[conspire] A sometimes scarily small community, is ours

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sun Jan 1 21:15:00 PST 2006

Quoting Nick Moffitt (nick at zork.net):
> Of course, this leads me to the one remaining and burning question from
> this whole ridiculous affair:  Just how did so many copies of this
> document escape into the wild without your name on them?

OK, here's the whole shebang (warning: long), for those who might
possibly care:

 Date: Sat, 31 Dec 2005 20:09:07 -0800
 From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
 To: Jim Thompson <jim at netgate.com>
 Subject: Re: More on he Eric S. Raymond Rick-Moen-author-credit-remover-o-matic
 X-Mas: Bah humbug.
 User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.9i

Quoting Jim Thompson (jim at netgate.com):

> I think its a bit too early for legal threats.

Just to clarify, I intended no legal threat in this matter, and would
not anticipate making any.  I would like us to be all friends, here.
(We may have met, but I can't at this moment recall it.  My apologies if
I'm simply being forgetful.)

> It's done.

Thank you.

Honestly, it is not correct to say that I'm the _original_ author.  As
it happened, Eric and I found out, while chatting on entirely unrelated
matters, that we were each separately attempting to write the same
essay, so we combined forces to produce a joint one, instead.  It really
literally was a joint work.  We were each generating passages of text 
on the subject and exchanging them via e-mail, with an eye to producing
something like the resulting essay.

Eric ended up taking the initial combined ASCII copy, organising it,
tagging it with DocBook XML markup, and posting at his site (first
tuxedo.org, later catb.org) the earlier and still canonical HTML copy.
Initially, he put only his name as author; I consider this an entirely
innocent omission, and I'm aware that some DocBook XML toolsets make it
a little difficult to kludge in things like multiple authors, as a
matter of mechanics.

You should please not discount the tremendous amount of work Eric put
into making the essay a coherent piece rather than just a patchwork of
the cranky-old-man observations we were sharing in e-mail:  Although
either of us probably could have done that plus the DocBook XML
production work, it _was_ Eric who did 100% of that part, and I for one
really appreciated it.[1]

After a couple of times getting some of my own rather distinctively
phrased passages[2] cited to me (as "Eric's"), on mailing lists and
newsgroups, I asked Eric to please correct the author attribution in the
posted copy -- so I would cease having that sort of freaky encounter in
public fora.  He did so, soon thereafter.  (I didn't even notice who was
mentioned on the copyright statement, at that time.)

I decided in 2003 to start maintaining a separate copy for a bunch of
purely functional reasons:  It's really rather difficult in practice to
continue to jointly maintain a two-author document, and it was simply
easiest to copy of our HTML version and start hacking it directly, to
scratch a few itches that had been bugging me because I'm a notorious
pedant.  ;->

That included amending the copyright notice to reflect what seemed to me 
the reality of it being a joint work.[3]  (As I'm sure you're aware,
ever since adoption of the Berne Convention, copyright notices per se
have no legal effect: I assume Eric's not adding my name to his copy's
copyright notice was, also, entirely innocent.)

In a spirit of respect for Eric's work, I've taken great care not to
injure his interests with my separate draft.  For example, I've not
purported to authorise third-party copies, and certainly would not do
anything of the sort without consulting him.

I've been meaning to re-sync my newer edits with Eric's, but haven't had
the time to do so.  (Eric probably never noticed my second public
copy and its separate changelog before your mails.)  In part, I wanted
to take the time to stress to Eric, when I caught up, that I was _not_ 
aggreived by anything, which tends to take more time and interactiveness
than just a straight technical discussion.  Actually, I've been afraid
that someone would notice my terse changelog comments and overinterpret
them, so in that sense this whole matter is in a way my fault.

While I was lightly overhauling parts of the essay, I noticed a
more-fundamental problem:  After all that work, we'd produced an essay
that was so lengthy that probably most of its intended audience --
newcomers -- weren't heeding it.  It was immensely popular, but only in
the "preaching to the choir" sense that project _leaders_ and technical 
people loved it.  

I've been intending to write a parallel piece of about 1/8 that length,
aiming for a William Strunk grade of pithiness, but it's a much more
difficult task, and I've not yet made much headway.  But that's why I've 
deferred work on the earlier essay.

