Why Cooperation With RMS Is (Still) Impossible

It’s not just the free software song, but that every interaction with the man is like playing Simon Says with a malicious 6 year old.

I remember once, many years ago, a friend of mine logged in to RMS’s account to show me some funny things (RMS used to be anti-password, and so when they forced him to use a password, he chose an easy one and told everyone about it, so I don’t think he’d view this as illicit). The thing that impressed me the most was his huge collection of emacs abbrevs.

I guess RMS got a lot of mail from people wanting to discuss things with him. So he had this gargantuan list of abbreviations to use in his email responses. So, for example – and I’m making up the exact words here, but I’m keeping the spirit true – someone might send him mail saying “But shouldn’t developers be compensated for their efforts?” and he could reply by typing “compensation” and that would insert into the email the paragraph “If we eliminate copyright as a means of encouraging people to develop software, at first less software will be developed, but that software will be more useful. It is not clear whether the overall delivered user satisfaction will be less; but if it is, or if we wish to increase it anyway, there are other ways to encourage development, just as there are ways besides toll booths to raise money for streets.”

My friend showed me an email message RMS had sent him. Sure enough, it was nearly all straight out of his abbrevs file.

I guess one could view this as a clever time-saving device by someone who received hundreds of email messages daily and who wanted to answer them all. And yet, over the years, I’ve grown to view it as somehow disrespectful, as a sign of someone for whom communication was a one way street, facing outward.

I was reminded of this topic by jvm’s recent news item about RMS’s views on console games over at Curmudgeon Gamer. Be sure to read the comments. Plus ├ža change, plus c’est la meme chose.