Almost Famous, Technically

by Kevin Bedell

Writing about technology for The O'Reilly Network - Crazy!

I'd written for smaller outfits, but this was the real thing. I had to call my mentor, Lester Stallman Raymond Bangs. He's always home and up late.

"Writing for The O'Reilly Network?" - he sounded interested - "It could be worse. You could be writing for one of those cyber-fish wrapping rags that reprints press releases and calls them news."

I could hear Lou Reed blaring in the background. He'd probably been up for 48 hours straight again - probably hacking Python code to play checkers against. He hated everything when he was in this mood.

"What should I write about?", I asked him. He really was brilliant - he could bypass all the fud and fluff and put his finger right on the heart of the matter.

"It doesn't matter", he said, "the Internet's being co-opted as we speak by multinational corporations and governments. These people - the 'swill merchants' - don't know what beauty is. They don't understand the elegance of a well-crafted object design. They laugh at Python. The only object inheritance they want is the one your grandfather left you."

"Come on", I said, "there must be something good to write about. I can't have missed everything."

I could hear a low laugh coming from the other end of the phone. He was changing the music - he'd put Black Sabbath on. "Here's what you do...", he began.

"Tell them you're going to need some time. Tell them you've got a 'think piece'", he laughed again, "A story about a rising Open Source project having to face its own limitations under the harsh light of a world-wide user base and an on-line bug list. They're scrambiling to get committers and Microsoft just announced a competitive offering will be built-in to .NET in the next release." He laughed some more. "They'll go crazy!", he added, still laughing.

"But here's the thing you need to remember", he was serious suddenly, "some people out there want to ruin Open Source. They want to control all the API's and protocols and everything. These people will kill innovation and take away all the stuff we've worked to build up, man. Oh, and they'll try to seduce you with free software and ease of use. They'll tell you that the chicks will dig you" - I was taking notes as fast as I could - "and that you'll make more money if you just follow them and promote their platforms."

"But don't do it. You've got to build your reputation on honesty. You got to cut through the fud and tell it like it is. You've got to remember that it's the Technology that's at the heart of it all. It needs to be free - and the ideas do too. And the code all needs to..." - he paused - "hey, my pizza's here I gotta go" <click>. I stood there with the phone still up to my ear.

Wow, that's a lot to take in. This was going to be harder than I thought. Crazy.

If you haven't seen the movie "Almost Famous" (one of my favorites), then of course this all means nothing to you. Probably.


2002-08-01 21:53:06
Beating the odds
I never saw the movie or read the book, but I think I lived the life--and I wish I'd written this!