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Thoughts on RMS and GNU (wingolog.org)
36 points by LaSombra 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 15 comments

I think this post does RMS no justice, since it adds even more straw men to the ones already spread.

> RMS started GNU so RMS decides what it is and what it can be.

That would be in contradiction with the GNU principles RMS wrote himself.

> I don't think RMS has the legitimacy to tell this group of largely volunteers what we should build or how we should organize ourselves.

That would be in contradiction with the GNU principles.

> the best thing that he could do for GNU is to stop pretending to run things

Did he pretend he "run things"?

> He does hold a role of accepting new projects into GNU

That's one thing he says he does.

> [link about the "_were_ Entirely Willing"]

The part before "Entirely Willing" was not "were". It has been discussed several times that that's the opposite of what he actually wrote.

> The great tragedy of RMS's tenure in the supposedly universalist FSF and GNU projects is that he behaves in a way that is particularly alienating to women. It doesn't take a genius to conclude that if you're personally driving away potential collaborators, that's a bad thing for the organization, and actively harmful to the organization's goals: software freedom is a cause that is explicitly for everyone.

> The result, sadly, is that a significant proportion of those that have stuck with GNU don't see any problems with RMS.

I don't see any problem with RMS because I plan to never interact with him nor with the many other people I don't like while still having the chance to give my (very) small contribution to GNU projects, which I consider a just cause. The reason I can do that is because I know that even if the author is a dick the contribution I'm making will be bound to the GNU principles.

> it has also had the unfortunate effect of creating a cult of personality and a with-us-or-against-us mentality. For some, only a traitor would criticise the GNU project. It's laughable but it's a thing; I prefer to ignore these perspectives.

Indeed it's laughable (and in contradiction with GNU principles, btw).

> no gods! No masters! No chief!!!

I agree, but seems like another straw man to me.

I think most of the statement you posted were not strawmen, but summaries of actual arguments made, followed by a response.

Eg, you quoted "RMS started GNU so RMS decides what it is and what it can be", which is an argument I've heard, and which the author says "many (most?) GNU developers that still consider RMS to be GNU's rightful leader."

You replied "That would be in contradiction with the GNU principles."

The author seems to agree with you. So, what's the strawman?

You write "Did he pretend he "run things"?"

I believe that's what Stallman intended when he wrote "I am still the head of the GNU Project (the Chief GNUisance), and I intend to continue as such." at https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/info-gnu/2019-09/msg00008... .

> So, what's the strawman?

It was RMS that wrote those GNU principles so I'm assuming he agrees with us as well. I see the straw man in saying that it's RMS fault if "many (most?) GNU developers [...] still consider RMS to be GNU's rightful leader". That's the opposite of GNU's, and therefore his, objectives.

> I believe that's what Stallman intended when he wrote "I am still the head of the GNU Project (the Chief GNUisance), and I intend to continue as such."

When we agree between us that he does not fire people that do not consider him the head of the GNU project, does not code, does not design software and therefore does not "run things", Stallman also agrees. He never said he does these things.

What RMS said instead is:

- he would like to be called GNU's "head", whatever that means

- the work he wants to do as GNU's "head" is to act as a guarantor for new projects to be included inside GNU and spend time advocating for free software

I think the reason is he wants to contribute too and considers himself the better candidate for these tasks. I don't know if that's true, but the fact he believes to be indispensable to GNU it's probably not.

Where is the claim or implication that it's RMS's fault?

Just because some people have a belief - which is what the author wrote - doesn't mean that RMS caused that belief.

> Where is the claim or implication that it's RMS's fault?

Where he says Stallman is "pretending" to run things.

I've been staring at the text trying to see the strawman argument, and have failed.

The author asserts that many GNU developers consider RMS to be GNU's rightful leader. The author asserts that that Stallman is pretending to run things. I can see that the author can be wrong. I don't see where it's a strawman.

BTW, "The Tyranny of Structurelessness" at https://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm is relevant. A social group with "an apparent lack of structure too often disguise[s] an informal, unacknowledged and unaccountable leadership that [is] all the more pernicious because its very existence [is] denied." (quoting Hilary Wainwright at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tyranny_of_Structurelessne... ).

If Stallman doesn't "run things" at least to some extent, then what decisions is is referring to when he writes at https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/info-gnu/2019-10/msg00005... :

> "I would like to make incremental changes in how some decisions are made, because I won't be here forever and we need to ready others to make GNU Project decisions when I can no longer do so."

I may be wrong as well, but here's another attempt to explain myself:

1. (If I understand correctly) Straw man is when you say someone supports an argument he actually doesn't

2. (If true, I don't know) Developers say he's the rightful "leader", but their definition of leader can't be the one Wingo says it means for them. The GNU licenses forbid that.

