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Richard Stallman Inducted Into the 2013 Internet Hall of Fame (fsf.org)
380 points by hornokplease 1431 days ago | hide | past | web | 158 comments | favorite

> Stallman had this to say upon his induction: "Now that we have made the Internet work, the next task is to stop it from being a platform for massive surveillance, and make it work in a way that respects human rights, including privacy."

The man never misses an opportunity to try and get people thinking about the issues that matter.

^ this is exactly where the state of the internet should be...lets fix the infrastructure before expanding it.

Well said.

In your opinion they matter.

I'm unconvinced. The majority of people are sharing more about themselves online. Not less.

Outside this niche, people seem pretty uninterested that governments monitor the internet. They pretty much assumed as much.

Stallman is just always swimming against the tide of what people actually want.

People should be allowed to share what they want. At the same time, people should be allowed to restrict others from sharing information about them.

These two are not at odds with each other. The whole idea of "look at these people with 15,000 Foursquare checkins complain that the NSA is watching them" is fallacious. People choose to share their location with Foursquare; they don't choose (and currently cannot choose) to share their location with the NSA.

Any information placed into a communications medium like the internet without proper precautions should be considered publicly accessible, including accessible to governmental intelligence services. The user chooses to upload a history of his/her location. Tag-along listeners, whether it's a shoulder surfer or a packet sniffer (including highly sophisticated state-level packet sniffers), should be considered and accounted for before this information is published.

Instantaneous perfect replication of massive strings of digits (into which meaningful information is encoded) is a double-edged sword, and it's scary for the same reasons it's valuable, and that's what people need to be educated on if they want to able to conduct private business on a major public communications platform.

I love Bruce Scheiner's quote: "trying to make digital bits uncopyable is like trying to make water not wet". Fast, viral, sometimes uncontrollable replication is an inherent property of the medium we've established. It cannot be extracted without fundamentally modifying the essence of the 'net. We must learn to accept and cope with this.

The problem here is that government intelligence services exist to serve the people. If the people do not wish for their government to spy on them, it needs to stop.

This isn't about making bits uncopyable, this is about keeping our employees on task and within scope.

The point is that it's a public comms platform and you can never be sure who's listening, even if you're on a supposedly-private website. Who's looking at that data on the other side? Which of your friends is lax about logging out and will leave your info exposed for the next visitor at the library to peruse? Which of your friends is running a crawler and saving all of that data for posterity, and what will happen to these archives?

It's just like going out on a public square -- you may hope that you'll have basic dignities respected and that no nefarious or malicious players are observing/recording, but since you can't be sure you must take reasonable precautions against potentially egregious misuses.

If Congress says the NSA is no longer allowed to this, it doesn't really affect anything -- because the NSA or a close cousin will most likely defy the essence of such an order via loophole exploitation, etc., but mostly because any reasonable expectation of privacy from any and all entities, intel service or not, while sending comms through a public platform like the internet, requires heavy, explicit defensive measures like correct usage of PGP.

That's how people need to view the network, because that's the reality. In almost all cases, your packets go through a dozen or more routers all around the world before they hit the intended recipient, and it's ridiculous to presume that none of these many nodes are an entry point for an actor who may not have your best interest at heart. It's like going out to the mall naked, and getting upset that someone took and published photos. We may hope that the people at the mall at a given time would not do this, but people realize that this is not realistic and wear clothing to prevent the exposure of their nude bodies. They take the initiative directly and personally.

That is how the internet must be viewed. If you don't want something exposed, you can hope that no "bad people" will come in contact with it, but it's much wiser to personally ensure it's covered before you take it out "in public" (aka, bouncing between dozens of anonymous nodes, sitting on a server which any employee can access (including the cleaning lady, or someone posing as the cleaning lady...), exposed to hundreds of "friends", all of whom have total freedom to copy those bits and replicate them elsewhere, intentionally or not).

Everything you wrote is indeed true, the one key point you miss is that while we should plan for dealing with the worst-case scenario that should not stop us from holding our government a higher standard than that worst-case scenario.

In fact we can do both - develop tools to make centralization of collected data harder and develop laws that make that centralization harder. Neither will ever be perfect, but the effort is still vitally important.

Except they are at odds. People are making information publicly available and are then turning around complaining that people are looking at their publicly available information.

People get to choose to share or not to share, but when they scream it out in public they do not get to choose who hears it.

This is incorrect. I haven't seen any complaint about FBI agents perusing public web sites, or deputy US Marshals poking around public portions of Facebook to try to track down a fugitive.

The flap over the last few weeks has been about government surveillance of information that was not intended to be public. Private email, private IMs, private Facebook messages, etc. Where Americans do have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

I don't think the majority of the complaints with NSA surveillance is about publicly available information. The issue is with information that they assume is private such as emails, im conversation, call records etc...

> Stallman is just always swimming against the tide of what people actually want.

Isn't that the mark of a thinking man? A drug dealer gives people what they want; a thinker tells them what they should want. So what if they don't listen? That's the normal division of labor: the prophet warns and the people ignore him.

