Eric S. Raymond

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ESR at Linucon, October 2004.

Eric S. Raymond is an advocate of open source software and the author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar, a widely influential essay explaining why it is critically important for open source projects to be open to contributions from outsiders, and not restrict them to a privileged in-group. The essay also makes an economic case for open source software.[1]

He is also the maintainer of the Jargon File, a repository of hacker culture (in the wizard programmer sense, not the 1337 sense) that originated in the DEC PDP computer cultures of 1970s computer labs at universities like MIT and Stanford.[2] For this reason he is listed, with Guy L. Steele, as the compiler of The New Hacker's Dictionary, a book reproducing the Jargon File, with Raymond's additions and changes, in text form. The latest version of the Jargon File was released in 2003, raising eyebrows for edits clearly aimed at bringing the dictionary in-line with Raymond's personal world view.[3][4]

Raymond is also known for writing an e-mail retrieval utility, fetchmail,[5] which has drawn criticism for, among other things, containing many security vulnerabilities[6][7] and for essentially abandoning it when it reached a point that he considered "finished." His experience coding fetchmail features prominently in The Cathedral and the Bazaar. He has also maintained giflib on and off since 1987, which renders GIFs on pretty much everything with a screen. Even Microsoft thinks it's good stuff.[8]

ESR may be seen at his near-best in his excellent book The Art Of Unix Programming,[9] a good example of ESR when he knows what he's talking about, i.e., not politics or anything else outside his actual field of expertise. (Reviewed and approved of by famous Unix greybeards. This book is really good and if you program or administer Unix or Linux, you should read it.)

His work and expertise in computer technology[10][11] has been all but overshadowed by his batshit insane wingnut tendencies in the wake of 9/11, as well as his increasingly wanky ego-gazing[12][13] as he acknowledges that people aren't so crazy about him anymore.

Contents

[edit] Open Source

Artist's rendition of Satan.

Raymond helped popularize the Open Source movement and term partially out of frustration with the Free Software Foundation and its leading light, Richard Stallman. The difference is one of political style more than substance. Raymond's political and economic views are anarcho-libertarian and right-wing; Stallman's are green, left-progressive, and anti-corporate.

Open Source and Free Software are practically the same thing,[14] but advocated from two different angles; Open Source attempted to separate the machinery of Free Software from its politics, so the likes of Raymond could participate in it without feeling any discomfort about consorting with those for whom Free Software had a "disagreeable" political motive.

It can be argued that the Open Source movement helped gain respectability for the Free Software movement. The Cathedral and the Bazaar popularized the aggressively collaborative development model that is now par for the course, but was originally started by Linus Torvalds, whom Stallman believes to be leading people astray from the True Path of Free Software. As we shall see, though, even to the extent that Raymond is right about technology, that makes him at best a stopped clock overall.

[edit] i am slowly going crazy one two three four five six switch

Eric Raymond was one of those unfortunate souls who went completely nuts after 9/11. He has thus turned from a respected thinker with some good and some extreme ideas into a paranoid headcase, who sees Islamist and Communist conspiracies everywhere, and who is the perfect example of the ancient proverb stating that those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.

This self-proclaimed "anarchist" turned overnight into a nuke-the-Middle-East fanatic and began posting tedious manifestos such as "The Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto,"[15] proclaiming the duty of all good Americans to support George W. Bush and his transcendent crusade to crush "Islamofascism."

His political writings make most sense as the ravings of someone who believes that America is the greatest country in the world and that all other countries are run by little girls.[16]

[edit] Idiotarian, n. Anyone who isn't a trigger-happy neocon/liberventionist

Raymond's "idiotarians" include consistent anti-war Libertarians (such as himself before 9/11), "idiotarians of the left" (the peace movement and antiwar Democrats), "idiotarians of the right" (conspiracy theorists and those like Jerry Falwell suggesting 9/11 was God's punishment of America), and anyone else not fully on board with invading Iraq. The term and concept quickly spread to pro-war bloggers, who have continued the tactic of lumping together the peace movement and antiwar Democrats and Libertarians with David Duke, Lyndon LaRouche, Fred Phelps, far-left Communist cults, 9/11 conspiracy theories, etc. as all being part of the same anti-war tent. This tactic is used to discredit the peace movement and mainstream opposition to the war. Thankfully nobody's buying it anymore.

[edit] Why is it that my tinfoil hat always seems to not quite fit right?

