kernel internals)?

yes, Linus made a clever move and kept his job(at least until some email in the future is misquoted in the press).

It is alleged by another controversial figure to have already happened https://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/11/06/linus_torvalds_targ...

There are probably a number of people who are attracted to Linus Torvald's attitude and style, but I can assure you the number of people who do not contribute to the Linux kernel because they're turned off by it is significantly larger. It's absolutely in the best interest of the project that he adopt an attitude change permanently or step down.

Just as most sports are 90% mental and only 10% physical, managing a large software project is 90% people skills, and only 10% technical.

who do not contribute to the Linux kernel because they're turned off by it is significantly larger

I’ve heard a few people now assert that they “would have” contributed to open source if it wasn’t for RMS/Linus/whoever but none of them appear to have contributed to any open source not managed by those guys, or have any independent projects on GitHub, or even be employed as professional programmers.

> I can assure you the number of people who do not contribute to the Linux kernel because they're turned off by it is significantly larger

You can't, actually. This is a deeply false ideological assumption not based on any reality or human psychology.

It depends though, I agree that it sucks to work daily with a jerk but as we see today people get outraged by pronouns, things you maybe said in the past, your private opinion on sexuality, your private opinion on politics.

It would be a pathetic excuse to fire Linus because 25 years ago insulted some BSD guys in an email or some other developer in a different email, the internet was different then and there was no COC to force people to use a specific language.

Mostly because we have enough evidence now to know how those private opinions aggregate to real damage to the people they're arrayed against, systemically.

Let's judge people on what they have done not on what they might do.

And yet somehow, Linux is arguably the most successful open source project in the world.

Yes, it is, and surely Linus has done a great job as a leader overall. Yet, some of his rants absolutely crossed some lines, so there is good reason to critisize him for that.

Perhaps, but we do not know how much better it could be today if potential contributors were not dissuaded by the politics and behavior of the existing participants.

Popularity is only one gauge of success. There are other metrics, such as personal satisfaction, missing features, or other things that the project may have failed or scored less well on.

But you don't know which contributors you'll lose if you change the project. I remember when FreeBSD added in their controversial new code of conduct, and some existing maintainers left. People keep acting like getting rid of a divisive leader will either result in improvements, or the status quo, but it could also cause the project to get worse.

Ok, let's assume that kernel developers will accept Ada Ehmke's "The Post-Meritocracy Manifesto", and attract lots of people with great interpersonal skills, with diverse backgrounds. They'll be successful, leading rich, full lives. Oh, they wouldn't depend on exerting all of their energy on contributing to software, but that's just a minor nuisance, right?

Sure, the kernel will become insanely great if this happens, right?!

All those potential GNOME or GIMP contributors that went to contribute to KDE because of RMS....

Next we will blame the lack of diversity in proprietary software on RMS too, I was afraid that it is something much more complicated but now that we found the problem all will be solved /sarcasm

> Perhaps, but we do not know how much better it could be today if potential contributors were not dissuaded by the politics and behavior of the existing participants.

Do you know how many potential contributors you'd lose by forcing adherence to liberal Californian politics? Most of the world does not adhere to them, even to the less objectionable ones.

I love it when arguments are so deeply grounded in facts.

> Just as most sports are 90% mental and only 10% physical, managing a large software project is 90% people skills, and only 10% technical.

Some evidence for these figures? Or did you just make them up?

> We, the undersigned GNU maintainers and developers, … [18 signatures]

Does anyone happen to of know what fraction of GNU maintainers those 18 names represent? Does this represent a majority of GNU maintainers or a small fraction?

A small fraction. But an important one. These are some of the biggest names in GNU, like Emacs, libc, gcc, gdb and gpg.

Here's [1] the list of contributors to GNU. Note that it also includes past contributors.

[1] https://www.gnu.org/people/

> Here's [1] the list of contributors to GNU. Note that it also includes past contributors.

For the curious, this list contains roughly[0] 242 names.

The number of maintainers is surely much smaller than the number of contributors, however.

[0]: More specifically, the `#content` `div` on that page contains exactly 242 `h4` elements, all of which appear to be names of past/current contributors

Not sure if that list is comprehensive. Neither Ludovic Courtes or John Wiegley are on it (and they are both signatories of the open letter).

Maybe it tells us something about the "joint" part? So mob-sad..

Wiegley has probably done more to make Emacs exciting again than anyone since the XEmacs fork.

