Is it still opportune to collaborate with the GNOME Foundation?

I was a huge GNOME fan when it was part of the GNU project. But recently I discovered that it did not just leave GNU (which is OK-ish per se – although not really, GNU steered developers to write for GNOME for two decades, so I would expect at least a “Thanks”), leaders of the GNOME Foundation signed a nasty letter in which they basically asked to boycott everything related to the Free Software Foundation. And that is definitely nasty.

So now I am perplexed. I never really liked other DEs, I always loved GNOME’s design and look (thanks to the GNOME community and developers, which are not the GNOME Foundation), but I am starting to wonder, is it a good thing that free software enthusiasts have anything to do with the GNOME Foundation?

I must admit that my sympathy for MATE has suddenly received a boost.

(Fortunately an opposite letter has been written too, which has received way more support, and fortunately the support to the nasty letter comes almost only from corporations and developers – who are rarely the ones to trust when it comes to free software – whereas the second letter is supported by actual users.)


It is probably just a Stalman cancel culture thing. They probably don’t give one hoot what GNU and/or FSF does. But as long as Stalman is at the helm it must be avoided.

I bet if Stalman retires or resigns again, all these corps and devs will suddenly be friends with FSF.


There are a lot of geniuses with personality disorders. I am not saying that Stallman is either. If Stallman does good things to further GNU and free software, his detractors need to grow up and get over their personal dislikes instead of canceling him. It’s not even like he is getting rich off of free software. Steve Jobs was a real asshole and he got rich because he was ruthless and put money and success ahead of his family. That behavior didn’t seem to harm Apple. My inclination would be to cancel those who are trying to cancel Stallman.



Yes, thank you. Corrected.


That could be, but it doesn’t really reassure me. The very strong tone does not have a good smell. It looks like someone was waiting years for the right moment for throwing all that stuff at once.


Yeah, mine too…

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I agree with you that there is a big problem here, but unfortunately I don’t have any solution to suggest.

I support the FSF, and GNU, and Purism, and software freedom ideals in general.

As for GNOME, what the GNOME Foundation did with that letter indicates to me that there is something rotten inside GNOME leadership. Does that mean GNOME is completely useless? No, they still make free software, which is good. But it is very worrying and for me it means that I don’t want to support GNOME. But I still do support Purism, in particular the Librem 5 project, and since that is based on GNOME my support for Purism will strengthen GNOME as well. So I’m trapped, the end result is that I still support the Librem 5 project but with less enthusiasm. The project has invested so much in being based on GNOME that switching away from GNOME at this point does not seem practical.

The GNOME Foundation caused a lot of harm with that letter, that’s for sure. What I’m not sure about is if causing harm to free software movement was their goal, or if they in some twisted way thought they were doing something good. I know that some people who signed the letter did think they were doing something good. Many of them were just misguided.


I know, I feel the same. It is a delicate point. The GNOME Foundation holds the copyright for GNOME (I think? Or does it belong to the individual developers?), so it was their right to split from GNU. However it was not exactly ethical. I know for certain that during the years GNU has rejected software proposed by the community because “we already have GLib for doing that” or “we already have GTK for doing that”, and so on. And all these opportunities were missed just to defend GNOME.

And I am talking about a simple split. Here we are talking about something much bigger than that. Asking to boycott GNU software is like declaring war to GNU/Linux.

In my ideal world this would be solved with the community reacting and forking GNOME and keeping the FSF as the guardian. It doesn’t have to change it that much, personally I like GNOME’s design as it is, but probably the two projects would slowly diverge.

I think analyzing the individual motivations is hard. In general Stallman tends to piss off developers, so I would expect that some developers are there because they are pissed off or blame GNU for failing to get rich through software. But the GNOME Foundation is there collectively (as “GNOME Foundation”), and that has a different meaning. Which meaning exactly asking to boycott GNU has, I have no idea. What I know is that “the GNU part” of what is installed on my computer is the only part I really feel safe to have.

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Not sure whether I’m understanding your point correctly.
Should society allow anyone to cause harm freely, with no consequences whatsoever, as long as they also do “good things” occasionally?
Doesn’t sound very convincing to me.