He followed that up with some bizarre writings on race,[17] homosexuality,[18] and HIV denial,[19] He also apparently endorses the rather discredited General Semantics of Alfred Korzybski, which has never been accepted by mainstream philosophy or psychology, and denies the existence of dark matter, to which a cosmologist can only say "Well, what do you think all that missing mass is?" which suggest he has come completely off his hinges.

He has suggested that Barack Obama's victory in the 2008 Presidential race was due to voter fraud and the mainstream media's ability to mask Obama's weaknesses.[20] Never mind the fact that, in 2004, he himself stated that the mainstream media lost its power to sway elections.[21] He also believes that just because it happens to be his blog, he can have the privilege of committing the grossest forms of logical fallacies without anyone having the right to call him on them[22] and that all liberals lend support to the killing of "anyone who ever bought an SUV or voted Republican."[23] He has also gone full circle and become a full-blown Internet troll when arguing in favor of gun rights,[24] and believes that healthcare is not actually cheaper in countries with universal health care because "the numbers are being massively cooked" by "socialists."[25]

In late 2009, he came out on the side of global warming denialists amid the controversy surrounding the leaking of email communications between climate scientists from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit;[26][27] however, he never did comment when internal and UK government investigations cleared the CRU of both misconduct and bad science. One of the comments in said post makes it very obvious that ESR is the kind of person who will add 2 and 2 and come up with a Communist plot.[28] (Really? KGB psyops? Have they been shooting their mind control beams at you, Eric?)

In early 2010, in the wake of Pat Robertson's ridiculous remarks regarding the Haitian people's supposed pact with Satan, ESR wrote a blog post suggesting that the Haitian people really did summon up the Voudon god Ogun to kill off all the white Frenchmen.[29] Of course, his source is a stultifying right-wing conservative website, so who will you believe? (By the way, ESR describes himself as a neo-Pagan, though an atheistic one, and unlike Robertson does not condemn the Haitians for doing ritual magick to free themselves of an oppressor.)

In 2011 he proclaimed himself a "natural" at "game" (in other words, a born pick-up artist).[30] Since he also describes himself as a natural polyglot,[31] an expert martial artist, a natural small-unit leader,[32] a natural flutist and "a natural witch, albeit of a kind uncommon in this century"[33], a natural marksman [34] who can "think like a warrior" and break safety rules which "civilians" blindly follow [35], and speaks with confidence about historical linguistics [36] perhaps this claim should not be taken too seriously.

After the Trayvon Martin case was exposed in March 2012 and John Derbyshire weighed in with the bile that cost him his National Review job, Raymond went all-in on hardcore The Bell Curve-style "scientific" racism.[37] Though he hotly denies that it is in fact racist,[38] it's pretty much impossible to see him as anything other than a seethingly idiotic white supremacist at this point. And he believes Derbyshire isn't racist either; his self-proclamation as such was just irony.[39]

[edit] Biting the hand that feeds him (and quite a few others as well)

Raymond also blames Alan Turing for his judicial punishment and suicide, even though Raymond, like every other computer programmer, owes Turing his career.[40] This in turn came up in the context of an article blaming a young woman for her suicide because she was a very individualistic person (an artistic tomboy who was often accused of being a lesbian); the logic was that Raymond himself, who grew up suffering from cerebral palsy, was strong enough to put up with teasing, so everyone else who dares be an individual should be strong enough to put up with it too. Make of that what you will.

His influence and involvement in Open Source advocacy has, needless to say, been greatly diminished and he is now best known as a notorious Internet crank, leaving Stallman to fight the ninjas alone.[41] He's somewhat aware of his reputation, but still found a curiously egomaniacal way to respond to the charges.[42] The people currently running the Open Source Initiative are trying to politely exorcise his ghost.

[edit] Sometimes, late at night, I think of Finland and touch myself

Raymond's attitude towards science and technology isn't much better. Though he fancies himself a rationalist, Raymond has a history of latching on to things that appeal to him and defending them beyond any sense of reason. His advocacy of Linux proved both prescient and influential; the spread of Linux as a major operating system (particularly in IT centers as the core of the LAMP[43] webserver stack and as a royalty-free platform for embedded hardware development) is a major example, giving Linux a very strong market niche outside hobbyist circles and giving it respectability as a professional platform.

