[conspire] A sometimes scarily small community, is ours

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sun Jan 8 16:31:04 PST 2006

I know I should probably just give this up, but there's one point I
wanted to highlight:

  ...they simply twisted the facts in order to get in a cheap shot.  If
   a reader gets fooled by this, then they've achieved their aim of
  slagging Eric.  If not, then the page's authors still get off scot
  free, be cause they're anonymous and therefore unaccountable.

Not that it helps a lot, but this syndrome seems to be an Internet
thing, rather than specifically a Linux thing:  Punks of all ages
deliberately hide their attempts at character assassination behind
"handles" and effectively anonymous webmail addresses.  This is not a
huge problem on forums where casual libel and juvenile personal slurs
are the norm (adequacy.org outposts such as Slashdot), but Wikipedia is
also badly affected, and LiveJournal even is so deep into it that
posting information that in any way identifies a poster is treated as a
"violation of privacy" and gets one thrown off. 

And it's not just carefree, no-accountability libel, either.  It's also 
copyright violation, and similar misbehaviour.  If hypothetically I
wanted to insist that a bunch of the existing mirrors of "How to Ask
Questions the Smart Way" update their 2001-era versions as required by
the very generous mirroring policy, I'd find that nearly impossible in 
some cases, because of deliberately bogus contact information.  E.g.,
http://www.madchat.org/sysadm/unix.guide/smart-questions.html has no
maintainer links on the Web pages, the domain's whois information is
faked and routed through an anonymising remailer at gandi.net, and 
they ignore inquiries.

If you want to know why our Hollywood overlords want DMCA-type takedown
mechanisms at their disposal in every jurisdiction, there's why.

 Date: Sun, 8 Jan 2006 09:25:35 -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):

> >You seem to still be hung up on the copyright notice, confusing that
> >with author credit -- which Eric fixed at my request around the end of
> >2001.
> No, I'm hung up on the number of times that google finds the document  
> sans any reference to 'moen'.
> http://www.google.com/search?q=%22how+to+ask+questions+the+smart+way% 
> 22+-moen

Ah, OK.  I see what you mean.

There are a couple of things to note, here:  

1.  The lion's share of the publicity happened immediately after Eric
posted the initial HTML version, which for the first couple of months
showed only Eric's author credit -- until I asked him to add me as
either contributor or co-author (and he did the latter).  People who,
then in Sept. 2001, started referring to it as "Eric Raymond's essay"
tended to never notice the amendation.  

2.  I've noticed that even people who look right _at_ the 2002-and-later
two-author versions most often notice the name they know and disregard
the one they don't.  It's human perversity.

I checked with Nick Moffitt and Don Marti on this latter point, and they
confirm my perception.  Nick says he's reminded of an old Chicago
political joke about the press's selective perception, where someone out
of favour with them walks on water, and the press's coverage the next
day says "CAN'T SWIM".  (I.e., it's mildly interesting that people 
selectively fail to notice my name, but the effect is pretty easy to
understand, and isn't really Eric's doing.)

Anyhow, your Google search doesn't find "versions of the essays sans any
credit to Rick Moen":  It finds _mentions_ of the essay sans any
_mention_ of Rick Moen.

There do exist some number of _versions_ of the essay sans mention of me:
Every single one of them is an unauthorised mirror copy of the 2001
initial HTML posting, in violation of copyright law.  There are also
about 100+ pastings of the 2001 HTML text into various Web forums.
I now track this situation, here:

The copying policy Eric and I specified _does_ permit verbatim mirrors
or translated copies:  Translations aren't required to keep up with
changes to the master copy, but English-language mirrors are. 

I've made a few changes to the introductory section and changelog, on
the working draft copy you found in my Linuxmafia.com Knowledgebase tree 
to make the situation a little clearer and bring my copy up to date.
I've also sent mail to Eric, urging him to look over my improvements and 
consider merging them into his DocBook XML source, to the extent possible.

[http://esr.1accesshost.com/ :]

> The 'sed' thing is fact.

But deliberately distortive -- obviously and dishonestly so.  

That "core Linux developer" quotation in context quite obviously was 
intending "Linux" in its sense of meaning "typical complete OSes built on 
the Linux kernel", rather than just "Linux kernel", and Eric was making
an only slightly grandiose reference to inclusion of his code in all

Frankly, the anonymous Web page maintainers cannot have been unaware of
that, and we've all done that "two senses of the word Linux" discussion
so flippin' many times that they can't claim they didn't think of that
ambiguity upon hearing the phrase.  We all do; it's habit by now.

No, they simply twisted the facts in order to get in a cheap shot.  If
a reader gets fooled by this, then they've achieved their aim of
slagging Eric.  If not, then the page's authors still get off scot free,
because they're anonymous and therefore unaccountable.

> The fetchmail critique is ... well, it's fact.  

No, it's just a rather boozy editorial.  First of all, "one of the
senior technical cadre that makes the Internet wor" may fairly be seen
as rather vague self-promotion, but the assumption that it should be
evaluated based on fetchmail is the anonymous Web page authors', alone,
chosen solely because it allows them to segue into bashing fetchmail.

