World Views

by Miguel de Icaza

Richard Stallman does not seem to have anything better to do than launch personal attacks against me. In his last piece he has decided to call me a Microsoft apologist because I do not participate in his witch hunt.

I merely happen to have a different perspective on Microsoft than he has. I know that there are great people working for the company, and I know many people inside Microsoft that are steering the company towards being a community citizen. I have blogged about this for the last few years.

At the end of the day, we both want to see free software succeed. But Richard, instead of opening new fronts to promote his causes, attacks his own allies for not being replicas of himself. To him, ridiculous statements like Linus "does not believe in Freedom" are somewhat normal [1].

A Matter of Perspective

A few years ago, I had the chance to listen to Benjamin Zander in person talk about his world of possibilities. His book "The Art of Possibility" had a profound effect on me.

Benjamin tells this story in the book:

Two shoe salesmen were sent to Africa in the early 1900's to scout the territory.

One telegraphed back: "Situation hopeless. Stop. No one wears shoes."

The other telegraphed: "Business opportunity. Stop. They have no shoes."

Since we only have a limited time on earth, I have decided to spend my time on earth as much as I can trying to be like the second salesman. Looking at opportunities where others see hopelessness.

This is why I love my work, because I work with friends that have consistently beat the odds and we have consistently proved our critics wrong. Because everyone that I work with wants to change the world and nobody I work with is dominated by fear.

Far too many times, fear has prevented people from coming up with creative solutions. I rather work on constructive solutions to problems than moan and complain.

Fear mongering is a vibrant industry, it is the easy way out for those that can not lead with the example. Create a bogeyman, make things up, lie, or tell half-truths, and demonize and you got a recipe to energize your base.

Richard's Fear Mongering

The documentary "The Power of Nightmares" is a fascinating view at the industry of selling "safety" to the scared population and how leaders like to scare people to push their own agendas. Richard's fear mongering is no different.

Richard Stallman frequently conjures bogeymen to rally his base. Sometimes it is Microsoft, sometimes he makes up facts and sometimes he even attacks his own community [2]. His language is filled with simple, George W Bush-eque terms like Good vs Evil, Us vs Them.

The creation of the CodePlex foundation was an internal effort of people that believe in open source at Microsoft. They have been working from within the company to change it. Working at CodePlex is a great way of helping steer Microsoft in the right direction.

But to Richard, this simply does not compute.

To Richard, the state of the world is hopeless. I on the other hand see possibility and opportunity.

Not only you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar, there are lots of shoes to sell.

[1] Plenty of attacks on other open source/free sofftware advocates/developers are readily googable.

[2] the "open source" vs "free software" non-issue and the "Linux" vs "GNU/Linux" wars of the 90's that haunt us to this day.


I am now closing the comments for this post. Feel free to move this to the Slashdot forum.

Posted on 05 Oct 2009