(Which, hey, speaking of RMS driving off contributors...)

Really? He did?

Anyway, he hasn't done much in Emacs development for years now, I think. As a maintainer, his actual tenure was very brief.

Eli Zaretskii is the acting maintainer now.

Sure, but taking part of a political games, doesn't make him a favor.

What exactly is your position? Is John Wiegly an important contributor to the GNU project or not?

He is, in my opinion, considering he’s the primary maintainer of what has been called GNU’s flagship application, emacs.

Genuine question, what exactly do these maintainers want ? Stallman has already quit his leadership role/position, right ?! Is there something more that he or the GNU project needs to do ?

> Genuine question, what exactly do these maintainers want ? Stallman has already quit his leadership role/position, right ?

No. There was some confusion on this point because a note was posted to https://stallman.org/ announcing that RMS stepped down from leadership of GNU, but this turned out to not have been posted by RMS (or with his authorization).

(It was apparently posted by someone who added RMS as an entry to the "what's wrong with…" series, with a link to the Medium post that kicked all this off. Without commenting one way or the other on the underlying issue, that is a fairly funny bit of Internet vandalism)

He quit the FSF and MIT. GNU is not the same thing as the FSF, despite their close ties. He has ascertained he still maintains a leadership role in GNU, and he has quite a contingency of devoted followers who think this is all a witch hunt against him.

It's not just Stallman. This is an attempted systematic ouster of old-school hackers (and new-school hackers with old-school values) from positions of leadership. Stallman is just the latest target and also one of the softest. They have also called for the removal of:

* Linus Torvalds (after he apologized and approved the adoption of their code of conduct)

* Ted Ts'o

* the entire FSF board

The problem is that while the old-school hackers were mainly left-liberal or libertarian, more and more open source developers these days come from the San Francisco web dev community and were immersed in the ideals and principles of the social-justice left, for whom "scratch a liberal and a fascist bleeds" is an unstated truism. More struggle sessions and purges are likely to follow, if this contingent is allowed to gain ground, and I fear for a GNU project led by, instead of Stallman or someone who espouses Stallman's liberal ideals, a commissar who strictly polices the use of gender pronouns and scrutinizes every code commit and mailing list post for hidden signs of bourgeois consciousness.

These people do not even support free speech. What makes you think they will give a milligram of respect to free software?

You've whipped up quite a strawman to get angry at, do you have any proof of this conspiracy?

choeger 16 days ago [flagged]

Well he is empirically right about the code of conducts, the public attacks on free software figures, and the denial of free speech. I would call it typical radical leftist behavior instead of a conspiracy, but everything else checks out.

You, for instance, mentioned above that it would be impossible for a minor to engage in consensual sexual behavior without even considering for a moment that there are more liberal (and I'd say more civilized) societies that define "consensual" and especially "minor" quite differently. It is exactly this absolutist enforcement of a particular pov that alienates many observers.

of course they don't. because there isn't any. These people, some of whom, like Andy Wingo and Chris Webber, have been doing this for well over a decade. its asinine.

Why does "they've been doing this for a decade" mean "they aren't trying to oust major free software figures"?

To clarify I don't think the long-time hackers on that list are trying to oust major free software figures.

What they are doing is a partial capitulation to those who are, most of whom are trying to effect a value shift in the free software community that undermines the bedrock principles of free software itself. I refer you to Coraline Ada Ehmke's views on the "pernicious cult of meritocracy" and her attempts to get licenses with legally sticky do-no-evil clauses approved as free/open source licenses.

I stand corrected.

What this may be really about is that Ludovic Courtès wanted a Code of Conduct for the GNU Project and Stallman did not. Since having a Code of Conduct, an easy and fashionable tool for excommunicating those you find problematic due to their pesky different points of view, is obviously the Right Thing, and increasingly considered a requirement, that meant Stallman had to go. Sorry, pal. Maybe if you'd had the right perspective -- maybe if you'd sat at the feet of your moral betters and listened -- 35 years of work wouldn't be flushed down the shitter.

This also stands as a warning to open source devs. If you have started an open source project and it becomes popular or otherwise important, you have two courses of action:

* Adopt and enforce a Code of Conduct, preferably Contributor Covenant version 1.5 or later. Enforce it preemptively against Trump supporters, right-libertarians, Brexiters, people who think border laws are a thing which should be enforced, people who oppose Xi Jinping, or just white men in general.