I'm sorry if I sounded a little militant in my earlier mail, but I was
put offbalance (and, well, distressed) by your implication of ethics
violation by Eric, especially given that it was supposedly against me,
but... well... even in general.  Eric's in my experience one of the more
ethical people I know, and has consistently dealt with me in a
thoughtful and reasonable manner -- and to my knowledge with others,
too.  (I say that as a pretty harsh and cynical judge of character.)
People keep going out of their way to slag him, and it's really pretty
unfair.  He's one of the good guys.  Watching that sort of interpersonal
demolition derby is one reason why I have personally never take up
blogging:  It seems to have the effect of putting up a huge "kick me"

I wouldn't say that about Eric if I didn't believe it.  You're free to
hold a different opinion if you must, but I wanted to just take the
opportunity to say that, since the matter came up.

And thank you again for amending your blog page.  

[1] At that time, practically all of the candidate DocBook XML toolchains 
were both arguably immature and dependent on proprietary Sun Java
pieces.  I could have done DocBook SGML at that time, but might have had
difficulty doing DocBook XML given that I'd gone 100% open-source / free
software and was reluctant to make exceptions.

[2] I think it was in late 2001, and involved my passage that includes
"Odds are, you'll screw up a few times, on hacker community forums -- in
ways detailed in this article, or similar.  And you'll be told exactly
how you screwed up, possibly with colourful asides.  In public."  In
general, one way to distinguish my passages is that in general they're a
little more ascerbic.

Consulting my saved mail, I find that it was indeed Sept. 2001, and
things I said to Eric at the time included "By the way, I notice you
have a copyright notice on it listing your name.  If you consider it
most appropriate, I'll be glad to give you my copyright title, such as
it was."  Which might, _alone_, explain Eric never adding my name to the
copyright notice.  But we never actually did any transfer of title.

[3] As opposed to collective work, these being distinct models of
multiple authorship within copyright law.

Cheers,                   Now, it's time to hack the real world, and let other
Rick Moen                 people write Web sites about it.
rick at linuxmafia.com                                   -- Donald B. Marti

 Date: Sat, 31 Dec 2005 20:49:27 -0800
 From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
 To: Jim Thompson <jim at netgate.com>
 Subject: Re: More on he Eric S. Raymond Rick-Moen-author-credit-remover-o-matic
 X-Mas: Bah humbug.
 User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.9i

Hi, Jim.  One thing I notice:

   "I do find it interesting that the version of the essay sans any
   credit to Rick Moen is far more popular than the one that does."

I don't know of any copy that lacks an _author credit_ for me.  In
particular, the one on Eric's site has had one since some time in _late_
2001.  (We jointly wrote the bulk of the basic text in Sept. 2001, via
exchanges of e-mail, so it had only one author listed in the public HTML
copy for some months, but never thereafter.)  Let me explain:

He initially posted the HTML in (I think) Sept. 2001, listing just
himself as author.  One could debate why he did that, but I didn't even
really object until after I'd had random members of the public quote
passages of my own writing back to me as "Eric's".  At that point, I
asked Eric to list me as co-author -- or, I said, just "contributor"
would be acceptable, too -- because on reflection the experience of 
having my own prose quoted back to me as someone else's was just too 
freaky, and because people were looking at me skeptically when I 
casually mentioned that major parts of it were my writing.  

He took the high road and did list me as co-author.  Which is typical of
Eric's generosity of spirit.  I really mean it:  Eric's absolutely one
of the good guys.

You may be overinterpreting my overly terse changelog comment about
_copyright notices_.  This is _distinct_ from the author credit at the
top of the piece, and is the part that says "Copyright (C) [Year] [Name]".
That snippet on catb.org (still) has only Eric's name -- which I
consider strictly an innocent omission.  My changelog comment was
intended to note my correcting (in my view) the copyright statement's
name list -- not the _author credit_ (at the top of the essay), which
had already been complete on Eric's Web-site instance for two years.

