'The Community Future,' a panel report from The BazaarDec 15, 1999, 08:23 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Emmett Plant)
By Emmett Plant
Add two tablespoons of Rob Malda to one cup of Bruce Perens and stir gently while adding half a cup of Jeff Bates. Then take your mixture, throw in a dash of Jon Hall and a light dusting of Ken Coar. Mix this all together in a large bowl with two cups of Chris DiBona and three pounds of Richard Stallman. Put it in the oven and bake it for about an hour, and you've got the recipe for 'The Community Future,' a panel discussion at The Bazaar this afternoon.
While the attendance at The Bazaar was not huge today, the panel drew a crowd of at least two-hundred community enthusiasts waiting to hear the latest from their heroes. Fortunately, Jon 'maddog' Hall was moderating the panel, so things were able to function smoothly regardless of the personalities involved, and there was a definite sense of community spirit in the room.
The Linux community is interesting in that serious topics can be discussed with a sense of humor. As Eric Raymond pointed out later in the evening, "One of the funniest things about the commercialization of Linux is that the suits believe that they're co-opting us."When an interesting point was raised from the audience, Rob, Chris and Jeff held up sheets of paper, 'judging' the question or point raised like Olympic judges.
One of these interesting points was the all-inclusive nature of the 'Free Software' definition, especially including the BSD folks, who have big fans in the Linux community, even though they're working with a different operating system. One of the major differences between the Open and Proprietary worlds is that the Free Software world welcomes choices and options instead of shunning them. A big point made is that Linux welcomes their BSD brethren with open arms, because we believe single solution is boring.
Another interesting point of focus was brought up by Jon Hall. Early in the panel, Jon looked toward the audience and said, "How many people in the audience are currently running Linux at home?" Nearly all the hands in the crowd shot up. "How many people in the audience plan on installing Linux when they get home?" A small number of hands raised. "How many people use Free Software on a proprietary operating system?" About fifteen hands raised. "That's interesting," Jon said, "And that's another thing we need to consider. Free Software is available on proprietary operating systems, and we can't forget these people, either."
Richard Stallman is one of the few people who can take his allotted three minutes of introduction time, spread it out to ten minutes, and captivate an audience at the same time. While Richard can be a bit of a maniac at times, this panel proved once again why Linux and the Open Source community needs Richard Stallman. Richard holds true to his beliefs at all times, and will never, ever deviate. Other panelists will back down in the interest of saving time, and even capitulate to Richard's naming conventions and definitions in his presence. While many will never refer to Linux as GNU/Linux, Richard will never change. While the GNU Project people don't believe that they're going to change the name of the popular operating system, they entirely believe in giving credit where credit is due.
The panel occasionally broke out into riotous laughter. At one point, Bruce Perens took the floor and said, "Software is like sex. It's a really great thing, but it's best enjoyed when shared with others." It's this sense of humor that makes the Linux and Open Source community different than anything else out there, and as a journalist, I hope we never, ever lose it, no matter how many 'suits' enter the scene. Needless to say, the panel ended with strong applause, and most of the crowd left in search of food or beer, though not necessarily in that order.