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Re: conflicts in the gnu project now affect guile

From: Arne Babenhauserheide
Subject: Re: conflicts in the gnu project now affect guile
Date: Thu, 17 Oct 2019 02:18:42 +0200
User-agent: mu4e 1.2.0; emacs 26.1


Firstoff: I don’t know RMS personally — except for seeing him at a talk.
I only know his writings. I’ve been disagreeing with him on non-free
licensing of writings for more than a decade.

When I saw the joint statement about RMS,[1] I thought that this is
hard, but looking at social network coverage about RMS, I could not
disagree, because communication online changed in a way that how RMS
writes could regularly lead to flamewars against GNU.

But looking at the links you posted, I did not see anything which fits
the definition of pedophilia-advocacy. Going by Wikipedia, "Pedophilia …
is a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent
experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent
children" and "the cut-off point for prepubescence [is] age 13."[2]

All the articles you linked to[4] are about teenagers who are clearly not
prepubescent. Several are about disagreement over whether it is honest
to use the name child for an adolescent.

It is strange to see such words inflated to "pedophilia advocacy" which
going by the definition in Wikipedia they clearly are not. Therefore I
wish to see more reflection and less inner flaming.

I haven’t said much about this, because I do not know RMS personally. I
never worked with him and I also never observed his behavior within a

From what I hear, there are genuine problems, which point towards not
having RMS as head of the project. Experiences like the ones from David:

Thompson, David <address@hidden> writes:
> In 2014 I was hired at the FSF as a web developer. In 2015 I
> quit because the work environment that RMS is ultimately responsible
> for was demotivating and sad.  All of my former FSF coworkers, some of
> whom sincerely tried (and failed) to make positive change, have since
> moved on due to similar frustrations.

This is something that should not happen. It is an indicator that RMS
might not be the best strategic choice to represent GNU, or be presented
as a leader of the project. Given how much GNU grew, there are now
likely people in the project who are better at project management, at
people management, and maybe even at strategy.

But I wish to see us avoiding to condemn people by misrepresenting the
opinions they voice.

This also goes to people who now call Andy Wingo a traitor.

I don’t mind a strategic discussion whether RMS is a good representative
of GNU in todays times. I also don’t mind discussing whether it would be
better to have someone else take leading roles, do planning, and so on.

But please let’s not have moral discussions about someones opinions
about sex between juveniles and adults. What you’re talking about is
legal in Germany — where only sex between children below 14 and anyone
older is strictly forbidden, and sex between someone of 16 or 17 years
and an adult is legal as long as no payment (in money or otherwise) is

This is a moralizing discussion which can easily destroy a project which
is focussed on the specific goal of ending proprietary software. Who is
good enough to be part of the project? Who can steer our outrage against
each other to divide the project again and again until not much is left?

Once we let ourselves be divided by someone who misrepresents opinions,
we open our flanks to all those who want to see GNU fall and copyleft to
be forgotten in a wealth of lax licensed javascript frameworks.

Grabbing people by emotions can destroy everything they build. And this
also goes here:

> Yesterday, on internal project-wide GNU mailing lists, Mark brought up
> his personal grievances with me, arguing that the only reason I was
> ignoring RMS was because, in his opinion, RMS is the only person that
> could stop me from being Guile Dictator For Life; that I was attacking
> Richard out of some kind of hypocritical, tyrannical megalomania.
> Still, it was with surprise that I woke up this morning to a request
> from Mark to re-join the Guile project on Savannah, saying that RMS had
> appointed Mark to become co-maintainer, and that Mark assented -- "given
> recent events".

Did Mark join again, because RMS wants control over Guile, or did RMS
ask him to continue to maintain Guile, because Mark has been extremely
helpful to many newcomers?

Or did he even ask him to join again to avoid division while Mark would
see firsthand that you are not trying to be a dictator?

It is also possible that RMS fears that GNU could lose Guile when people
target you to get you to sever ties with GNU.

From a strategic point, if I wanted to attack GNU in the current
situation, my first points of attack would be Guix and Guile, because
these are at the same time growing rapidly and acting as a focus for
much of the development within GNU. To run such an attack, I would
social engineer the maintainers of Guix and Guile on an axis they care
about, so I could cut them off from GNU.

Looking at the public writings over the past years, it is clear that
aspects of RMS are such an axis.

And looking at how there already are people who try to spread every
wrongdoing by RMS, this is also a very easy to use axis.
(which is why a discussion about representation of and decision making
 within GNU is very different from a discussion about morals: this axis
 is too easy to use to attack GNU).