However, Raymond either got a swelled head from this, or had severe flaws in his reasoning from the beginning; in his presentation of the Halloween Documents, a series of internal documents laying out Microsoft's internal strategy to deal with Linux' rise in popularity, Raymond predicted Windows 2000 would be an expensive failure, and claimed credit for a successful prediction in later edits; in actual fact, Win2K was only marketed on a consumer basis by Sony, but was still considered a capable follow-on to NT4. (Though his description of what a car crash 2000 would be fit the real disaster, Vista, marvellously. Seven years late.) Raymond is also an Android fanboi and has been recently spotted making similarly over-the-top predictions of the iPhone falling into irrelevance, going so far as to quote mine job listings to "prove" that Apple's phone developers are technically incompetent and lying to the public about the quality of their hardware.[44] Any evidence to the contrary is the work of shills.[45]

During the Climategate fiasco, Raymond's ability to read other peoples' source code (or at least his honesty about it) was called into question when he was caught quote-mining analysis software written by the CRU researchers, presenting a commented-out section of source code used for analyzing counterfactuals as evidence of deliberate data manipulation. When confronted with the fact that scientists as a general rule are scrupulously honest, Raymond claimed it was a case of an "error cascade," a concept that makes sense in computer science and other places where all data goes through a single potential failure point, but in areas where outside data and multiple lines of evidence are used for verification, doesn't entirely make sense. (He was curiously silent when all the researchers involved were exonerated of scientific misconduct.)

[edit] Nevertheless

It remains the case that open source is better than free software, because libertarians wash.[46]

[edit] See also

[edit] External Links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/cathedral-bazaar/
  2. Though it has, according to disaffected whiners, become rather Unix-centric under Raymond's maintenance and no longer specifically representative of the culture from which it originated. It's not like it's public domain, hence forkable by anyone. Oh, wait.
  3. http://ntk.net/index.cgi?b=02003-06-06&l=34#l
  4. There have been several forks of the Jargon File recently, including one by RationalWiki reader Yash Tulsyan (available at http://cosman246.com/jargon.html) which attempts to modernize the Jargon File and remove Raymond's politics. However, there is little evidence anyone actually cares about any of them.
  5. http://fetchmail.berlios.de is the home page. The current maintainers have occasionally made major breaks from Raymond's coding decisions.
  6. http://docs.freebsd.org/cgi/getmsg.cgi?fetch=585008+0+archive/2001/freebsd-arch/20010218.freebsd-arch
  7. http://pyropus.ca/software/getmail/faq.html#faq-about-why
  8. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=285
  9. http://www.catb.org/esr/writings/taoup/
  10. His own unbiased view of his achievements; approach with caution. Generally respectable, occasionally questionable or embarrassingly wrong.
  11. Here is recounted an incident where Raymond chewed someone out for contradicting Dennis Ritchie... and then Ritchie admitted he was wrong. Not exactly the diplomatic approach.
  12. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=1404
  13. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=5015#comment-407960
  14. There are a few obscure licenses that are OSI-certified "open source" but not FSF-certified "free software," and a few the other way. Almost nobody actually cares.
  15. http://www.catb.org/~esr/aim/
  16. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=906
  17. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=129
  18. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=26
  19. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=184
  20. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=586
  21. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=154
  22. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=651#comment-229615
  23. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=651#comment-229610
  24. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=1029
  25. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=1146#comment-238368
  26. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=1447
  27. http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/12/quote_mining_code.php
  28. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=1447#comment-243073
  29. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=1573
  30. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=3000
  31. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=3985
  32. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=3008
  33. http://www.catb.org/esr/writings/dancing.html
  34. http://www.catb.org/esr/guns/personal.html
  35. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=5248
  36. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4710
  37. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4270 - check the comments, they're great.
  38. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4278 - apparently, the secret is to redefine "racist" so the term doesn't apply to you. I'm sure no-one could object to that.
  39. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4278
  40. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=1046#comment-236592
  41. http://xkcd.com/225/
  42. http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=1327
  43. Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Perl
  44. Granted, the iPhone 4 antenna thing is a doozy. But predicting the imminent collapse of the platform? Yeah, reaching just a wee bit. And you can fix the antenna with a phone case. Or a piece of scotch tape.
  45. [1] He hammered ComScore's numbers relentlessly until he didn't like what they said.
  46. Verbal statement from unnameable person who had been responsible for the appearance riders for ESR and RMS. ESR may be crazy, but he's more civilised than to pick his fucking toenails and eat it in front of a lecture crowd.
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