Reply to post: We're starting to repeat ourselves

GNU means GNU's Not U: Stallman insists he's still Chief GNUisance while 18 maintainers want him out as leader

sbt Silver badge
Childcatcher

We're starting to repeat ourselves

...so I'm going to leave this here.

So a minority of people have an opinion and are unable or unwilling to back it up with any evidence or even elaborate a well-thought-out rationale for why they think he is harmful and should go.

Yes, it's an open letter, not a science report. Yes, it's their opinion. But it's an inside opinion. I acknowledged in my response to the top AC comment that the open letter makes an ambit claim, without supporting data. I'm agreeing with you there. That's why I said legitimate next steps included a counter-letter of support from other maintainers, a survey, a meeting, etc. RMS of course has the right of reply, but how he responds is telling in itself. He can reject the call for change and either deny that his leadership is causing an issue, or deny that it's a problem he wants or needs to solve.

The letter does express a well-thought out rationale:

Stallman’s behavior over the years has undermined a core value of the GNU project: the empowerment of all computer users. GNU is not fulfilling its mission when the behavior of its leader alienates a large part of those we want to reach out to.

We believe that Richard Stallman cannot represent all of GNU.

I thought the argument was about there was evidence whether RMS' behaviour "alienates a large part of those we wish to reach out to." But I'm not sure you accept the premise, evidence not-withstanding. If you don't, I guess we'll never find common ground. I think it matters what leaders do, but also how they are perceived. That isn't always fair or free, but it's a cost of leadership, set against the privileges.

Also, since the concern is with "all computer users", it's clearly not about internal polling of the maintainers or (now) 24 vs. 3-400. It's about the wider consumers of GNU project software. This is a much broader demographic than the maintainers.

That's why I said the lack of evidence was a red flag, not what the evidence actually pointed to. It could be that a survey of GNU software users reports they love the way things are. But as I've stated before, that neither side has ready access to such results already is on the project's leadership. This is not-for-profit 101. Not understanding this is one of the dangers I've been banging on about.

This is why these kinds of decisions should be looked at dispassionately and factually.

I never claimed otherwise. But there are facts about how people feel. And there are facts about how GNU has been run. And there are facts about the extent to which best practices for managing not-for-profits, succession planning and public relations have been followed, or not, in this case. Those are the costs and dangers I've been commenting about this whole time.

it's the fault of the project management (i.e RMS) that this mob can't be bothered even making a solid claim, let alone backing it up with facts or even an opinion poll.

It's a criticism of the project's management that the data isn't readily to hand. It should be anyway. That was my criticism. I'm just not sure you'd accept the results if they supported the letter writers' position.

But this organisation is not a political organisation doing outreach and he's not a spokesperson and it's not a role he "accepted", it's a project he created. It's also not a democracy...

It is doing outreach, and he is effectively its spokesperson. Not everyone can separate people's personal opinions on controversial topics from their professional role and some will naturally object to the platform effect that gives hall-of-famers like RMS an outsized soapbox for their views. I don't personally care what RMS's political or moral views are, but it would have been better for GNU if he had never opened his mouth about it, as you say. That's only one criticism I've made of his management of the GNU project, and it's not the reason I think he should consider resignation or reform.

The fact that he created it means the ball is very much in his court. But hundreds of other people have contributed their time and energy to the GNU projects and it's reasonable to consider their stake in the outcome.

He can carry on as before and risk GNU withering into irrelevance, or he can take the concerns seriously and address them. It's long past time to consider the future of the project. Does RMS want it to die with him? Is he willing to make a sacrifice to protect the long term future of his legacy?

That doesn't necessarily mean resignation, it could be reform to the leadership structure or the appointment of a different public face, if RMS doesn't want that responsibility or to otherwise stay mum. Many FOSS projects started by one person or a small team wrestle with this transition and grow to accommodate their size and reach. Many have blazed this trail ahead of GNU, which given its age, is telling.

There is already at least one fork, freesw.org. But the GNU brand has a value that will be diluted by forking. Forking the code doesn't make the GNU project better.

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