On the Survival Strategies of Larry Wall vs Richard Stallman

By Xah Lee. Date:

Have you met these gentlemen?

Yes i have met some gentle bigwigs of unix community.

I met Larry Wall in LinuxWorld Expo 1999 in San Jose, California, and personally asked him to autograph a O'Reilly book i was carrying.

I have also met Richard Stallman in the same conference. I asked him to sign the book. He looked at the book, saw evil, kindly refused to sign, and some freedom apostles behind him started to explain to me unnecessarily about how FreeSoftware requires Free Manuals and how i can purchase a copy of some GNU manual across the hall that Stallman would not object to sign.

From this we can see two fairly opposite survival strategies. Wall is this happy-go-lucky type of fellow, would take things easy, smile a lot, make friends, have a beer, and all the while cook up questionable cult to suck up clueless youngsters and advance his fame. Stallman on the other hand, takes the saintly approach, sticking to a principle of his own and never backs down. This strategy makes enemies quick, but tends to win followers who are strong and loyal.

Of course, since Stallman's complaint on particular O'Reilly and his diligence, these days we have quite a few books from commercial publisher such as O'Reilly, that publishes under a Open Source scheme as per his “FreeSoftware requires Free Manual” gospel: example

Picking Up Perl By Bradley M Kuhn. At http://www.ebb.org/PickingUpPerl/

Open Source Development with CVS By Karl Fogel. At http://cvsbook.red-bean.com/

• O'reilly's Open Books At http://www.oreilly.com/openbook/

• Richard Stallman's philosophy on Free Software and Free Manuals At http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-doc.html

(by the way, once i saw a photo on the web where underneath Larry's “there's more than one way to do it” autograph, Guido van Rossum of Python fame signed “you bet!”. I didn't bookmark the url. Does anyone know where? I also recall once seeing a photo of some i think Perl monger's conference in CA which shows a guy who have a big Perl camel tattooed to his arm. I'd like to save that photo too.)

[Disclaimer: all mentions of real persons are opinion only.]

See also: On Microsoft Hatred

Perl Cult