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Candidate Stallman Responds to GNOME Foundation Board Questions

Nov 26, 2001, 17:44 (13 Talkback[s])
From: Richard Stallman
Subject: Questions
Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2001 17:29:39 -0700 (MST)

> 1) Why are you running for Board of Directors?

For the sake of closer connections between GNOME and the rest of the
GNU Project.

> 2) Do you have leadership and committee experience? If so, please explain.

I've led the GNU Project and the Free Software Foundation since their
initiation.  Looking around at the GNU/Linux system and the free
software community, we've come pretty far.

> 3) How familiar are you with the day-to-day happenings of GNOME?  How much
> do you follow and participate in the main GNOME mailing lists?

I have not followed them before.  I am starting now.

> 4) One of the primary tasks of the Board of Directors is to act as a
> liason between the GNOME Foundation and other organizations and companies
> to find out how the two groups can work together to their mutual benefit.
> Do you feel you would be good at understanding other people and companies
> and finding ways that GNOME can collaborate with other companies and
> organizations to benefit both groups and their users?

I've been doing exactly this for the GNU Project for years.

> 6) The board meets for one hour every two weeks to discuss a handful of
> issues.  Thus, it is very important that the board can very quickly and
> concisely discuss each topic and come to concensus on each item for
> discussion. Are you good at working with others, who sometimes have very
> differing opinions than you do, to reach concensus and agree on actions?

People have given me have a reputation for being uncompromising.  Much
of this reputation comes from people who disagree with me on basic
questions of freedom and wish I would not stand firm for them.  On
those questions I am resolute.  I also insist that people give the GNU
Project credit for its work.  Those who don't stand up for their
rights don't tend to get much respect; I want GNU to get respect.

On purely practical questions I have years of experience making deals.
Once someone actually denounced me in public for offering to exchange
concessions with him so that we could come to agreement--i.e., because
I suggested that we search for a compromise.  (I laughed at the
contrast between this and my "uncompromising" reputation.)  Which
other candidate can say the same?

> 8) Do you consider yourself diplomatic?  Would you make a good
> representative for the GNOME Foundation to the Membership, media, public,
> and organizations and corporations the GNOME Foundation works with?

By nature, I am not diplomatic at all.  But over the years I've
learned, from necessity, a fair level of self control.  For several
years I've maintained useful working relationships with people at
companies such as IBM and Sun, even at the same time as I disapprove
of some of the things those companies do.

>From time to time I face the ticklish task of asking a complete
stranger to change the license of his software package.  Making this
request is like waking up a dragon to ask to borrow its hoard: the
developer is likely to find the request impertinent and could easily
get angry.  Nonetheless, I succeed most of the time.

In our community I often encounter personal insults, sometimes simply
reflecting personal enmity, sometimes used as a tactic.  You know what
I mean.  Could you face such hostility for years and respond as
dispassionately as this?

> 9) Will you represent the interests of GNOME and the GNOME Foundation over
> all other personal or corporate interests you may represent?

All personal and corporate interests, certainly.  But there are two
higher interests that rightfully apply to GNOME: the GNU system, and
free software.

GNOME is not an independent software project; it is a part of the GNU
system.  This means GNOME does not exist just for its own success.  It
has a purpose: to provide the GNU system with a desktop.  So while we
should try to make GNOME successful (all else being equal), that's not
the highest goal of the work on GNOME.

The GNU system does not exist just for its own success either.  It has
a purpose: to spread freedom and community to all computer users.  So
while people working on GNOME should try to make GNU successful (all
else being equal), that's not the highest goal either.  The highest
goal is that software should be free.

If some day GNOME, GCC, GNU Emacs, and all of GNU are obsolete and
forgotten, but computer users generally are free to share and change
the software they use, these programs will have done their job well.
If, on the other hand, GNOME and the rest of the GNU system are widely
used, but mainly in combination with proprietary software, they will
have succeeded only part-way, and a big task will remain ahead of us.

We should elect people to the board that will keep the goal of free
software in mind, and exert their leadership on its behalf.

As long as GNOME and GNU are closely connected in the public mind with
the freedom and community they make enable, success for GNOME, as for
GNU generally, will tend to encourage the spread of freedom in many
ways.  We have every reason to make GNOME succeed.  We just have to
keep the larger issues in mind while deciding how to do it.

> 10) Will you be willing and have the available time to take on and
> complete various tasks that the Board needs accomplished?

My time is tight, but GNOME is important, so I will give it the time
that it needs.