I think we can all agree that Free Software is a glorious thing. The Free Software movement has had an overall extremely positive impact on the tech sector. And one of the chief architects behind this movement, Richard M. Stallman (known as RMS), deserves one heck of a high-five for the work he has put into it over the years.
But, I think we can also agree that sometimes RMS really sticks his foot in his mouth (occasionally, literally). Statements like "I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children," just come a little too often.
MORE FROM THIS AUTHOR: What if Linux went closed source?
Case in point: A few days ago, RMS instructed people to "tell people that Ubuntu is shunned for spying" in a blog post titled "Ubuntu Spyware: What to Do?"
Yep. That's the founder of the Free Software Foundation, speaking from the organization’s official website, claiming that the most popular Linux distro is a spy. And we should shun them. He then went on to insinuate that Ubuntu takes part in the "abuse of the users." That's some pretty stern stuff.
Stern stuff that the non-Linux news outlets of the world will pick up and run with. Nothing is quite so fun to watch as the Linux and Open Source communities try to rip each other apart, right?
Can anything good come of RMS making statements like this? Not really. Plus... it's more than a bit misleading.
So Jono Bacon – Ubuntu Community Manager – decided to call RMS on it, and wrote up a very thoughtful response. It was well reasoned, kind and spot-on. And it called out RMS's article for exactly what it is... FUD. Bacon's response was not an inflammatory write-up. It was certainly far, far less inflammatory than what RMS initially said. The most offensive thing that Bacon wrote was that RMS's position "seems a bit childish to me."
The internet pounced. And, within three days, Jono Bacon had officially apologized for writing that.
Right about then, deja-vu kicked in.
A little under a year ago, RMS came on a show I used to host called "The Linux Action Show." The result was... explosive. I won't go into detail here, as many of you will know that story, but let's just say "he said some extreme things that I disagreed with."
And, boy howdy, did the Internet pounce. Roughly a week later, I officially apologized for having that disagreement. [Careful readers will note that it took me almost twice as long to apologize as it did for Jono Bacon. Which tells me this: I am roughly twice as stubborn as Jono.]
Was Jono right to offer an apology? Was I? Honestly, I'm not sure. I did what I thought was the right thing at the time. As, I'm sure, did Jono.
There certainly seems to be a pattern forming, though:
Step 1) Disagree with RMS.
Step 2) [Something happens on the internet.]
Step 3) Apologize to RMS.
[As an aside: I spoke briefly with RMS after he made the statement that Ubuntu should be shunned for spying. I was curious if he had been in contact with folks at Canonical about his specific issues. His response, which I find somewhat fascinating, is as follows: 'We talked with them, and they tried to obfuscate and spin the issue. They also asked us to be nice (not use words such as "spyware").']