I'd say Stallman has a very extreme set of priorities.

For most people, they just want a computer/games console/cellphone that works, and operates in the way they want it to. Whether the source code is free or not is completely irrelevant, if it fulfils the purpose.

If I buy a plastic toy for my kids, I don't feel the need to have the schematics, plastic moulds, and full assembly details for it. It's enough that it fulfils the purpose for which it was made.

Personally, I think you have to trust other people at some point. You have to trust that a hot wheels toy car won't have a secret hidden camera transmitting back to the government, just like you have to trust closed source software.

Stallman is under no delusions, he makes concessions all the time. He uses computers in a very extreme manner, finding fault with even all major Linux distros, but does not demand or expect that other do the same. He knows that other people will make practical concessions.

Fucking hell, even of Steam, the popular game distribution and DRM software (which distributes primarily DRM'd closed source games) running on Linux, he says:

“This development can do both harm and good. It might encourage GNU/Linux users to install these games, and it might encourage users of the games to replace Windows with GNU/Linux,” he wrote. “My guess is that the direct good effect will be bigger than the direct harm. But there is also an indirect effect: what does the use of these games teach people in our community?”

Would he use Steam? I can assure you not. Even so, he thinks that Steam being on Linux will likely do more good than harm. This is not extremism, this is pragmatism.

> finding fault with even all major Linux distros

I guess you did say 'major,' but http://www.gnu.org/distros/free-distros.html

Sure, but it took him a while to get to the stage of accepting what he considers "the lesser evil" (talking about Steam from his point of view).

Perhaps, but he was also pragmatic enough to kick off the GNU Project from a proprietary base and work on replacing the OS with Free software incrementally. So he has demonstrated pragmatism often when it aided his overall goals, which is something you can't say about many principled idealists.

So he understands the reasons why people use proprietary software. Is that what you say?

You're making a strawman out of Stallman's position though. It is not lost on Stallman that some hotel clerk doesn't care about the source code running on his phone. This is sort of not relevant in a very real and fundamental way. Think of it this way, do you think the same hotel clerk cares about the congress following parliamentary procedures, or tort law, or anything like that? No. But, does our society depend on such things (at least in some capacity)? Yes.

Stallman doesn't care that you don't care about getting the source code; that's just not the point at all. Also, Stallman's issue about free software is not just about not being spied upon -- and also his ideology mostly deals with software. :)

I think you largely made pron's point.

Torturing your analogy further, you don't care about the provenance of the plastic toy until it turns out that the factory in China used lead-based paint to decorate it. As an average statistical westerner, you are very angry when you learn this and want to know why your children were not protected.

Stallman is merely stating that you may want to check that your Hot Wheels car isn't going to take fifty IQ points every time your kid sticks it in his mouth.

(You don't even want to know about Barbie.)

I don't think Stallman's agenda stems (only) from paranoia. To me, Stallman represents a reminder to always think about the power structure of everything - even software. For an interesting comparison of Stallman's and Tim O'Reilly's ideologies look here: http://www.thebaffler.com/past/the_meme_hustler

I get it - not everyone has the bandwidth to worry about these things. But that is what makes RMS all the more valuable. Because the alternative is toys you can't fix yourself, and software which you can't fix yourself. Eventually every third party goes out of business and then you're stuck with useless bits.

Or worse, the trusted software company goes out of business and it turns out they were gathering up all sorts of data, and you didn't know that because it was closed source, and the way you find it out is that someone buys it all at the bankruptcy auction and you start getting a dozen calls a day and your identity gets stolen.

Also - seriously? You never fix your kids' toys?

Yes, I fix my kids toys. But I don't require the manufacturing details to do that.

Just as I don't need source code to modify/analyse software.

You use a hex editor?

Not that it defeats your broader point, but there are certainly better tools than a bare hex-editor for reverse engineering and hacking binaries.

>>You have to trust that a hot wheels toy car won't have a secret hidden camera transmitting back to the government


Weren't these the guys signing onto prism in what? 2007?

Stallman is extreme in his views. This has always tempered my respect for him. Gotta say though, he seems less extreme and more insightful given recent revelations.

Stallman supports knowledge as much as freedom.

Probably the reason that you can afford raising kids and buying them toys, is that at some point of your life you got educated, you learned to read, write, you learned math and everything else needed to land your job.

If one can hide how he made a plastic toy through legislation, then tomorrow the legislation may be used to control what one is allowed to learn.

True equality requires access to and sharing of knowledge.

> If I buy a plastic toy for my kids, .... It's enough that it fulfils the purpose for which it was made.

I sincerely doubt that. If the toy was made by child labor, would you still buy it? What if the toy was created from oil in war zones with child militias? Or what if the toy was made by companies that dumped oil in the oceans?

If you do indeed say yes that all you can about is the functionality of the toy, then I would claim that it is some strange priorities. Otherwise, you do have priorities other than the functionality of the toy.