3. Stallman also has a definition of "successful GNU leader" that is not the one Wingo believes in: we know because he invented it, implemented it and considers himself successful

4. We know that Wingo believes Stallman shares with him his own definition of leader because Wingo claims that Stallman needs to pretend to do things he doesn't to continue being considered successful

> If Stallman doesn't "run things" at least to some extent, then what decisions is is referring to when he writes at https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/info-gnu/2019-10/msg00005.... :

Surely not ones that go against GNU licences, since licenses are legally binding (in theory) in guaranteeing that software, developers and users keep their "freedoms" and are not a matter of any leadership, be it GNU leadership or any other.

Your link is interesting, I'll read it tomorrow, but at least for me the reason I care about GNU is not to be a part of a group but the opposite. I dislike being around most people, from my point of view distrust is a virtue. But as an individual, if it's part of a GNU project I can still contribute to build something that is both ethical according to my values and bigger than I could achieve alone. It's a way to contribute selectively only when I know that, once in a while, I agree with what those people are doing.

(It's not like I have developed a dislike for Wingo now, I admire him and his work even if I don't agree with the fact Stallman has had a greater negative impact then the false claims made against him in the past)

Wingo is responding to an argument that could be made by some readers, and which Wingo believes is asserted by "many (most?) GNU developers". He does not believe it to be a valid argument.

Under your definition of straw man (which I believe is incorrect; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man ), it would be a straw man only if so few people were presenting that argument that it doesn't make sense to even bring up, in order to reject it.

I believe there are enough people who believe that Stallman is the leader of the GNU project that it's worthwhile to bring up.

I think a "strawman argument" is more like one where I point out that Stallman says he is involved in making GNU project decisions, and ask when those decisions are, then you point out that he cannot be involved in making GNU license changes which break legally binding obligations.

The structureless essay has come up many times before on HN - search the archive for comments.

I hear all these thoughts and feelings on RMS lately. For some reason not as many on Free Software.

Wonder what it will be like in, say, 5 years.

could everyone who makes up GNU who don't like RMS just fork it and work on that instead?

> could everyone who makes up GNU who don't like RMS just fork it and work on that instead?

Three possibilities:

1. RMS steps down. The project stays together but loses one pesron who "...does not write software...does not design software, or systems."

2. RMS refuses to step down. People who don't like his leadership stop developing on their current projects entirely.

-2a. This is a relatively small number of people; the project continues, but they have at least a dozen fewer people who do actually write and/or design software.

-2b. This is a large number of people; the GNU project is crippled or becomes untenable.

3. RMS refuses to step down. People who don't like his leadership fork the project.

-3a. This is basically everyone. This is similar to 1, (or a combination of 1 and 2a), but with a branding change (similar to OpenOffice -> LibreOffice, or Xfree86 -> Xorg).

-3b. This is about half the people. Both projects subsequently struggle to find the labor to continue operating; this is similar to 2b.

-3c. This is a minority of people; the new project struggles and eventually dies. This is similar to 2a.

Even though 3a would work, it's sub-optimal; but there's a significant risk of 3b. 1 is the best option if possible, so it's obviously the option to try first.

I can see the purpose of GNU in the 80s and most of the 90s, but really now that anyone can post any project online and setting up a project page is as easy as downloading Fossil and throwing it somewhere[1], what function does GNU serve?

[1] I mention Fossil because it is trivial to setup, Gogs, GitLab, etc would be others, in order of overall increasing complexity.

I think it's a legitimate question to ask, and I think it's a question some GNU devs have been asking. If GNU is just a loose collection of whatever software people offer up to the "brand" in exchange for some old-school hosting services and giving absolute veto power to RMS, then there really isn't much purpose to it, and unfortunately that's what GNU feels like these days. It doesn't have to be this way. We'll see what happens, I guess.

Since i see this was downvoted, i guess it was taken as an attack on GNU. To clarify, this is far from it, it was an actual question. I get what FSF's purpose is, but what is GNU's purpose?


> Childish prose

English is not his first language.

> childish attitude

He is one of several contributors who share that point of view. While I don't agree with it, it's something that had to be discussed sooner or later.

> inadvertently illustrated just how dysfunctional GNU actually is

Has GNU been dysfunctional? To me it appears it has been more successful than many other projects with similar resources. And about Andy Wingo, the author, looking at his commits just on guile [1], he has been much more functional than most developers are.

[1] https://git.savannah.gnu.org/cgit/guile.git/log/

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