* Lose maintainership of your own project and have it taken over by your moral superiors, people who truly know how to lead.

(If this sounds to you like venture-capitalist takeover of a startup, you're on to something. Keep going and see where it leads.)

Nothing has happened to Stallman's 35 years of work. Last I checked, nobody's deleting the emacs repo today.

... but he increasingly doesn't represent the future of computing, let alone GNU and FSF. There's a reason so much of Ars Technica's reporting on rms gets headed with that "Old Man Yells At Cloud" meme image. Sometimes, leaders are changed out. Stallman's continued work is up to Stallman, but he doesn't necessarily get the privilege of continuing to lead GNU (and he doesn't have the privilege of continuing to lead the FSF).

Besides, this is open source we're talking about, not a VC company. If people rally behind rms and fork the projects, the projects get forked.

But I anticipate that won't happen, because he increasingly doesn't represent where software is going. I don't think he actually wields the thought-leadership cachet he used to. We shall see.

Stallman never represented the future of computing. He was the same backward guy in the 1990s that he is now, the major difference being that the only feasible alternative to GCC in those days was whatever shitty proprietary compiler your vendor slapped together, so sites adopted the GNU suite because it was better than the alternatives.

It was never Stallman's goal to "represent the future of computing". It was his goal to preserve the spirit of the past, specifically the 1970s AI lab at MIT where hackers could just log in and hack, and didn't have to worry about vendors locking them out from their data or equipment.

Look, I don't agree with Stallman, on a lot of things including software. But without his sort of lone-voice-crying-in-the-wilderness extremism, where would we be? Lots of people, including Gary Kildall, Chuck Moore, and Steve Wozniak could plausibly claim to have been at the vanguard of a culture of openness and sharing in computing. But it was Stallman who had the courage to come out and say, "these are the freedoms we demand, and you're a shithead if you abrogate them." We need more courageous voices like that. They are in short supply, especially as the loudest voices in open source now come from large companies who have much to gain by compromising the Four Freedoms.

You're definitely painting with a broad brush. You can read Stallman's site and see for yourself that he is as left as they come (which is waaaay more left than "liberal"). Insinuating that there is some grand left-wing cabal conspiring to oust the "true hackers" is wrong. Some people apparently think Stallman is unfit to lead GNU, other people think he is. There is no need to throw accusations of malice around.

When I say "left liberal", think Chomsky, not Hillary Clinton. Someone who thinks individual freedom is paramount, but who also thinks that corporations are just as bad as governments.

The presently dominant current in the left prioritizes social justice over individual liberty, up to and including legal restrictions on freedom of speech under a constitution which expressly forbids such restriction (cf. the New York City ordinance forbidding the use of the term "illegal alien").

jordigh beat me to the right answer, here's Stallman's email https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/info-gnu/2019-09/msg00008...

My company has released several applications under GNU GPLv3 and AGPLv3 licenses, and is preparing to release more. We wouldn't have done this without rms.

This 'collective of GNU maintainers'is lying about rms actions undermining the core values of GNU projects. 'Collective' is alienating us from participating in GNU projects and I suggest to remove them from further discussions about the organization of the project.

I always feared this day, I also fear the day Linus steps down / passes away. I don't know who can fill their shoes without them getting too lenient or too carried away.

This conversation went down the rabbit hole. I read the statement, and interpreted it to mean the GNU project should also be a safe place for women programmers. I'm a bit sad the comment that's risen to the top has taken us in a different direction.

The fact that this statement remains vague hasn't helped anyone to interpret it with precision.

How mechanically centralized is leadership in the GNU project? Does rms sign off on every change?

I'm wondering how expensive it would be (assuming he does not want to step down) for the community to fork away from him or route around him.

In practice, GNU is almost nothing. Years ago there was more cohesion, and there are some guidelines that GNU maintainers nominally follow, but in practice each GNU package mostly does its own thing. A lot of decisions are made in a don't-tell-mom kind of way, i.e. we just try to make sure that rms doesn't notice when we do something he doesn't like, such as calling it win32/win64 instead of w32/w64 like he prefers.

One of the things I hope will happen with this statement is that we will regain cohesion and we will be able to stand together again like we once did. There's lots of good people in GNU, and I think we need someone like GNU. Principled, uncompromising, and now hopefully friendlier and more helpful than we have been.

So I guess this is just an opportunity for you to get rid of Stallman.

