At the risk of seeming a self-aggrandizing, I wanted to point folks to a nice biographical profile that Linux.com is running about me upon my election my to the FSF board. I’m pretty honored, and excited, by the whole thing.
The article talks a little bit about my road to free software and the FSF board in particular and about some of my ideas about the foundation and its work.
There are three little footnotes I thought I would add to what I think is a great article:
The phrase "rebel with rather too many causes" was a phrase originally directed at protest.net — a event calendaring system for activists that I was briefly involved in over a summer during college. I like the phrase and use it frequently but I didn’t want to take credit for it. Google indicates that it originates in NTK #53 I’m not at all surprised.
My parents worked as doctors in Kenya, Papa New Guinea, and elsewhere before they had children. This probably doesn’t matter to anyone else but they worked with an organization that was like MSF in that it was a humanitarian organization that sent physicians around the world but it was not actually MSF as the article states. I don’t think MSF had grown beyond French doctors when my parents were practicing overseas.
When LWN pointed to the article, and in the original was well, there a focus on some comments I make about non-profit organizations. Since in a context of talk about my political work I just want to clarify my comments in a little more depth here.
I think that one problem that has stemmed form Open Source’s emphasis on businesses and efficiency is that free/open source software people end up making arguments in business terms: you should use application X because it is more efficient and faster. For many of the folks who have built this whole movement though, and for most in the free software camp, it’s about freedom, not efficiency. By targeting businesses, we encounter a skeptical audience. More importantly though, we end up making arguments that, while true, are not the ones that motivate us.
I think that low-hanging fruit for free software activists might include groups that already support free software ideas of sharing and user empowerment and that are looking for ways to use free software already. Groups we don’t need to be afraid about saying "freedom" around. Not so coincidentally, these are sometimes organizations that I have a lot in common with politically. But that’s far from always the case.
There’s a big group of philosophically aligned organizations in the NGO/non-profit community and the problems keeping them away are often technical. This is good news, of course, since solving technical problems is the free software movement’s core competency. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time: Debian-NP was one project I helped start that tried to address this issue.
Now, many people involved in the FSF, including myself, have political convictions that go beyond software. I do not want these convictions, and my statements about philosophically aligned organization, to be interpreted as call for a political shift in the organization in mainstream political terms. I deeply respect the way that RMS has kept his political opinions separate from the Foundation’s. Biella and I have ever written about the importance of this political demarcation to free software’s success. It’s certainly not something I would want to change.