tuesday afternoon i had the chance to see richard stallman speak at rice university. i'd missed him the evening before when he was speaking at the houston java users group. i went to rice with a few folk i work with. the picture is near the end of speech, where stallman was doing his saint ignatius shtick. (that halo is actually an old disc platter.)
stallman is...a visionary, a prophet, a polarizer, and a bit of a crackpot. he's very dogmatic about his views, but he's thought about and argued them a lot, so you're probably not going to surprise him. his personality seemed to be typical tech culture intelligentsia -- kind of abrasive, but the focus is on being right, not being flowery. he also seemed defensive sometimes, but given his views and the arguments i'm sure he must engender it's not too surprising. he also has a pretty typical i.t.-ish sense of humor. (maybe that's because he's helped create it.) he was fun to listen to. one of the people i went with later described it as thus: "it must have been sort of like hearing Jesus speak: 'wow, that sounds great! incredible! ...but...it's totally unattainable.'"
however you view it, i think this is a respectable trait about stallman: he lives what he preaches. he isn't like a lot of visionaries who talk the talk but are hypocrites when it comes to living it. (i put hard-line libertarians into this category as well.) a lot of people complain about his not just giving up on the fact people call the linux kernel plus all other packages "linux" but i think he's got legitimate reasons. (even if i think it's a quixotic quest at this point.)
say whatever you want about his kookiness or such, the fact is he has had a huge effect in the i.t. community. and because i.t. has changed the world around us in so many ways over the last 40+ years (especially the last 15), stallman -- through gnu software and the gpl -- has had a large influence, both directly and indirectly. i'm glad i had a chance to hear him speak.