Brazil's free software forum: wrap-up

by Andy Oram

When you go to any hotbed of free software development in Latin America, such as the Fórum Internacional Software Livre (international free software forum) I attended this week in Brazil, it's clear that Richard Stallman is the hero and the flagship personality. Quotes from his speeches turn up first on every web site discussing the conference, stereotyped likenesses of his signature hair style appear on posters, and supporters line up to pay five reais--a bargain compared to what he charges in Europe!--to get their photo taken with the real article. (The money all goes directly to the Free Software Foundation, so the charge is meant as a fund-raiser, and also--I suspect--to cut down on tiresome time-wasting.)

I noticed the same reverence for Stallman about five years ago when I attended FOSDEM, the impressive free software conference in Brussels. Such popularity outside North America (and in some quarters within North America) seems strange to many other people in the free software community who decry Stallman's insistence on strong positions and his seemingly obsessive attention to language. He is criticized as uncompromising, which is not really fair because he compromises quite often on strategic grounds.

Many other people doing free software wish secretly or openly that Stallman would cede his public position and let others represent the movement. Not likely! And from what I saw at Fosdem and FISL, not necessarily beneficial to building the movement either.


2 Comments

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2008-05-28 18:10:55
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