People in fact purchase products that hit all of those points as a matter of routine. When you're in the store and your child sees an affordable, well-deserved toy that he wants, do you say, "OK, let me just run some thorough background investigation into the manufacturer's history and hiring practices before we decide if they're worthy of our money, and if they pass we'll come back and get it next week"?

For most people, they see a product for sale, they recognize that they want said product, and they purchase it. Buyers implicitly assume that the product was developed and produced basically ethically or its purveyors would be imprisoned, and that's pretty much as much thought as you can expect from the market. That's why regulatory bodies like the EPA and FDA exist.

I think more people would say the priorities of a curmudgeon who will not purchase an occasional gift for his son due to corporate politics are uncalibrated, rather than the priorities of one who simply buys the desired gift.

Systems being open have a trickle down effect of enabling many creators - that means if your kids dont like the mainstream toys they can very likely find some toys created by some small creator. Innovation is correlated to systems being open. Without open and free operating systems / compilers / debuggers we would not be seeing the proliferation of technology that we see today. Advocating for openness does not imply the expectation that every single user will use the schematics and source code to build things from scratch, it just implies that the subset of users who are unhappy with the status quo have some means of changing it.

> You have to trust that a hot wheels toy car won't have a secret hidden camera transmitting back to the government

Dude, but did you hear about the recent surveillance leaks? ;-) What was revealed is almost exactly analogous to toy having the secret hidden camera. I am puzzled a bit - you say that you have to trust other people at some point, just after revelations that we can't trust them. ;)

But if you believe that the data collected about you will never by misused by anyone, then fine - but we shouldn't dismiss Stallman's concerns, especially when they turned out to be almost exactly true.

And the majority of people don't care about whether software is open source, but it's important irregardless.

Say "free software", not "open source": http://www.thebaffler.com/past/the_meme_hustler

You focus on that, not on the use of 'irregardless'? What kind of pedant are you?

Why do you think it's important?

Is it important when I buy a wooden table that I'm given full details of how it was made, how the pieces fit together, what glue was used, what size router bits, etc?

Imagine you lived in the Potter-verse...

Now the species of the tree your table's wood was taken confers it with quite distinct qualities and, some would dare to say, "personality". The particular process used to assemble it may or may not imbue it with additional properties by performing (potentially nefarious) rituals. Ditto for the different substances that may be used as glue. The router bits may have magic properties themselves, even if the table is otherwise ordinarily Muggle-made.

The problem is not that all this could happen. The problem is your mental model of a wooden table is so dissimilar to reality that you have no way of making informed decisions on what piece of furniture to bring into your home/life.

You got your surrealism in my absurdism.

What if you wanted your wooden table to be two inches shorter? Should you be both technologically and legally prevented from sawing two inches off each of the legs?

What if you wanted to build your own wooden table? Maybe you don't need the original schematics, but should you be both technologically and legally prevented from examining your own table to learn how it was constructed?

What if (for whatever perverse reason) your wooden table did in fact come pre-installed with a miniature surveillance camera that sent footage of you back to the manufacturer. Should you be both technologically and legally prevented from removing such a device from your table?

Your arguments are all against reverse-engineering/code modification being illegal - which I think most people would agree on - not on free software.

Allowing reverse engineering is a matter of allowing people freedom.

Trying to force people to provide source code for everything is the opposite.

I thought this was a discussion about "free software" in the context of how FSF/GNU defines "free software":


The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

Access to the source code is not a precondition to understanding how software works. It certainly helps, but it's not a requirement.

If anyone believes that, they're effectively saying that it is absolutely impossible for a human to program in machine code. Which is obviously false.

Sure, you can reverse engineer a piece of software. But that's working around an obstacle. The point of free software is that there are no obstacles which would impair your ability to inspect, modify and change it in any way you see fit.

Also, I believe that most EULAs for non-free software have clauses which specifically forbid any attempt to reverse engineer it. I could be wrong, of course, but I doubt it.

You miss the point of what software freedom is supposed to be about -- it is supposed to give everyone the same ability to understand and modify the software that the original author has. The source code is almost always the most convenient and preferred form of software for authors to read and edit, so it follows that to have the same freedom they do, you should be able to read and edit the source code.

It is if your Costco wooden table suddenly decides it doesn't want to work with your Sears cutlery ^.^

"Is it important when I buy a wooden table that I'm given full details of how it was made"

A perfect demonstration of why "open source" is problematic. Stallman doesn't care especially about open source as the way things are made. He cares about freedom. If you can use your table freely how you like, great. Software happens to require access to source to preserve that freedom. Whether it was written using open-source methods is irrelevant to Free Software.

Again, this is a misunderstanding. There should be a Free Software Ideology 101 FAQ or something; probably there is but I don't have a link. Stallman doesn't care about your wooden table. However, you might care if when you decide to cut the table in half and put in an extra board to extend or replace the table legs, the government swoops in with army of patent attorneys or wood gestapos to prevent you from having your way with your own table.

It is if its from Ikea.

Is this majority you conjecture educated in (or even vaguely aware of) the subject matter? Why should their cynical assumptions be viewed as what-should-be?

