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Stallman on GCC, LLVM, and Copyleft (2014) (lwn.net)
15 points by cnst 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 18 comments

This is why everyone wants him out — to dismantle Free Software.

If after 30 years there's no organization in place with people who can step in should he no longer be there, then there's an infrastructure issue that you aren't seeing.

Why are there no others in place who can take on the mantle?

A social movement with a bus factor of one is no movement.

The bus factor of one is the movement's ideology itself. If the mob is allowed to take down the leader, do you think anyone else who was sympathetic to the leader and their ideology would feel comfortable taking the place? Or would even be allowed to do so by the mob at large?

So, if Stallman were hit by a bus three months ago - the literal description of "bus factor" - then what would have happened to the movement?

That is, there appears to have been no contingency plan; no build-up of enough people who both share the vision and have the respect and authority to take over in case of problems.

The civil rights movement didn't die when MLK was shot. John Lewis, one of the "Big Six" leaders of that movement, is an active member of Congress.

Or, look at Python. Van Rossum stepped down because of a mob (a different type of mob, but still a mob). Python development faltered, then recovered.

This either means that there is no effective Free Software movement, after 30 years, or it means that Stallman wasn't thinking about how the movement could carry on without him, or it means that Stallman prevented the buildup of a cadre of people who could take on the mantle, or possibly other scenarios.

Hence, if Free Software can be dismantled so easily, then it isn't really a movement.

Anyone who publishes software under GPL or MIT is continuing the movement. Those licenses are timeless in their wording.

I disagree. Or rather, I agree with Stallman's views at https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-software-for-freedom.en.... :

> The Free Software movement and the Open Source movement are today separate movements with different views and goals, although we can and do work together on some practical projects.

> The fundamental difference between the two movements is in their values, their ways of looking at the world. For the Open Source movement, the issue of whether software should be open source is a practical question, not an ethical one. As one person put it, “Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement.” For the Open Source movement, non-free software is a suboptimal solution. For the Free Software movement, non-free software is a social problem and free software is the solution.

It's possible to choose the MIT license as part of the free software movement. However, more people choose the MIT license as part of the Open Source movement.

MIT license is suboptimal, in regards to the free software movement, as it does not include patents.

I also see it as a sign of how terrible leader Stallman was.

Don't get me wrong, I'm on his side defending Minsky and all that stuff, but recent controversies aside: Stallman is a one man army.

He was a terrible organizer, more like a prophet preaching ideas, than a leader building institution. And after Stallman resigned, it became clear that there are no people to take his place. As if FSF were Stallman's little club and not an institution or organization.

It appears to me that Stallman was doing a job nobody else wanted to do. I never got the impression from him that he wanted to be some kind of president; and indeed he's distinctly not suited for the role. But I see no promising candidates for his replacement. What he lacked in skills he made up in passion and vision.

I agree that there are no promising candidates for his replacement.

What I wonder is, are there people who could have been promising candidates, but which he rejected associating with? Eg, for some flaw in their ideological understanding of free software that could have been worked out over time, or because they wouldn't overlook personal issues with Stallman, or because Stallman liked his position of high priest and wanted no challengers?

I don't take Stallman as someone who would compromise the free software cause because he "liked his position of high priest". As for ideological differences, I think free software is so strongly tied to Stallman that you could argue that someone who seriously ideologically disagrees with Stallman doesn't really believe in free software as it is commonly understood, which would by definition make them unsuitable to lead the FSF.

Perhaps it's a problem to have a movement's ideology be so strongly tied to an individual, but now I feel like we've just looped around to the same issue again. Stallman was the one primarily creating and preaching the ideology, and it's a very effective ideology, so it's hard to see how anyone else could be "in charge". Basically, Stallman just had the right ideas on free software, he had them before "competitors", and he advocated them the hardest. He was in charge on the basis of sheer ideological merit, despite his poor skills as a communicator and a PR guy.

How do you conclude that "it's a very effective ideology"?

My observation is that it's a pretty niche ideology. Even many people who know "open source" don't know "free software". While just about everyone who knows "free software" also knows "open source software".

You commented "you could argue that someone who seriously ideologically disagrees with Stallman". I will try to make a more concrete expression of my argument, which is somewhat different than your comment.

If I'm 98% aligned with Stallman, but think that using "GNU/Linux" is a lost effort that's a distraction to the cause, and refuse to use it in my writings and talks supporting free software, would Stallman still work with me? Or would he reject associating with me, and not support my rise in the free software movement?

Many people say open source but mean free software; there's not much software that is the former but not the latter. The success of free software is in the fact that for many developers, it is the default license; most developers will prefer free software, all else considered equal. This was not always the case.

Free software is absolutely ubiquitous, has only grown for decades and has had no major schisms. That makes it a very effective ideology.

>would Stallman still work with me?

Yes. Stallman works with many people who disagree with many of his pet peeves.

I ... think you are talking about the licensing details, and not the respective movements/ideologies, which is what I thought we were talking about?

Stallman at https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.... points out:

> The term “open source” quickly became associated with ideas and arguments based only on practical values, such as making or having powerful, reliable software. Most of the supporters of open source have come to it since then, and they make the same association. Most discussion of “open source” pays no attention to right and wrong, only to popularity and success; here's a typical example. A minority of supporters of open source do nowadays say freedom is part of the issue, but they are not very visible among the many that don't. ...

> As a result, people from the free software movement and the open source camp often work together on practical projects such as software development. It is remarkable that such different philosophical views can so often motivate different people to participate in the same projects. Nonetheless, there are situations where these fundamentally different views lead to very different actions.

So, Stallman says they are "fundamentally different" ideologies, and claims that most open source supporters are not developing open source because of issues related to software freedom.

Which was the point I was trying to make.

Is Stallman, or my interpretation of Stallman, incorrect?

If open source is doing well and Free Software isn't, what's the problem? This is a serious question. What's the problem with LLVM over GCC, for example?

Open source is only thriving behind the scenes and end users are getting more proprietary and less free software than decades ago as we move to cloud software. Having source code might not be much for end users, but they've got a lot better chance at doing something with that than they do a cloud service using LLVM behind the scenes, at least they'd have their own data.

Open source is increasingly become something for software developers only, as Stallman warned us.

You may be right. But I looked at the recent gnu thing ("joint statement") and gnu software is guix (OS distribution), guile (programming language), social (vapourware afaict), mpc (library), hurd (os kernel), libc (library)... it goes on like that. Most of those are targeted purely at developers. An OS distribution might be for others, but Guix' homepage describes it as having "declarative system configuration for transparent and reproducible operating systems" that "provides Guile Scheme APIs". My neighbours would turn away in an instant.

So gnu too is increasingly becoming something for developers, unless the signatories there are seriously unrepresentative.

It's really scary how much the cloud is taking away from us. It's not even standardised in any way, little interoperability to export data etc. All magic and things.

For the users of comercial software, no problem.

We always had shareware, freeware and public domain since ever.

For FOSS advocates, they might be in for a bitter surprise.

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