> Now, Richard has no idea about Guile or how it works either technically
> or socially, and has not consulted with me as Guile maintainer, nor to
> my knowledge did he consult with Ludovic.  I don't know what to conclude
> about RMS's motivations -- is it retaliation?  And why would Mark
> assent, especially if he professes to be scandalized by autocratic
> behavior and messianic tendencies?

Since Mark was the maintainer of Guile up to 6 weeks ago, I wouldn’t be
surprised if he just did not think that he might have to get permission
to take up his work again.

However saying that RMS has no idea about Guile is a stretch.
Guile would not be where it is today without your work, but it also
would not be where it is today without longtem support by GNU and by RMS
personally. RMS might have no idea about technical details of todays
Guile, but very much so of Guile as a vision.

I personally would not be working with Guile if it weren’t "the GNU
Ubiquitous Intelligent Language for Extensions, and the official
extension language of the GNU project".

When I decided to start with Scheme, I was split between Chicken,
Racket, and Guile. All three were similarly active and interesting, but
Guile is the extension language of the GNU project, so this is what I
chose. I never regretted my decision, because Guile also works very well
with Emacs and is well-suited for writing commandline applications — all
things I need. But I did not know that back then.

What I now see is that you’re running into fear:

> It a test, perhaps?  Mark is already aware that I do not consider RMS to
> have a leadership role in the GNU project, but although this position is
> shared by others, it is not a consensus position, and I don't think it's
> Mark's position.  Of course it goes without saying that I don't consider
> this supposed appointment of Mark as co-maintainer of GNU Guile to be
> legitimate in the least, but who else will go along with it?
> And what role is Mark looking for?

What role did he have 6 weeks ago?

> I would certainly hope not but I can't tell. Are we to have commit
> wars or something?

Where does this fear come from? Who but you has the time and experience
with compilers to actually push Guile core forward?

> I don't think the conditions exist currently for good collaboration
> between me and Mark, so I am not sure how this will play out in the
> future.

This is a problem that needs addressing. It’s something teeming
that can cut not just Guile but all of GNU apart.

> questions of "how much pedophilia advocacy is too much pedophilia
> advocacy" or "how much creepiness towards women is acceptable" should
> have any bearing on the development of an implementation of Scheme.

These are two very different loaded questions.

As I wrote above, the articles you linked to are not advocating for
pedophilia by any stretch of the word. They are advocating against
restricting teenagers out of a puritan moral code. We should not
mislable others with deeply insulting markers.

How much creepiness towards women is acceptable is another question. My
personal opinion is that first of all we cannot afford giving free reign
to people who actively drive away women:

But this is not just a discussion within Free Software, it is one within
all of IT.

And it is also true for people who actively drive away people for
holding an opinion they don’t like, as is currently happening with RMS
(when going by the references I saw given by people who condemn RMS).

We need to keep communication friendly.

Therefore I want to share something I originally wrote for Freenet:[5]

We’d be pretty naive to think that we weren’t targeted. And we have to
keep this in mind when we communicate: We don’t only have to look out
for bad code, but also for influences which make us take up toxic
communication patterns that keep us from moving forward.

The most obvious fix is: Stay friendly, stick together, keep honest and
greet every newcomer as a potential ally. And call out disrupting
behaviour early on: If someone insults new folks or takes up huge
amounts of discussion time by rehashing old discussions instead of
talking about the way forward - in a way which actually leads to going
forward - then say that this is your impression. Still stay friendly:
Most of the time that’s not intentional. And people can be affected by
outside influences like someone attacking them in other channels, so it
would be important to help them recover and not to push them away
because their behaviour became toxic for some time (as long as the time
investment for that is not overarching).

Overall it’s about keeping the community together despite the knowledge
that some of us might actually be aggressors or influenced from the
outside to disrupt our work.

> Perhaps this moment is an opportunity, to see where the Guile community
> stands.  In that spirit I invite Guile community members to weigh in on
> the issue.  What do you think about Guile's continued relationship with
> GNU?  What about its relationship with RMS?  Finally, what would you
> like to see happen regarding the future of Guile?

To me the mission of GNU and the FSF is important: Reaching a world
where most software is Free Software and where developers earn money
from working on Free Software.

Whether it is strategically best to have RMS as figurehead,
decisionmaker, or strategist is another question.

Guile is a very interesting project for me — the environment which is
closest to how I want to program — but its importance to me stems from
its embedding into GNU.

Best wishes,

[4]: Andy Wingo <address@hidden> writes:

Unpolitisch sein
heißt politisch sein
ohne es zu merken

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