I get that importance is subjective. That being the case, why would you choose to support your own opinions by appealing to the cloudy ignorance of the majority?

My opinion: some tides suck and should be swam against. Sometimes it takes an uncomfortable amount of effort to avoid drowning.

There is no thing that "[all] people actually want". There are just things which are important for a subset of people. At least RMS, myself and a few other people seem to actually want an internet without total government surveillance.

I think Stallman is concerned about surveillance in general, not only government surveillance. Corporate surveillance is much more prevalent on (and more unique to) the internet than government surveillance.

The internet will always have government surveillance, just as real life always has surveillance and monitoring.

If you don't want to be monitored, either encrypt things, or don't post it online.

Your analogy does not work, at least not where I am living; parts of my life are not monitored by the government. All of them are monitored by someone like my friends, colleagues, etc but I am okay with that, as I can directly interact with them on the same level and they are not some big, centralized entity to which I never agreed.

And i guess that you, like me, don't know the future; The question if there will always be government surveillance depends on our collective decisions and good portion of historical luck, but it isn't for sure.

I don't think you should be downvoted, that's childish. But, I will say I disagree. I am the last one to defend the hysteria over NSA's Prism, for the simple fact that this is such, in my view, low brow stuff that should not surprise any sophisticated person one bit. Nevertheless, many people that are not technologists do care. Now, I haven't done a poll and I imagine the "teeming masses" couldn't care less, nevertheless, intelligent people do care and are interested, if not up in arms. I suspect many may not be up in arms for the same reason I am. I mean really, is it that shocking that the phone companies and Google, Facebook (why would Facebook care about your privacy with respect to the government? They will share your data with anyone and everyone Zuckerberg has basically stated privacy is irrelevant in the past) would share information with the government?

Honestly, I don't see why it is is scarier to think Eric Holder might have access to your data or Eric Schmidt ... Anyway, I think people do care.

The majority of people are sharing more about themselves online.

And? What does that have to do with anything? I can share 99.99% of my personal information, but if I want that .01% to stay private, I have the right to keep it private. So what if people have gone from routinely sharing 75% to sharing 98%... pretty much everybody has something they don't share. That's what is at issue.

The majority of people are sharing more about themselves online. Not less.

So it matters even more. People need to be educated.

You are being downvoted unfairly.

I can understand where you are coming from here, people are submitting themselves to this kind of monitoring even though they have options right now to baffle it. It seems people either don't know enough to do so or don't care. That can be frustrating, but it's not grounds to say: "You've done it to yourself, this is what you wanted."

Many people do not know the level of surveillance, propaganda, and violence that is carried out on their behalf using their money. Even more people are not aware of the consequences that this has on their own lives- in a social and economic sense.

well its kinda funny to poke-fun at stallman calling him a paranoid freak...but its even funnier when quite recently we find out hmm maybe hes not so paranoid, perhaps he just knows more then we do and I feel that's a safe claim to make I wouldn't mind picking his brain for at least an hour paranoid or not the dudes a bad ass i mean ("gnu" gnus not unix) hes simply a genius disguised as a madman

What a pompous jerk. The GPL is what makes it more economical to build data-harvesting services than to sell software products that let people retain control of their own information.

What do you mean? When you think about it, you can still charge people for support, warranty etc.

I find it intriguing to consider that in history and philosophy textbooks in 100 years time, Stallman is likely to have a number of very positive (and possibly even large) contributions to humanity, while Obama is likely to be regarded very negatively for his wiretapping and with no notable positive contributions. Meanwhile today, Stallman is regarded as some kind of madman while Obama is an amazing celebrity.

People denouncing Stallman's views just because he's not charismatic and conventional has always bothered me. I hope people will start realizing that using free and open software/hardware/web services exclusively isn't something that only free software extremists should be doing.

I denounce Stallman's views because they are plain stupid and not based on reality and don't match with human psychology and sociology. Attempts to portray recent privacy debacles as the proof of Stallman being right are even more stupid, because it has nothing to do with software being open-source, free or not. If my service runs Apache, MySQL, the source is on github, but NSA has access to all the data, how does being open-source help?

People won't start using "free and open software/hardware/web services exclusively", because none of that matters for the end users. I do like and use open source for infrastructure, this is where it shines. But as Joe User I prefer highly polished (and paid) apps to "free" software which is powered by advertising. I am sick of this "advertising will pay for everything" world with ever increasing noise and subpar quality. How about paying some real money for some real work?

For a man of such strong opinions, you seem to have a poor grasp of Stallman's philosophy. He's against SaaS, and would refuse to use a hosted service. He doesn't object to charging a fee for software. The user must merely be free to use it after the purchase. Yes, people are ready to sacrifice some freedom in return for convenience. That in itself does not prove him wrong. Cellphones are tracking devices. The "cloud" does allow for wholesale surveillance. In light of recent revelations, his warnings seem to be more prescient than ever.

i object to the characterisation of such opinions as strong. they are not strong, they are weak. weak for their justification, weak for their referencing and weak for the world view which informs them.