I would speculate that the reason so many places on the Web still hyperlink 
to the essay as being just by Eric (with no co-author mentioned) is that 
they created those hyperlinks in the first few months of the essay's
existence, when that's what the HTML at tuxedo.org (later moved to catb.org) 
stated.  Don't forget, it became an extremely popular work within a very
short time span.  Webmasters created link anchor text during the first couple
of months, and never re-checked it.  (Why would they?  One doesn't
normally expect an essay to suddenly sprout additional authors.)

That outdated anchor text on numerous third-party Web sites isn't Eric's

Additionally, when I set up my own separate copy in 2003 in order to
start revising it and later remerge those changes with Eric, I did
absolutely nothing to publicise my copy.  Why?  Because it's been
partially a working copy for editing purposes, and because I hadn't
gotten around to discussing the matter with Eric.  Anyhow, that explains
why there are few hyperlinks to the instance at linuxmafia.com.

 Date: Sat, 31 Dec 2005 20:16:19 -0800
 From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
 To: "R. Scott Belford" <scott at hosef.org>
 Subject: Re: Aloha Rick - A Jewel from the Flames
 X-Mas: Bah humbug.
 User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.9i

Quoting R. Scott Belford (scott at hosef.org):

> Aloha Rick

Greetings of the season!  Mahalo!

> Having been cc'd in Jim's emails, I took it upon myself to do some 
> research.  I now know who you are and was able to modify my gallery from  LW
> http://www.hosef.org/gallery/lwsf05/DSCF0348
> It's a pretty good shot; however, I was not using red-eye protection, so 
> it is somewhat sinister.

Sinister has its uses, but _man_ did I need a haircut, that day!

> Anyhow, it was great to learn from you in the BOF at LW, and I am sorry 
> that our paths crossed like this.  I think a lot of Jim, and he has been 
> helpful to HOSEF.  He seems to be pissing a lot of people off, though.

Jim seems all right.  I was just a bit alarmed at what seemed to be
escalating into character assassination, with me being used as a
bludgeon.  In a sense, as I was just explaining to Jim in e-mail, it's 
slightly my own fault for having cryptic notes in my HTML copy's
changelog that were easily misinterpreted as some sort of authorship
fight, which actually was not the case -- nor was it the case that "How
to Ask Questions the Smart Way" was originally my own work and only
later worked on by Eric.  In fact, Eric and I both discovered (in 2001)
that we had been separately composing the same sort of essay, and simply
joined forces to produce the copy that (at first) was publicly
accessible only on Eric's pages, and then (starting 2003) also had a
slightly varliant fork inside my linuxmafia.com knowledgebase.

> but perhaps you can attend our inaugural PFOSSCON in January 2007?

Thank you very much for the invitation.  Family budget permitting, I'd 
love to come, but will have to see.

 Date: Sun, 1 Jan 2006 00:49:32 -0800
 From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
 To: "R. Scott Belford" <scott at hosef.org>
 Subject: Re: Aloha Rick - A Jewel from the Flames
 X-Mas: Bah humbug.
 User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.9i

Quoting R. Scott Belford (scott at hosef.org):

> The best I can tell in this peer-reviewed world of FOSS, Jim is quite 
> astute at noticing anomalies. 

That is indeed a good skill to have.  Some anomalies will probably
remain mysterious because people's private interests are involved.  I
wasn't thrilled, in this case, about airing in front of others the
reasons for my separate draft of the joint essay, and its particular
differences, for the good but nobody-else's-business reason that I
haven't yet discussed the matter with Eric.  And now that conversation,
when it _does_ occur, may have been rendered all the more awkward.  I
hope not, but it could be so.

Therefore:  Just because one notices an anomaly doesn't mean it's really
a good thing, i.e. (using your words), "for the integrity of the
culture", to insist on probing into it.

Jim essentially put me in a position where I was forced to choose
between allowing an injustice to proceed without objection, or disclose
private affairs, that should have remained entirely between me and Eric,
to a stranger.  This didn't make me happy, and I suspect it wouldn't
have made you happy, either.  

> Thanks for forwarding the emails.

You're quite welcome.  

I hope Jim takes the trouble to correct his remaining claim (on
http://www.smallworks.com/) that Eric's is a "version of the essay sans
any credit to Rick Moen".  That is simply untrue, and I have asked Jim
to correct it.

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