Re: It's Dave Winer's turn to get savaged by RMS

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From: Dave Winer (
Date: Tue Sep 12 2000 - 21:39:48 PDT

This seems like a serious message so I'll try to give it a serious reply.

I am not critical of open source and free software. I have been critical of
people who have stood in front of the parade and marketed this stuff and
created walls around a group of developers and kept them from working with
other developers. The poster boy for the evil side of open source, imho, is
Eric Raymond, a man who cannot stoop too low to polarize people. I have
problems with all others who profit from open source, which I see as the
opposite of commercial software. It's like making money from public
television, to me, not a good business to be in.

The furor of the PR around open source over the last few years, which is
finally settling down (partially thanks to the debate over commercial music,
partially just because hype can't last more than a couple of years in the
software world).

I did a survey of developers who read Scripting News, a fair number are open
source developers and asked if people wanted to work together or not. They
want to.

Part of this has been a process. For a long time I thought that all open
source developers were anti-commercial, then people started reasoning with
me, and while the leaders talked up the walls between us, the actual
developers didn't buy it. In fact many open source developers are also
commercial developers.

I have myself released open source software, for my whole career of 25+
years. I learned how to program reading the source of Unix at UW-Madison in
the mid-late 70s. I learned how to program the Apple II reading Woz's code,
and the IBM PC using Peter Norton's code. I release huge amounts of the
Frontier source code. I have released open source under the MIT license, one
quite substantial program and lots of little shit over the years.

To say I am critical of free or open source is a pretty superficial read of
my work, and my writing, imho. It's the leadership I don't care for. They're
as bad at building walls as the commercial companies that came before,
Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Sun, etc.

My philosophy is to work together. It's just that simple. I care about
software and users and publishing. I care about the art of software. I
believe it should be protected free speech just like writing, which I don't
see as different from software writing. I don't see how you can have free
speech in writing without free speech in software, when the patent wars heat
up in the next few years, and then melt down, you'll see what I mean.
Everyone's filing patents now for every stupid piece of shit idea. When the
patents are issued the lawyers will fully run our art. We just have a few
years left, if that much.

I also think we have a natural alliance, against patents. When a commercial
developer innovates and creates new prior art, even if the code isn't free,
the ideas are, and that's another thing that an open source developer or a
commercial developer can implement in the future without fear of being shut
down. We should support each other on this, even if we disagree on other

Anyway, I'm writing this real fast. I hope it makes sense. And to rms,
greetings, I don't think we've ever met, but we have a common friend who
loves us both, Sylvia.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Kragen Sitaker" <>
To: <>
Cc: <>
Sent: Tuesday, September 12, 2000 9:19 PM
Subject: Re: It's Dave Winer's turn to get savaged by RMS

> Ken Coar writes:
> > Robert Harley wrote:
> > >
> >
> > What's particularly obnoxious is that among the actions and motives
> > rms ascribes to Dave are precisely those in which he has indulged
> > when attacking me (if not others).
> Let me list the actions and motives RMS ascribes to Dave in the article:
> a- disgust for RMS
> b- disgust for RMS's work
> c- passion in his disgust
> d- rebuking RMS for things RMS has done
> e- imagining things Dave would disapprove of [which RMS has not done]
> f- rebuking RMS for these things Dave has imagined
> >From my reading of Dave's past writing, A through C are definitely
> true, and are not limited to RMS, but applies to the whole
> free-software and open-source movements.
> Here's the piece I think RMS is responding to:
> Thank you. Don't give in to Stallman. Open source should not have
> restrictions. Stallman's philosophy is not open source, it's not the
> spirit of sharing, it's not generous. It has other purposes, it's
> designed to create a wall between commercial development and free
> development. The world is not that simple. There are plenty of
> commercial developers who participate in open source. Python belongs
> in commercial products. How does that hurt Python? Why should Python
> adopt Stallman's goals? What has he done to build Python? (Maybe I'm
> missing something.) I have a different philosophy which is
> incompatible with GPL, I will support any open source developer who
> truly lets the source go. Also, I much prefer the term "commercial" to
> "proprietary", which is perjorative, imho. (It's possible to make
> commercial software which is quite open and has major non-proprietary
> elements.)
> (From
> It appears that Dave is accusing RMS of trying to make Python
> incompatible with proprietary software. (I'm using "proprietary" here
> because it means something different from "commercial", and I mean
> "proprietary", not "commercial", but I understand that Dave means
> "proprietary" rather than "commercial" --- since, obviously, the GPL is
> not incompatible with commercial development.)
> RMS asserts that he has not done this, and I believe him. This means
> that Dave has, in some sense, imagined it. (Unless I have
> misunderstood him.)
> I think the sense in which Dave has imagined it is that Dave has read
> some bits of the discussion and misunderstood the situation. I think
> Dave has exhibited quite a bit of general animosity toward free
> software in general and RMS in particular, and it is reasonable to
> guess that this animosity has predisposed him to misunderstand the
> situation. I don't think it's reasonable to assert it as a fact.
> So I think Dave is definitely doing items E and F, but RMS's phrasing
> of them was unnecessarily vicious and seems designed to worsen the
> situation rather than to heal it.
> I haven't seen Dave do D. Has he? Is that the issue?
> About "proprietary" vs. "commercial": Apache is commercial. IBM, among
> others, sells it. It was built by commercial developers who were
> working for money. But it's not proprietary. Gopherd is noncommercial
> software developed and released by a university, and could not actually
> be used for commercial purposes, last I heard. But it is proprietary.
> Someone on FoRK said that "proprietary" and "commercial" were mutually
> exclusive; I think they meant something like "orthogonal", because a
> lot of software is both proprietary and commercial.
> About the ASF license: AFAIK, RMS doesn't have any issues with the ASF
> license; it's just that it's written in such a way that you can't
> legally link it with GPL-licensed code. It would certainly be possible
> to change the GPL to accommodate it, but I doubt that this is a high
> enough priority that the FSF will do it.
> Ken, which things did RMS accuse you of?
> [Repliers: please don't Cc RMS unless you think he'd be interested in
> reading your response; he gets a lot of email. RMS, you're welcome to
> reply privately or publicly if you like, especially if something I have
> said is inaccurate. FoRK allows open posting.]
> --
> <> Kragen Sitaker
> Perilous to all of us are the devices of an art deeper than we ourselves
> possess.
> -- Gandalf the Grey [J.R.R. Tolkien, "Lord of the Rings"]

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