(but i totally agree with you)

It doesn't take a genius to figure out things like cell phones being tracking devices and the cloud facilitating surveillance.

First we all knew it would happen, then we found out it was happening, and now we're saying thank god for Stallman or we'd have never known and lets be sure to listen to him from now on? Stallman's idea of freedom doesn't work unless everyone gets involved. We live in the real world here and we know that isn't happening. He needs to live and let live a little.

You've got that part very confused. Nobody is saying "thank god for Stallman or we'd have never known" - what people are saying is "Stallman was right - these tracking devices and cloud services are harmful to freedom and we should find better solutions". There may not be better solutions though, but the message is still very clear over which is harmful and what a solution might look like.

So are you saying that we should just accept everything as it is now? That way things will never change and probably only get worse.

There are however people that don't accept everything that's going on in the world and will fight for change. And they DO make change, ever heard about GNU/Linux?

> If my service runs Apache, MySQL, the source is on github, but NSA has access to all the data, how does being open-source help?

I can host it on my own server and not share the data, or make a fork which respects user privacy and compete with you. Failing that, I can verify any claims you make about the integrity of the data - what is kept and how it is stored - and petition for appropriate change.

The wast wast majority of people who write code get paid real money for real work, and the buyer get functionality, source code and most of the time, copyright assignment.

Its called a salary.

"Should be doing" and "is practical or feasible to do" are too different things. Not all of us are satisfied with browsing the web by emailing a wget daemon and reading it on a computer designed for a Chinese government contract with a 500 MHz MIPS processor. It works for Stallman because he puts a lot of value in having free software down to the BIOS level. The rest of us value other things (convenience, comfort, performance) and thus make different choices about the tech we use.

That's not to say that people not using more free (as in speech) isn't a bad thing. It's just that for quite a few things, there are either no free software alternatives or the free software alternatives are not user-friendly enough, not fully-featured enough, are not compatible enough with popular proprietary programs or proprietary hardware, or just generally aren't as good. We should work on improving the free alternatives and advocate their use, but we should also be mindful that users will often need to use a piece of proprietary software because there aren't any good alternatives available. Just saying, "If you use any proprietary software at all, you hate your own freedom" is not an effective strategy for driving mass adoption of free software.

I think it would be better described as "principles" than "views".

People do not share his principles, or worse, they give lip service to the principles but compromise. This creates internal dissonance that is difficult to reconcile without admitting that your principles do not in fact include "freedom" of this sort.

We tend to get unhappy when we believe we value something only to be shown that we do not. We can be angry at ourselves (depressed, sad, etc.) or we can look outwards.

RMS is not a sympathetic figure, so if one were to look at a target of ridicule, he is just about perfect. Stinky pinko whining hippy couch-surfer with a thing for parrots.

Hey! Don't knock parrots. I own a parrot, a very cool and interesting creature.

If only we could eliminate this harsh parrot bashing from HN :-)

Yeah, they're nice until you have a flock of feral parrots. They cruise this city like a gang of harpies!

Since they live forever, you know your 'pretty bird' is deciding which bits of you to eat first. Talking is their way of testing if you're dead yet.

I agree with you. I will defend Stallman against any strawman attacks. However, we should be honest and recognize Stallman's views as promoting a very radical and perhaps fundamentally untenable path forward. It may be that even if Stallman's view was the morally correct one, it would bring about a world/situation none of us really want to live in.

You're a bit filter bubbled. Of course Obama is an amazing celebrity. He's the president of the USA. That sort of makes him an amazing celebrity by definition.

Stallman, however, is not the president and not Brad Pitt, so he has a harder time achieving celebrity status.

Current celebs may need to be powerful or beautiful, but in the future, at least from what we've seen in the present, it is the thinkers and innovators that get remembered.

Plenty of celebrities get remembered too. Ever heard of Marilyn Monroe? It's pop culture, this is just how it works.

How many Marilyns do you remember from ancient Greece? How many thinkers?

That's a really misleading rhetorical question. Attic actors wore masks and were expected to melt into their roles; what would you say if an Attican asked you "How many theatrical technicians do you remember?" Something more appropriate would be "How many playwrights do you remember?" Many poets not only wrote their own scripts but also directed them, having bigger roles than our famous contemporaries. History notes quite a few. I can name four right off the top of my head: Aristophanes, Aeschylus, Diogenes (different man from the philosopher) and Euripides.

OP (ish) here. You've definitely made me reevaluate my statement. And for that, I thank you.

A fair point, to be sure.

Who is better known amongst the (anglo) general public - Louis XIV, the Sun King, probably the most long-lived, powerful, and reformative monarch in Europe's history... Or Marie Antoinnette, famed utterer of a vapid phrase which she probably didn't even say?

Granting (probably correctly) that Marie Antoinette is better known, the fact that you can pick out two examples with a particular relationship doesn't tell us a lot about the distributions they're drawn from. Looking at rough contemporaries, I would expect Descartes is better known than either, and Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Voltaire aren't exactly obscure.

