So I admit it, I have a huge problem. I check my email constantly — every 20 seconds constantly. I cannot work on a computer with less than two screens because email must always be visible. Buzz and other social media, however, don’t get checked as often. So, today, right before a late lunch I finally get around to checking Buzz — theres one message.
It was a “retweet” — Richard Stallman (THE Richard Stallman) was coming to Google for lunch today. I immediately checked the clock on my PC — 1 PM. Crap! I might be too late! I immediately forgot what I was working on, jumped out of my chair, mentioned it to a bunch of coworkers (while walking towards the door) and ran to the cafeteria.
I got there and found him towards the back (where they said they would be) — the only surprising thing was how small of table they had! There were but two other people talking to RMS, one of whom was the guy who coordinated his visit. I would think that of all places Google has a whole bunch of open source / GNU folks who would kill for a chance to talk to RMS. I understand if people might have missed the Buzz but he is kind of a memorable face, what with the big beard and all. If I was in the middle of my sandwich and looked up and saw RMS, or Linus Torvalds or Barack Obama or Larry Lessig or <insert other figure at the head of some political/ethical/technical movement you care about> at the next table with 4 empty chairs you can bet that I won’t be finishing that sandwich in the chair I started it in.
So… where was everybody? Why did the folks I mentioned this to on the way up not come (they knew who he was)? Why would all the engineers in the cafeteria not stop by? To these questions I have no answers.
Talking with RMS obviously got me more motivated than I already was to promote software and technical freedom, so I grabbed some “iBad” stickets (promoting awareness of the rights Apple doesn’t give you and the evil things they do) and brought them back to the office. I talked with some of the guys… and I know im not RMS and I don’t have 15 years experience trying to convince people of this stuff, but I’ll be blatent: I struck out entirely. Didn’t convince anybody of anything other than the fact that I’m a nut.
So, why is this so hard? The first problem is I am probably terrible at it and don’t have much training or experience in preaching people on ethics. The second problem is that the people I was talking to already dedicated Apple users, if not even “fanboys”. I would take it to be a very difficult problem to convince some body to give up devices they already own and use — and might even do a better job than the competition — for intangible ethical reasons.
I guess I’ll just have to keep trying.