On keeping an open mind
This is not an FSF publication and even if it were associated with FSF in some official way, it wouldn't be an FSF propaganda site, contrary to what some might be thinking. This is a discussion site and keeping an open mind is one of the top priorities here. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be such an important principle to some in the GNU community. For quite a few times now I have encountered what I believe to be a dangerous trend among some people in the GNU community.
It usually comes down to the animosity some of them seem to feel towards the Open Source initiative and anyone who has anything to do with it, especially "ESR" or Eric Steven Raymond. Of course, the likely source of this animosity can be traced back to philosophical and ideological disagreements, but can these disagreements justify this animosity?
It has happened that at the very mention of ESR among some GNU supporters, they basically "cover their ears", refusing to hear anything about him or anything that he may have to say. Linking them with the World Domination 201 essay co-authored by ESR resulted in refusal to read it simply because it was written by ESR. Now, while it is not impossible to talk about Eric Raymond and Open Source in a Free Software oriented group and while a good deal of GNU supporters are open minded enough to such discussions, what I have experienced still merits a concern.
Is Eric Raymond truly such a raving lunatic that he shouldn't be heard? Is he really someone that doesn't deserve even little bit of consideration? Can disagreements and disliking of someone really be a reason enough to completely censor that someone from your view? I don't think so.
This cultism that sometimes developes among the Free Software supporters is not a good thing. It is not helping the cause. It is doing just the opposite. What can we expect someone considering the Free Software philosophy should think about it if the moment he mentiones "Open Source" or "ESR" he faces a blockade and an exercise of intolerance towards these people or their views? What kind of message does this send?
I consider myself a Free Software supporter all the way. Since recently I formalized my support in form of an FSF membership. I believe in software freedom as a paramount goal; I believe in everything that was a reason for the GNU Project to exist. Yet however I am not unwilling to listen to what those with opposing views have to say. I am not closing my mind towards articles written by the members of the Open Source Initiative, ESR, Linus Torvalds or anyone else.
Instead of just completely ignoring the "World Domination 201" document just because it was co-authored by someone who is an ardent opponent of the Free Software Foundation and its idealism, I have read it and analyzed it, considered the strategy it proposes, identified problems with its implementation in a couple of articles, initiated a discussion and even talked with Richard Stallman about it. Now, was this really a waste of time? Was it maybe better for me to just click the "close" button as soon as I saw that "World Domination 201" was authored by Eric Raymond?
I certainly don't think so. By giving it some consideration I am better equipped to effectively advocate what I in the end really believe in. Those who just refuse to listen to their opponents are defeating themselves. How can you effectively beat your opponents in a debate if you don't even know what they're saying?
Consider that even Richard Stallman, to whom even these I have to say "closed minded" GNU supporters bow, didn't refuse to read ESRs article as soon as he saw it was authored by ESR. He said that he "could fetch a copy" to read it and only in response to my explaining that this article advised a compromise did he change his mind about reading the article. There was nothing in his attitude that would suggest that he wouldn't consider what ESR is saying just because he is in stark disagreement with ESR in general.
So why am I writing this? The point is quite simple, and it is not about making the GNU community look bad. As a supporter of the GNU Project and Free Software for which it stands for, I wouldn't do that. I just think it is worth reminding that it is easy to fall into the boxed way of thinking, into "cultism" closed to outside opinion and that this failure is not in the interest of the Free Software movement.
We should always listen to those we don't agree with and always be ready to learn, rather than trap ourselves in the already learned "dogma" as something unworthy of questioning even by our opponents. Don't be open to that and you've already lost the debate.