People I respect dis Richard Stallman, and I gotta say I don't like it when they do. So I stood up for him, saying his epitaph of Steve Jobs was both appropriate and respectful. As a result I got a smattering of negativism and disbelief from people who read my bit. Of course I expected it.
Since Twitter is 140-character-limited, which is sometimes a good thing, one has to puzzle it out. What does he mean? He must not understand those words, some people say. But I have a very strong appreciation for both words. If you read my web writing going back to the beginning, you'll see the concept of Respect in a lot of the pieces. I really worked this one through.
Respect can come out in many ways, because there are many facets to the things that can be appreciated. If I look at the elephant's trunk and respect it, I'll be saying something different than if I look at the elephant's tail. Yet both can be responsive to the truth of elephants.
So when Stallman says that Jobs made computers that put users in a tightly controlled box ("jail made cool"), he is being respectful. It's very true! I was around for all of Jobs's career, and one thing's for sure about his computers, he tweaked the extent of user and developer control as far to the extreme that he thought he could get away with. Sometimes he went too far, and it didn't work.
The first NeXT box was a perfect example. It had an optical disk that was prohibitively expensive to use to distribute software, and the net wasn't extensive enough yet to be used to distribute software. So in theory, in Steve's mind at least, all software would have to cross his desk before it made it to market.
Stallman and Jobs in this regard are at two extremes. So when Stallman views Jobs, this is what he sees. (And he also sees a man who died, and responded to that too. It helps you feel the humanity of Stallman, he has this much in common with Jobs, he too will die.) Stallman is telling you about Stallman through Steve's life. Perfect. Totally appropriate (the other word) because that's exactly what we all do, whether we admit it or not.
An aside: Next time someone close to you dies, try to not make your thoughts and feelings about yourself. It's impossible. Such news focuses you entirely on who you are. Death is the one event for which it's impossible to imagine yourself in the other guy's place. You can try, but it doesn't work.
History is a funny thing. You may find that Jobs's fetes fade out, people may not believe that an iPod was innovative in its day, a breakthrough even. Five years ago I gave a lecture to a Harvard class about creativity and started talking about Jack Benny. Highly educated kids, very earnest -- also very puzzled. They didn't know who Jack Benny was.
A friend's son asks his mom how old she was when she got her first cell phone. And the funny thing is, there probably are moms out there right now who grew up with cell phones. Even the jokes about the speed of time go out of date!
Where Jobs was smooth and accepted, and adored by millions, Stallman is a true irritant, and I don't know why. He doesn't irritate me. I enjoy his chutzpah, and see the honor, integrity and consistency of his philosophy. And also its effectiveness. That's the thing about Stallman. You can villify or ridicule him, but you can't ignore him. He has changed things. Think about it.