Subject: Re: improving project maintainership
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: 11 Feb 2002 19:49:01 +0900

>>>>> "rms" == Richard Stallman <> writes:

    rms> sjt writes:

    sjt> I recognize that from your point of view it's an "if you're
    sjt> not part of the solution, you're part of the problem" issue.

    rms> You are attributing to me views that were expressed by
    rms> someone else.

The expression is mine, I'm not quoting anyone.

    rms> They are not mine.

I'll keep that in mind, and not use that phrase again.  However, I
believe it implies an accurate description of your behavior with
respect to users of non-free software.

    rms> I am sorry if you expected us to set them aside, but you
    rms> should have known better.

No, I neither expect, nor ask, you to set them aside.  I ask you to
consider the possibility that your core beliefs would be better
implemented by policies different from those you have used in the

As for "knowing better," that was the first time I observed GNU
obstruction at first hand.  You write "neutrality is acceptable in
some cases."  I don't know what you think of as "neutral", but to me
it would have involved participating in the discussions, and making
sure that all references to ssh and scp were purged from the
documentation of the standard and from the GNU Emacs implementation.
So pretty clearly in this case GNU's position went well past
neutrality, and into obstruction.

I think there are many others on this list who have had similar
experiences.  I think that, in terms of the necessary basic capability
of free software, the GNU Project is _done_.  You've managed to
inspire that trick not once, but four times now (I've read that the
*BSDs were inspired by the GNU Project).

Now what we are dealing with is a world in which software is advancing
at an extremely rapid pace.  Where most of that advance is taking
place in the proprietary arena, backed by firms that pay hundreds of
programmers to work full-time on large-scale integrated projects.
Realistically, free software is not ever going to be able to make
proprietary software unnecessary by internal growth; the most you can
hope for is to outlaw proprietary software.  Until that is managed,
the question is how do we generate the effort necessary to (1) port
what is needed from the Proprietary Side, and (2) do some innovating

I think that _is_ the question, and that part of the answer is better
cooperation between the GNU Project and entities that are producing
free software, but are not necessarily exclusively devoted to free

    rms> I was not convinced it would be temporary; I saw nothing to
    rms> show it would be.  I decided not to bet that it would be.

That's incredibly risk averse.  Free software programmers will brave
arrest to implement a simple protocol, SSH had no such issues.  The
odds favoring appearance of a free implementation of SSH within a
couple of years were astronomical.  Today, not only is OpenSSH
preferred by all right-thinking people, but I'm told it is more robust
and reliable than the non-free version.  I'm sorry, but in the event,
the burden of proof is on you to justify your assessment of the
likelihood of "temporary".

The examples you give in the other post (Motif, Java) are a completely
different issue, full-scale programming systems products, as complex
as OSes in themselves.  And even there free software programmers have
persevered, eventually forcing the OSF to cough up the reference
implementation, and providing not one but three implementations of the
Java VM (one implicit, the Java backend of gcc if I understand the
architecture correctly).

    sjt> I see win-win written all over that deal.

    rms> I do make deals like this when they seem win-win to me.

Yes, I know.  I mostly work on Mule, remember?  I still don't
understand what motivated that deal.  You were and are right about
Unicode.  And the lack of copyright assignment looks really funny in
that context.

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
              Don't ask how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.