Great point. I should also note, that when I said innovators and thinkers, that definitely included any politically related character. I'd like to think that Marie Antoinette is mostly popular because of her involvement with the French Revolution, and all of the characters relevant to that.

Well, there's always women like Helen of Troy in history.

You never know, Marilyn could go that way. Everyone knows her name, but I'd bet already many people don't even really remember how she looked, sounded like, or what she acted in.

Sure. My point was not that there were zero.

It's not a great example. From the Ancient world, the thinkers were the only ones capable of recording such things, so we have a bit of a sample bias!


Wow, how many films and photographs was ancient Greece putting out way back then?

> You're a bit filter bubbled.

And the developed world in general is filter bubbled by the mass media.

Fair point.

One could say that an intellectual's goal should be to get as little filter bubbled as possible, but then we'd all end up like the cranky people on lesswrong.com.

'cause there's no bubble there, at all.

Eh, I think that's overblown, but yeah.

You are staying very far in our niche. As much as I understand Stallman and appreciate him, I think what you propose is a little out there. Let's be honest. Stallman's view would make it nigh impossible to have software development as a profession in anything but an "in house" development sort of capacity, or perhaps it may be possible some world where everyone altruistically contributes to the development ... but let's just be practical about it. If Stallman's very ideological view had been with us from the start, it's hard to imagine the technology wheels turning very swiftly.

I'm sure you or any follower of Stallman could debate but this has been debated with Stallman before and Stallman's response is basically (paraphrasing) "yeah, well that's the way it is." If Stallman had his way en toto, then entire industries would crumble; maybe this would be great in some egalitarian fantasy but ... If you actually examine RMS' position, it is much more radical than you might think if you have only a cursory understanding and Stallman does not attempt to hide these ramifications, he merely claims his view is morally superior and the consequences be damned.

> it's hard to imagine the technology wheels turning very swiftly.

On the contrary, tech iterates most rapidly when there are no barriers to sharing. "Against Intellectual Monopoly" has many great examples of this. I think my favorite was about the steam engine; originally patented, it didn't change the world much until ~40 years later (IIRC) when the patents ran out, and a ton of different companies could manufacture them.

It's the same way with software: which stack lets you move more quickly:

  1. IBM-branded big iron hardware, Microsoft OS, Microsoft language, Oracle Database
  2. commodity hardware, Linux, LAMP
I'll bet on #2 every time, and the market seems to bear my hunch out.

You've got to be joking right? Stallman would view your "commodity hardware" as evil proprietary garbage. Also, how is the development of all of these things funded, such as Linux and so on? I'm not debating how to fund open source. I'm debating how to fund your wonderful LAMP stack in the world where Stallman's ideology is the way of the world. You certainly wouldn't have Linux kernel developers working at a proprietary software company like Novell because none of these would exist.

Honestly, on some level, while I do admire Stallman in a certain way, seeing otherwise intelligent people seriously defend the possibility of enacting this paradigm is sort of a totally fruitless endeavor. I mean, I myself couldn't imagine living in such a world. As much as I love open source (which is not something Stallman things is even minutely worthwhile) and can, from a distance, admire the notion of FSF, I can't help but think how crazy it would be for me to seriously think of myself as some sort sinner for even pondering the idea of developing a piece of software and distributing it without the source; it's sort of hard to take seriously for me. :)

You could say the same about a lot of crimes. Prostitutes, hitmen, scammers, drug dealers, a lot of professions are inherently hurtful for the society. Heck, you could say the same about banking, insurances, real estate, utilities: a lot of people would be out of a job if theit companies were honest. Entire industries rely on some degree of scamming. And yet we still complain about dishonest banks, lack of competition, etc.

Stallman's views are pragmatic: some people would lose their job but that's the price to pay to get closer to an ideal society. That's not more extremist than socialism.

Yes but it's ludicrous to equate selling software without providing the source code to hitmen. Stallman's views are not pragmatic in the sense of them being realistic in a world people would really want to live in. I have actually never heard anyone refer to Stallman's views as "pragmatic;" that's a new one for me. I was a little taken aback. :) Also, I don't really understand your examples, beyond the fact that equating those things with proprietary software is a little cuckoo. Presumably technological progress is good, having software that solves our needs is presumably good, no one seriously thinks of having "CD burning software that works well" as being in the same league as "Rapists and murderers," well no one with half a brain anyway, so it's hard to see your point exactly in this way.

If you want to say "Stallman's ideology is morally right and consequences be damned" then fine but don't sit here and compare proprietary software developers to hitmen. Let's be serious.

Without looking, who was the POTUS 100 years ago?

That's like asking "Without looking, who was a Nobel Prize winner 40 years ago?"

That's an easy one, but thanks for proving my point. (Henry Kissinger is the one I remember from 1973.)

Assuming you're from the USA, if you can't remember who was president in 1913 (Hint: there was a rather significant war we sat out until the big finish.) you're just demonstrating the stereotypes about our ignorance.

