The Last Hacker, as Dr. Richard M. Stallman is sometimes called, is one of the heroes of the free and open-source software movement.
The web would be a very different place without people like him breaking the boundaries between intellectual property and the free exchange of knowledge.
And that, dear readers, is exactly why we’ve invited Stallman to appear at a one-night-only engagement to talk about copyright and community. On May 2, 2014, at 6 p.m., he’ll be speaking at the Automattic Lounge in San Francisco, and you’re invited to attend free of charge! (More details here.)
We have set up an anonymous registration process so you can reserve your seat. In the meantime, I highly recommend signing up for our Daily Dev newsletter. We’ll keep you informed on the other dev events we’re doing this year, and we’ll also keep you abreast of interesting items you won’t find on Hacker News.
In the meantime, here’s why we are so obsessed with Stallman and his work.
8. Total dedication
We all like to talk the talk about free sharing of knowledge, software, music, whatever. But how many of us practice freedom right down to the bone?
Stallman is famously particular about his dedication to free software. If it ain’t free, he ain’t using it. He’s been called a fanatic (and much stronger terms) for that dedication, but he’s probably the one person in the world we can say with 100 percent certainty is not a hypocrite.
Kudos, Stallman, for standing up for your beliefs and being a great example of true commitment to a cause — and for illustrating how to work through a compromise without “compromising the goal of freedom.”
7. Founding the Free Software Foundation
The Free Software Foundation is Stallman’s 30-year-old child. This non-profit organization advocates for all kinds of software freedoms, from “copyleft” computer programs to DRM-free movies to ensuring that free-software licenses aren’t being abused.
The FSF maintains a directory of free software projects and advocates for policies that promote digital freedom and privacy protection. The org also provides alternatives to proprietary software, from Java compilers to desktop environments.
6. Saint IGNUtius
A play on the name of Jesuit founder St. Ignatius, St. IGNUtius is a character developed by Stallman (himself an atheist) that shows his more lighthearted side.
From the St. IGNUtius page:
Sainthood in the Church of Emacs requires living a life of purity—but in the Church of Emacs, this does not require celibacy (a sigh of relief is heard). Being holy in our church means exorcizing whatever evil, proprietary operating systems have possessed computers that are under your control, or set up for your regular use; installing a holy free operating system (GNU/Linux is a good choice); and using and installing only free software with and on the system. Note that tablets and mobile phones are computers and this vow includes them. …
Warning: taking the Church of Emacs (or any church) too seriously may be hazardous to your health.
5. The Free Software Song
Stallman’s love of folk music married to his love of free software resulted in the birth of this surprisingly catchy ditty.
4. This video interview series
Editor’s note: The interview videos, recorded and uploaded to Wikimedia in Ogg Theora format by the author of this post, have been redacted due to repeated deletions by the insane editors of Wikipedia. So much for crowdsourcing. Point is, Stallman is a generous, thoughtful, thorough, and funny interviewee.
3. His place in MIT history
Have you read the book Hackers? No? Put down your computer and go read it now.
Stallman manages to maintain his relevance in the current times of NSA spying and BitTorrent and what have you, but his origin story is rooted in the hacker culture of decades past, when MIT — not Silicon Valley — was the ultimate incubator of technological innovation.
Seriously, go read Hackers.
2. His love of folk dance
We’ve already touched on Stallman’s penchant for authentic folk music (not that Peter-Paul-and-Mary crap), but did you know he can cut a rug, too? From folk dance to Soulja Boy (you can search for those videos yourself), the guy’s light on his feet and a delight to watch.
1. He’s speaking free of charge on May 2, 2014 at 6 p.m. at the Automattic Lounge
Seriously, you should really, really come to this event! And bring a nerdy friend. Be sure to reserve your seat before we get into standing-room-only territory!