"Uncompromising" and "friendly" are not terms that one typically finds together.

We can be friendly without having to compromise freedom. We don't have to be friendly to those who would want to use our software to take freedom away from others. We should be friendly to everyone who wants to use our software freely, regardless of their skill level.

My view is that GNU should be working towards making sure we can get our software into as many people as possible by giving it an attractive interface, simple installation instructions, and a welcoming community, while at the same time refusing to collaborate with any who wish to proliferate non-free software.

> We don't have to be friendly to those who would want to use our software to take freedom away from others. We should be friendly to everyone who wants to use our software freely, regardless of their skill level.

"We should be friendly, unless we don't like the people using our software"

> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance

In the specific case of free software, the paradox of tolerance plays out concretely, in that failure to enforce copyleft on software can lead to the creation of software derived from that work that is itself copyrighted in such a way that the deriver could sue an original source creator deriving work from their derivations.

I don't think anyone would consider copyleft enforcement "friendly," but the alternative is "free software has no ability to protect its core tenants," so some friendliness must be abridged.

I agree that enforcing copyleft licenses is extremely necessary. My thought here was that "those who would want to use our software to take freedom away from others" is a bit too broad to apply to just that, especially when considering things like the recent Chef outage.

In other words - some people are going to use GNU software to take freedom from others (imagine a prison running Linux, etc) in ways that conform with the license. I do not think GNU should oppose this.

RMS no longer fits your definition?

And your first friendly act is to 'friendly' take control of the organisation someone else built to host you. That opens a whole perspective of refreshing friendlyism.

"Organizations" are a two-way street. A leader with no followers isn't "an organization;" it's just another solo project on Github.

I see claims of users not being 'empowered' and not being able to 'trust' GNU software.. because of Stallman?

Sorry, but what does the controversy surrounding Stallmman have to do with user empowerment and trust? Has Stallman been preventing people from using GNU software? Does the trustworthiness of this free, open source software diminish because of Stallman's opinion on some social/political issues that are completely unrelated to software?

They aren't completely unrelated to software. One can't divorce community issues from technical issues when the project in question has a "philosophy" page. From said page (https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.en.html)

""" “Free software” means software that respects users' freedom and community. """

The way rms treats people involved in GNU goes directly to what is meant by 'community.' Consider, as comparative example, the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the phrase "all men are created equal," and that it was penned by a slaveowner and did not lead to a government that freed those slaves for over 80 years (regardless of what the words on paper said).

> One can't divorce community issues from technical issues when the project in question has a "philosophy" page.

Anything can have a philosophy. Just because someone is a communist or a feudalist shouldn't prevent them from contributing or being part of a free software project.

> The way rms treats people involved in GNU goes directly to what is meant by 'community.'

Has RMS done anything to prevent people from using GNU software? Has he attempted to move GNU in a direction that would violate its stated goals or philosophy? Has he made the software any less free or any less respectful of users' freedom and community?

Based upon past travel hosts' interactions with him, having him visit to speak on the topic can involve you needing to burn the sheets he slept on.

Yes, that has material impact on the organization; it decreases people's willingness to hear its leader speak on the topic of what the organization stands for.

A lot of things affect people's interest in a project. RMS being the original creator of GNU is definitely a big plus towards interest in hearing him speak. I don't see anyone who would be a better fit. Furthermore leading GNU is not just about giving talks with maximum popularity - and if popularity is such an important point then GNU is the wrong project.

So these people speak for all humankind? Wow. I wonder how that works. Is there a certification process? Truly this is a brave group of 20 white men.

Wow, so what does this imply? Is this a coup d'état or just a _request_ for Stallman to cede part of his leadership to more people?

I should hope it's a coup. GNU will lose far more if all these people leave frustrated than if RMS is no longer its boss - even if RMS never harasses anyone again (which seems vanishingly unlikely).

GNU has clearly outlived its usefulness putting social justice before free software.

These are not mutually exclusive ideas. In fact, they're complimentary if you turn your head and squint a bit; the Four Freedoms are targeted at minimizing the creation of a classist world where some people control software and others merely run it. Avoidance of a classist world is a "social justice" concept.


The Black Hat Conference this year pulled a talk given by Crown Sterling because it was, in the opinion of the people in attendance and security researchers, absolute psuedoscientific trash.


Don't let anyone convince you hackers are anti-deplatforming. They merely disagree on what behaviors or speech are worthy of having a platform.

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