Matthew Garrett (mjg59) wrote,
Matthew Garrett

One of the strengths of the open source community is that so much happens in the open. It's generally easy to find out what's happening in a project and directly interact with the developers. Code is out in the public. People frown upon closed discussion and implementation. But there's also a cost. Personality conflicts get hidden in the corporate world. We air them in public. And while in some ways that's arguably an advantage, it also results in things like this.

Now, to be fair, I've never been an especially big fan of Sam's work. His journalism generally leans towards lazy sensationalism rather than any attempt to actually understand the issues. He's not especially well versed on the basis of free software (see his assertion that the difference between the cathedral and bazaar development models is about project leadership rather than source code availablity and how people participate). He's managed to mischaracterise my opinions in the past, which means trusting his characterisation of anyone else is somewhat difficult. But that's not the point. Sam's article isn't about facts or analysis. It's about crucifying someone for expressing an opinion that Sam disagreed with.

I don't know Anirudh. From his website, he sounds like a pretty typical young hacker. He's contributing to a project that interests him. He's self taught. He holds strong opinions. And, last week, he published a rant on a topic he cared about - specifically his feeling that the patent concerns about Mono shouldn't prevent people from developing in it, and that RMS's statements about not using Mono harm the free software community more than they help it. I don't agree with all of his arguments. I don't think it was a hugely well structured rant. And, shockingly, telling RMS to fuck off isn't going to achieve a great deal.

But the point wasn't to change the world. People like voicing their opinions. I've done so several times on several occasions on a wide range of topics. People have disagreed with me. People have voiced concerns about the way I've expressed myself. People have flat out told me to stop being a cock. But nobody has attempted to tell me that I haven't earned the right to express that opinion. Nobody has expended four pages to tear me apart for daring to criticise another member of the community. Nobody has dared to call me a coward for deciding that I'd gone too far and modifying or retracting something I've written.

Yet that is precisely what Sam Varghese has done here. And let's be clear here - the use of the word "fuck" is a red herring. Sam is publically humiliating someone because he has his own agenda. He's picking on someone smaller than him because he can. He's explicitly stating that anyone arguing in favour of Mono can expect to be thoroughly abused in front of a large audience. In Sam's world I don't get to criticise the shockingly distasteful sexist remarks RMS made during his GCDS keynote because I didn't write emacs. I don't get to point out that ESR's understanding of racial genetics and natural selection are fundamentally flawed because I don't maintain the jargon file. I don't get to say that I think Ted Tso was wrong about ext4's semantic changes because I've never written a filesystem. And if I do any of these things, I can expect Sam to pop up and do his best to destroy my reputation.

Of course, he won't. Because in Sam's world, it's not actually about whether anyone has achieved great things. It's about whether the targets of his vitriol will be able to stand up for themselves or not. And while the truth is that nobody in the community is above criticism and nobody needs to earn their right to disagree, I doubt that Sam is ever going to show the courage that Anirudh did and publish a public retraction of his astonishing attack.

Shame on you, Sam Varghese.
Tags: advogato, fedora

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