There are so many reports on Stallman and how his words and actions keep alienating people, especially women, from the industry. I’m not a fan of cancelling people but looking at the allegations and the fact that women are leaving the industry over Stallman’s behavior, I think it’s reasonable to put his merits up to debate, and whether he should be in charge of anything important, such as the FSF.

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If a person’s actions regularly and consistently alienate women and other minorities, then that person keeps a lot of talent away from the industry. I think that in the long run, the free software movement simply can’t afford that.

So yes, I genuinely believe that most people who signed the letter did so with good intentions.

Improper behavior is typically punished through civil or criminal courts. In a civil society, any woman can put an offensive computer nerd in his place in short order, especially if there is more than one victim. Where are the lawsuits by the aggrieved women? I don’t buy those stories about Stallman as the reason for the cancel culture against him. Even if he is a jerk and I can’t say that he is, these poor innocent, helpless female victems of Stallman need to speak up where it counts, in the courts or by publicly humiliating him, whichever is most appropriate. Otherwise, the women aren’t the victems. The cancel culture people need to get a life instead of being jealous or resentful of Stallman for other reasons.


And to the same point, if Stallman were rude enough to women, some guy (boyfriend, husband, brother) would have punched him in the nose by now. I am not advocating violence. But for most men, there are two ways to learn how to treat women. The easy way and the hard way. If Stallman never learned the easy way, then like any other man that doesn’t learn the easy way, there is always the hard way. None of the signs are present. No woman has sued him. He hasn’t been arrested or beaten up. Society will judge Stallman on its own. The free software movement doesn’t need to get involved. Computer geeks are not made famous through their people skills.


That letter has no justification whatsoever. First it contains an unjustificable request, which is to boycott GNU, and GNU is made of developers who helped humanity grow for free (and in most cases don’t even know Stallman in person) – this alone would justify taking note of who signed that letter and “cancel” them from the free software scene. Second, after that campaign started the authors literally searched half of the planet for people who could report anything against Stallman, and yet they did not find much. Third, it is clearly written to attack Stallman “from the left wing” (but without really believing it – when it comes to software no one is more “left wing” than Stallman), so basically it is written that way on purpose for hurting the guy. And finally, yeah, Stallman believes in cranckery sometimes – but who doesn’t? – and is probably more or less autistic, and yet “Stallman was right” is still meme when it comes to free software. It is clearly a vindictive letter and no one can sign such a letter “with good intentions”.


The so-called “Stallman Women” should take a cue from Dave Chappelle’s friend Daphne – a truly courageous and beautiful human being.

My impression of Stallman is that he leans quite far to the left politically. I lean to the right more than perhaps the average person. But when it comes to respecting someone for their talents and foresight, the political differences can be irrelevant.


I must have missed that. Where does the letter say so?

One could argue that the intent of the letter is to remove Stallman from powerful positions so he can no longer cause harm.

I suggest everyone replying in this topic read the existing flamefest topics that already go over all this ground.

Has anything actually changed in the real world? Probably not.

Has anyone changed position on this issue? Probably not.


“We urge those in a position to do so to … refuse to contribute to projects related to the FSF”

If you need to argue, one could argue that the intent of the letter is to remove Stallman from powerful positions so he can no longer cause harm to the industry. Given the scenario, this looks more likely.

These things affect free software deeply, although the effects might emerge after years and in ways that will not be so obvious. But I believe that in the long term the effects of this event will be good: the letter has finally created a list of people who are averse to the Free Software Foundation (if you like the FSF but you simply want to remove Stallman you don’t sign such a letter).

Well, yes, some people did ask to remove their signature from the nasty letter:

Much less from the opposite letter:

I meant … has anything changed in the real world since the extensive previous discussion in this forum (i.e. is there any new information?) and has anyone changed position on this issue who is a participant in this forum?

The point is that on most contentious issues the people who choose to participate in online discussion have made up their minds and are never going to change their minds. So if, after “300” existing posts in this forum on this subject, nothing was achieved, I am wondering whether another “100” posts will achieve anything.


Had there been discussions in this forum already about that letter or the GNOME Foundation signing it?

Um, yes. Search would bring up: (182 posts in 4 days) and (427 posts) and