I'm not USAian and I could still guess who it is, or at least one of the presidents in 1913 since it was a year when they changed office.

Only if you forget all the financial headlines during August 2008 through 2011.

Am I the only one surprised that it took such a long time for them to do this?

How did Jimmy Wales got there before Stallman, using an ideology that was pretty much ushered by Stallman as Guerrilla Warfare?

I know that Stallman has his fair share of quirks, who doesn't? But I believe in today's world, he is more of a forgotten hero, whose "quriks" get highlighted more than his long list of achievements and just for inspiring people to join the bandwagon of open source coding.

Has anyone else even heard of the "internet hall of fame" before now?

It reminds me of those "best of the web" and "site of the day" badges people put on their sites in Web 0.95 patch level c.

Though horrible and garish, it's good to see the million dollar homepage still honouring his pledge.


> "How did Jimmy Wales got there before Stallman..."

He didn't. He's also being inducted this year.

> Am I the only one surprised that it took such a long time for them to do this?

It only started last year.

While wearing my FSF Libre Planet t-shirt, I offer my congratulations to Richard :-)

Congratulations offered, I would also like to point out that his concerns over freedom, control of your own software and data now seems even more relevant with the recent disclosures about the NSA.

I had no idea that stallman came up with the term POSIX: http://stallman.org/articles/posix.html

Many years ago, when I did my first steps in Emacs, I wrote Richard a mail asking, why it has such unusual and sometimes awkward keyboard shortcuts. He replied: "For fast and efficient editing."

I like that guy.

I was not even aware this was a thing.

It started in 2012, which we all know as the real beginning of the Internet.

Oh that makes sense, I was thinking "really, it took until 2013 to get RMS in there?" It seems like the internet hall of fame would almost be specifically created to contain Stallman.

Of COURSE if there is to be an Internet Hall of Fame, RMS has to be in it.

But they were between a rock and a hard place last year, given that the FSF was itself founded by RMS. They probably waited a year to avoid immediate whining of "RMS created an award to give to himself".

Out of curiosity, I took a look to last year's inductees, there are also a few famous name in there : Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee, Linus Torvalds, and others. http://www.internethalloffame.org/inductees/2012

Notably, in the privacy vein, Zimmermann was also inducted in 2012.

Indeed and it's a good thing they created all that GNU stuff in 2013 because obviously it didn't exist last year. :p

I wonder if his browsing habits have changed since 2007: http://article.gmane.org/gmane.os.openbsd.misc/134979

I doubt it. He still travels an awful lot, and while people often make fun of his "I browse via email" set-up, it's difficult to think of an alternative off-line cache setup that would handle long latency that well.

I honestly believe if that "read everything offline" system was proposed on some popular productivity blog as a new life hack, hipsters would be all over it.

And Knuth doesn't use e-mail at all. And Dijkstra didn't use a computer for a very long time. I think it's safe to assume that this is the class of people that develop habits that would seem strange to most people.

I heard from people at the University of Belfast say that CAR Hoar had never used the universities computer system during the time he discovered quicksort. When asked about this he supposedly answered: "I proved it works, so why should I implement it"

If anyone takes the time to read that whole thread it may change their opinion of the man. He contradicts himself and makes assertions about OpenBSD that even the casual observer would know are false. I stopped taking him seriously after reading it back in 2007.

For those who don't know, the ports tree Stallman is talking about is not installed by default. In fact, there is no option in the installer to do it for you. You must do it yourself.

Full inductees also include Aaron Swartz and Jimmy Wales


Well deserved.

Someone will not be happy with this one:

"Aaron Swartz (posthumous) Co-authored version of RSS"

Does anyone have a serious reason not to call it "GNU/Linux"? Curious.

Both "GNU" and "/" are hard to pronounce.

Is it some sort of sarcasm or you're really implying /ɡnuː/ is hard to pronounce?

I like RMS(even attended one of his talks, was fun) and he has been surprising prescient about many things.

But he still seems to be falling victim to the "Smarter people are more likely to believe in false conspiracy theories" rule.

In his post against Ubuntu's local searches being sent to Amazon, he claimed as-a-matter-of-fact that Windows sends local searches to an internet server and his friend proved so. This may be true in Windows 8.1 but is certainly not true beforehand. I figure that if someone else said something similar about FOSS in the same casual way, RMS himself would characterize(rightly so) it as FUD tactics.

Still, I do think that we need more people like him rather than everyone else who seem to be aligning themselves with some or the other corporate entity and thus lose their moral compass in the process.

Most of his detractors think that technology has outpaced him. He thinks that technology has outpaced us, rather spoilt us.

technology has outpaced him

It feels sort of weird to see such claims about a guy who was hacking on computer systems that were almost two decades ahead of everything else. (But that probably depends on what one sees as "technology". Shrinking transistor size is definitely technological progress, but I don't think that this alone has ever had a qualitative influence on the impact of computing systems - unlike their ubiquity, which, on the other hand, is not as much a technological advancement as it is a social one.)

