Miners, Hackers, and Sharing

The Chilean miners are being brought to the surface! This is great news, and a great story, in which different people will see different things. I see it as a story of sharing.

The miners shared food, at first one spoonful of tuna each every 48 hours. The short Guardian article from which I draw that fact emphasizes the leadership of Luis Urzua, the shift foreman. He in turn emphasizes the unity of the 33 different individuals.

I emphasize sharing. In doing so, Do do so, I use WordPress: software released under the GPL, a license built on sharing. Richard Stallman, in his essay on the GNU project, reflects on the origins of the free software movement. Someone refused to give him source code he wanted to hack. “I was very angry when he refused to share with us; I could not turn around and do the same thing to everyone else.” It is very likely that free software, shared under the GPL or a similar license, is involved at multiple points in the path of this post to you.

The same human impulse to share that kept 33 miners alive also powers the web. I do not deny the existence of other human impulses – including greed, and I am very glad that greed didn’t triumph and kill down in the Chilean mine. Neither do I deny that there any many other interpretations of the miners’ story – others will emphasize the leadership of Luis Urzua, or the power or prayer, or another of the many things that may have helped the miners.

But I share this story of sharing.

Freedom and the Cloud

Cloud computing is a trap, warns GNU founder Richard Stallman. I advise reading the whole (shortish) interview-based article at the Guardian’s site. It’s less important to read my thoughts; be warned that they start in the next paragraph.

The trap is that, when you use cloud computing (e.g., WordPress.com, where this very blog lives, or gmail, where the andrew at changingway dot org mail actually lives), you have no control over the software you’re using. This is the loophole in GPL version 3, a project on which rms (Richard MathYou Stallman) and others expended a lot of time and other resources.

As 2008 goes on, that loophole becomes more and more significant as an attribute of GPLV3. So does the Affero variant on GPL.