Thursday, April 07, 2005

Phoneblogging with RMS

Two firsts today: a first attempt at blogging from my new phone, and the first time hearing Richard Stallman speak.

Phoneblogging was easier than I had feared, although my phone insists I am clogging.

RMS spoke at Pitt. On the one hand I was a little disappointed in the content of the talk: I was expecting more "current affairs" and state-of-the-FSF, but the bulk of the talk was right out of Free as in Freedom. My disappointment was tempered about half way through the talk, when I realized that two thirds of the audience weren't alive when the events he was explaining occurred. The reactions from the crowd implied that for many of them, this was the first time they were hearing about the beginnings of the Free Software movement. The audience were roughly an even mix of free software cynics ("how can I ever earn a living if I give my work away for free?!") and free software advocates ("how will issue X affect free software?"), and a blessedly-small number of red-faced "oh-my-God-it's-really-him" fanboys.

I recorded the talk on an ancient minicassette recorder. It's not good enough to Oggify and put up, but I know some other people were recording; hopefully one of them will podcast it. He said a few interesting and new things--most interesting, he rattled off a list of a half-dozen or so changes that are being discussed for GPL 3, some of which I haven't heard before.

The question-and-answer period was fun. When I introduced myself as "one of the bad guys", who had the temerity to use Emacs to develop non-Free software, the room groaned, but Richard was gracious ("Using Free software to develop non-Free software doesn't make it any worse.").

What struck me most was his honesty and surprisingly, his humility. That's a word I haven't previously associated with him. He acknowledged when people pointed out "grey areas" in the philosophy (for example, the dichotomy between free software and non-free content). Before the talk began, I wanted to snap a picture of him, and asked his permission. He looked at me, paused, and said, "You know, your freedom is more important than me. Go ahead, but I'm not the important one here."

Unfortunately, that picture is the only one my phone has munged so far. Fitting, given his statement.


Jonathan Ellis said...

You wrote that on a phone? Wow.

Tim Lesher said...

I wrote the first draft on the phone, and proofread and linkified when I got home. T9 mode on this phone is far better than on my last one, but it's still only about 90% accurate. After the first three paragraphs I gave up on correcting.

If you're interested, it's an LG VX8000. I'd recommend it heartily if the 8100 weren't coming out later this month--it adds Bluetooth support and adds a socket for SD RAM cards.

chris smith said...

I'm glad to hear that his tone in person matches that of his writing on gmane.emacs.devel: he sounds a wise old prophet, occasionally annoyed by tangential chit-chat.