Second, the implication that all he did with fetchmail was simply
lightly worked over popclient is distortive:  He had to rewrite it, to 
change Harris's design, it having been a very primitive, 1996-era
POP2/POP3 client.

Now, fetchmail isn't to my taste either, and I don't really like the
requirement to drop off to a local MTA, but the design had advantages, 
and achieving the level of functionality he did in 1996 was a
significant accomplishment.  (It would be easier _now_, because of a
decade's worth of example code developed by others in the interval,
but it was a fair achievement _then_.)

Comparing fetchmail to getmail, or to getpop3, is a bit comical, because 
of the vast difference in what they do.  If you need something like
fetchmail's multidrop mode, getmail doesn't suffice.

I have a list of MDAs and LDAs at "MDAs" on http://linuxmafia.com/kb/Mail/ .
The page needs a little work, to clarify some category distinctions, but 
I suspect it's already fairly useful.

> >Do you always go on public and rather aggressive attacks against
> >_everyone_ you think has been self-important and padded his resume?
> Eric claims to be a "leader" amount the hackers.

I can't help noticing you ignored the question.  We'll return to that
point, below.

> >Did Eric apply to you for a programming job?
> Has Eric had a programming job in the past 10 years?

I can't help noticing you ignored the question.  What makes it
appropriate for you, let alone the anonymous Web page authors, to go
marching around in public claiming this man is self-important and padded
his resume?  I can understand why this would be an urgent concern of
yours if you were a hiring manager, and Eric had applied to you for a
programming job, but otherwise you come across as a bit of a busybody,
indulging celebrity gossip.

[Eric having been at one point one of the top contributors to GNU

> Show me.

To repeat:  Not my job, man.   I checked out the situation many years
ago, with results as noted.  I lack the interest to go try to reproduce

(You seem to be ignoring where I specifically said I checked that out
some years ago, so your checking out lines of code, etc., on the 2006
head version would seem to lack relevance.)

> Nelson and the other OSI board members seem quite keen to get  
> Microsoft to ship its own "OSI license", and will claim victory when/ 
> if this happens.

1.  This seems to be non-sequitur to our preceding discussion.  However:

2.  I see no particular reason to think they're "keen" on that.  To the
contrary, with strong encouragement from me and others, they've been
strongly discouraging licence proliferation.  Also, Russ specifically
(on OSI license-discuss) stated that OSI would be reluctant to evaluate
two (if memory serves) of Microsoft's licences for OSD-compliance, as
urged by one of the mailing list members, given that Microsoft itself
had not formally submitted them.

> I can't accept that Raymond means no harm when he spouts things like  
> "we don't need the GPL", never mind the whole anti-FSF stance of CATB.

FSF _needed_ a good swift kick about the time Eric wrote CatB:  I was 
painfully aware of the parlous situation of gcc maintenance, for
example, leading to the egcs fork, which was fixed only when FSF
(eventually) handed over gcc maintenance to the egcs committee.

Anyhow, if CatB makes Eric an enemy of FSF, then he's about the most
polite and constructive enemy in the history of mankind.  (Or were they
supposed to be immune to criticism?  I might not have gotten the memo.)

As to Eric being anti-FSF when he told Fórum Internacional de Software
Livra "We don't need the GPL anymore. It's based on the belief that
open source software is weak and needs to be protected. Open source
would be succeeding faster if the GPL didn't make lots of people nervous
about adopting it."...  Does that mean _FSF_ was anti-FSF when it urged 
the Vorbis developers to change the Ogg Vorbis codec licence from LGPL
to BSD?

Eric's wording was deliberately provocative, perhaps even flamebait.
However, I've said more or less the same thing in my "Fear of Forking" essay
(see "Fear of Forking" on http://linuxmafia.com/kb/Licensing_and_Law/):

  The BSD crowd would argue that although BSD licensing does allow
  proprietary code forks, those tend to be temporary and/or lose
  momentum because they cease to fully benefit from the exchange of code
  and information in the larger BSD community. I would strongly agree.
  History seems to support their claim. 

Nobody seems to flame me for that, or call me anti-FSF.  Maybe we should 
call their attention to that negligence?

> But "open source" and "free software" have different goals.

No, they really don't.  I see what's important in the long term as code
and licensing, licensing and code -- in which they area seek exactly the
same thing.  Ignoring that means one is missing the point.

> Yep, and I was >this< close to giving you mine back when there was  
> that too-easily-read-as-legal-threat bit going on.

To be blunt:  My saying something you wrote was probably defamatory is
plainly not, in itself, a legal threat, especially when I would not have
standing.  I should not have had to explain that. 

> From the photos I've seen, you (and I,  (I weighed 296lbs on the  
> scale today)) are a bit too out of shape for Mauna Kea.

I'm about 90 kilograms (200 lb), 1.81 metres tall (5' 11"), and only
slightly out of shape -- for an Eisenhower administration sprog, anyway.
I do century bicycle rides for fun during the summer, but you're right
that a 4200 metre volcano is a bit ambitious, given that there's nothing
above about 1500 metres in my vicinity.

I did once hike all in one day from the Yosemite Valley floor all the
way to the top of Half Dome (1500 metre elevation gain, starting at
1200 metre elevation; almost 30 km of steep trails), but have to admit
I couldn't handle stairs very well the next day.

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