parker's stuff

"The Code: Story of Linux" documentary →

It has taken me several weeks to watch this entire video and for good reason: it’s a bit silly in places. The narrator sounds like a 14-year-old guy and it triggers the evil monkey voices in my brain that say, “This guy doesn’t have authority on this subject.”

Well, much of what I have learned overlaps. And it includes several wonderful interviews with the luminaries in the Linux world early on.

One quote from Richard Stallman totally stopped me in my tracks. It starts around 33:40 in the video.

NARRATOR: Many saw free software also as a way of making money and needed a less radical concept. Enter: open source.

ERIC RAYMOND: We looked at the history of advocacy in what at the time was still mostly called the “free software” movement, and concluded it hadn’t worked. That in fact the rhetoric and tactics used by Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation probably left us worse off than we were when we started.

LINUS TORVALDS: The term “open source” doesn’t really imply the political issues like it used to and the “free software” term still does.

RICHARD STALLMAN: There is now a second movement, the “open source” movement, where they consider only the practical benefits. They refuse–and I mean that literally–they carefully avoid the issues of principle, freedom, ethics, and making a good society for people to live in.

ERIC RAYMOND: That kind of language is implicitly threatening to peopel whose day to day concerns are “How do I increase my shareholder value,” or “How do I keep control of my business,” or “How do I address my actual down-to-earth problems?” People like that, when you walk into their offices and say, “You should use all open source for your business because sharing is good and hoarding is evil,” it doesn’t work!

RICHARD STALLMAN: I am not against business. I don’t believe in abolishing business. I do business myself. But I believe business should not dominate all of life. The rules of society should not be chosen primarily to please business.

That is a very interesting critique of the open source movement, and one that explains my simultaneous excitement and reluctance regarding the “free software” movement.