He was a brilliant technologist. I'm not sure how much programming he does anymore. But the technology outpacing stuff ... Have you looked into the sorts of devices and technologies he currently uses?

But is he still doing that? (Honest question, I don't know) Just because you were on the bleeding edge twenty years ago, does not mean you haven't been outpaced today.

I don't think technology itself has outpaced RMS at all, but it definitely appears that he doesn't keep up on current events. I remember when he released his screed against JavaScript as if he had just discovered it, but JS had been widely used for years at that point.

It hadn't really been widely used for anything more than image rollovers though. His concerns arose when entire apps began being written in client-side javascript

what was his gripe about javascript?

The fact that software running on your computer wasn't free.

Seeing the source and nothing more doesn't qualify as 'free software'

I'd just like to interject for a moment. What you're refering to as internet hall of fame, is in fact, GNU/internet hall of fame, or as I've recently taken to calling it, GNU plus internet hall of fame. Internet hall of fame is not an operating system unto itself, but rather another free component of a fully functioning GNU system made useful by the GNU corelibs, shell utilities and vital system components comprising a full OS as defined by POSIX. Many computer users run a modified version of the GNU system every day, without realizing it. Through a peculiar turn of events, the version of GNU which is widely used today is often called 'internet hall of fame', and many of its users are not aware that it is basically the GNU system, developed by the GNU Project. There really is a internet hall of fame, and these people are using it, but it is just a part of the system they use. Internet hall of fame is the kernel: the program in the system that allocates the machine's resources to the other programs that you run. The kernel is an essential part of an operating system, but useless by itself; it can only function in the context of a complete operating system. Internet hall of fame is normally used in combination with the GNU operating system: the whole system is basically GNU with internet hall of fame added, or GNU/internet hall of fame. All the so-called 'internet hall of fame' distributions are really distributions of GNU/internet hall of fame.

Just now? Geez. This guy should've been inducted in the first year.

He belongs to Wall of Shame.

Atleast you should explain why you think he belongs there ?

Probably that video of RMS eating something from his foot...

What about it, exactly? Doesn't affect your life, shouldn't make a difference.

If he's the representative of the Free Software Movement, is it unreasonable to have certain expectations of what this representative presents himself as?

If he was only representing himself, as if he was just a writer or a programmer, you'd be right.

His views on open source represent that of the Free Software Movement, I don't see anyone questioning the german football coach's abilities of football and managing the german team due to him eating a booger on live tv during a game.

Yet when it comes to Stallman, his detractors seem to focus on ridiculing his person rather than argue against what he is saying.

If I find anything disgusting, it's such cowardly behaviour.

We're all entitled to our own personal quirks, but Stallman is an outlier with issues compounded by more issues.

Obviously these have an impact on his ability to be a spokesperson because they are a constant distraction.

Why is it so insane to suggest he's moved to an "emeritus" position so someone new can push the organization forward?

It's ironic that an organization dedicated to change is reluctant to change anything of this nature.

As demonstrated recently, even the Pope is capable of stepping aside when it's best.

I'd delete this comment if I were you. You're running the risk of getting hellbanned for this.

Yup, apparently very few capitalists around here. It's easy to shout rah rah rah in response to RMS from the sidelines but if he had his way very few of the posters here would be making a living writing code, perhaps they don't though, that would explain it I guess.

I've not been a HN member for long but the support for Stallman here is one of the most surprising things I've seen about this place.

There are Congressmen that are really, really far left and far right. They're widely seen as kooks, but they serve a valuable purpose - they go against the groupthink of everyone else and get them to think about things differently. Sure, they're crazy. Often their ideas are completely at odds with reality. But the more rational parts of their beliefs also get communicated with their kookiness, and it helps everyone.

For example, Dennis Kucinich made a great Congressman. That being said, he would most definitely not make a good President.

Richard Stallman is the same way. Is it a terrible idea to take all of his ideas and mold the programming community in his image? Yes. It would be impractical and completely insane to expect everyone to work for free. But that doesn't mean that we should completely discount everything that he says. There are great ideas in there right alongside the craziness.

>It would be impractical and completely insane to expect everyone to work for free.

Do you have any examples of him saying that code should be free of cost. As far as I know he has no problem with people charging for programs, only that the source code should be made available to recipients, along with rights to modify and redistribute (the latter obviously poses problems for business-schemes based upon artificial scarcity).

I also seem to recall him arguing for micropayment schemes to be used to finance developers (and artists), this is something which could perhaps become a reality in the (hopefully not too distant) future, as shown by successful kickstarter type projects like for example openshot:


You can respect and understand RMS without being a full fledged member of his ideology club. A tremendous amount of this industry exists because of Stallman, even if things like "open source" are actually not in any way representative of Stallman's view, in his own mind, they were at least an inspiration. Much good has probably been done in Stallman's name, most of which probably Stallman would think shouldn't exist in the first place. :) Anyway, you should be more fair to him. If Stallman ever gets his way and the world changes to his ideology, then we can worry!

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