Assorted links

1. How to give a speech, and arrange the giving of a speech, and much more.

This is one of the best “essays” I have read on any topic and it builds very nicely from apparently humble beginnings.  For the pointer I thank someone on Twitter, my apologies for having lost track of whom.


"A supply of tea with milk and sugar would be nice. If it is tea I
really like, I like it without milk and sugar. With milk and sugar,
any kind of tea is fine. I always bring tea bags with me, so if we
use my tea bags, I will certainly like that tea without milk or sugar."

This is a gem. "Many countries have a law that hotels must report all guests to the police. In most cases, this orwellian policy applies not only to foreigners like me, but to citizens as well! The citizens should be outraged by this, but often they are not."

"My usual speech about the Free Software Movement and GNU takes a
little over 1.5 hours in English, plus ...": why?.

"If I am quite sleepy, I would like two cans or small bottles of
non-diet Pepsi. (I dislike the taste of coke, and of all diet soda;
also, there is an international boycott of the Coca Cola company for
killing union organizers in Colombia and Guatemala; see However, if I am not very sleepy, I won't want
Pepsi, because it is better if I don't drink so much sugar."

Above 72 fahrenheit (22 centigrade) I find sleeping quite difficult.
(If the air is dry, I can stand 23 degrees.) A little above that
temperature, a strong electric fan blowing on me enables me to sleep.
More than 3 degrees above that temperature, I need air conditioning to

i believe this is the crescendo of the piece . . . absolute self-awareness simultaneously meets its opposite.

"I tend to like music that has a feeling of dance in it, but I
sometimes like other kinds too. However, I usually dislike the
various genres that are popular in the US, such as rock, country, rap,
reggae, techno, and composed American "folk". Please tell me what
unusual music and dance forms are present; I can tell you if I am
interested. If there is a chance to see folk dancing, I would
probably enjoy that."

If there is a chance to see Richard Stallman dancing, I would probably enjoy that.

Whoever, takes such a long time to draft a request like that, do not deserve to be heard. Such a pedantic display.

Talking about GNU and the Free Software movement for 1.5 hours makes me want to drink 2 diet pepsi too.

One of those amazing things that gets produced by people with a very high IQ:EQ ratio

Is "divided by zero" a ratio?

It reads as if it were written by an autistic Jennifer Lopez.

This gets the "Comment of the Month" award.

I second that

Nathan --

You're most welcome.

He also sings. He's a man of many talents.

He can make noises like singing....

OMG!!! Still, his main talent is clearly in composing stupid-looking riders.

I would hope that someone who has spent his life working towards free software could orate on it for 90 minutes. Stallman has very strong views on a number of subjects that most people don't seem to care about, such as constantly identifying himself to authorities or using only free encryption and encoding schemes. Making sure that people understand that before he gives a speech isn't exactly hubris. If the promoters don't agree with that then he probably isn't a good fit.

As far as the temperature remarks go, making sure people know beforehand that he doesn't like sleeping in 80 degree heat seems to me more the mark of a seasoned traveler than overweening arrogance. I think this rider is pretty benign. And if you somehow made it this far in life without knowing that RMS is a bit of an odd duck, well, now you know.

Holy moses, what an insufferable dude.

He writes:
In some places, my hosts act as if my every wish were their command.
By catering to my every whim, in effect they make me a tyrant over
them, which is not a role I like.

Yet anyone who takes his note seriously has already made himself more of a slave to a tyrant than to 99.99% of all speakers.

I wonder how far behind on his email he got while he was composing that manuscript.

He's been giving these kind of speeches for decades. He almost certainly wrote that up once and has used it ever since, adding sections as he encountered new situations that he felt warranted comments. It's not like this is something he sits down and writes out every time. Computers can save things, you know...

I would go see Richard Stallman in a heart beat. Most of his demands are pretty mild, but its interesting to see someone so specific about things.

Van Halen famously insisted on ridiculous riders in their contracts with concert promoters such as "the dressing room must have a bowl of M&Ms, but it must not have any brown M&Ms" not because they gave a shit about brown M&Ms, but because it gave them a useful way to tell whether the promoter read the rest of the contract -- with all the stuff about pyrotechnic stage construction safety that they did care about -- the minute they arrived at the venue.

Stallman has clearly learned this lesson well. If the price tag is still attached to your parrot cage when he shows up at your house, he knows he needs to exchange his payment for non-sequentially numbered bills somewhere as soon as he gets out of the lecture hall,

He comes off as extremely reasonable and accommodating. Every single paragraph speaks to an issue or experience that he has had and he very clearly laid out his preferences. This "essay" should make booking him for a speech very easy as all the information you would need is right there.

I found the bit about whipping out his laptop at every lull a bit odd. I guess he just loves to work. I wonder if he uses pine as his e-mail client... From the essay i get the impression his laptop is an old Toshiba satellite with the clip-on mouse :)

Agree 100%. I don't understand the rage or incredulity that is targeted at this rider. Most of the requests are reasonable and almost all of them are geared towards reducing friction between his host and his own preferences in the least taxing way possible.

Pretty interesting list. I can empathize with lots of his points, if not sympathize.

Also for almost all of these items I bet there is a cultural/value-based "incident" behind it. For someone who travels as much as Stallman foreseeing and preventing these incidents is much more of a problem than most people realize.

Also what's wrong with Pine? I still use it on the road if I can't be bothered to set up a "real" client to deal with whatever network hoops exist.

Well, one question is whether they are effective, and I mean completely separate from whether or not they offend people. Do people who aren't even put off actually read and enact the list to any degree? Is the putting off of some people a cost or a benefit?

I'm not sure such a list actually "works." I recommend an RV.

Definitely somewhere on the autistic spectrum. And an odd guy. But Richard Stallman being a weird guy isn't exactly news.

Plus, it doesn't seem that unreasonable. If you're traveling to do speeches 80% of the year, a list of common FAQs and preferences isn't an imposition. It's helpful, if anything.

"DON'T buy a parrot figuring that it will be a fun surprise for me. To
acquire a parrot is a major decision: it is likely to outlive you. If
you don't know how to treat the parrot, it could be emotionally
scarred and spend many decades feeling frightened and unhappy. If you
buy a captured wild parrot, you will promote a cruel and devastating
practice, and the parrot will be emotionally scarred before you get it.
Meeting that sad animal is not an agreeable surprise."

That is amusing, though.

"Meeting that sad animal is not an agreeable surprise"

For him or the parrot?

How did you make it as far as the parrot?

Having Richard Stallman come speak is, rather poetically, a lot like installing and using the free software he so admires: A good deal of specialized knowledge is required, and you should be prepared for compromises on convenience (and even capability) in exchange for a no-compromise approach to privacy and intellectual property.

No surprise Tyler liked it. He DID write a book about autism.

In some ways, it reminds me of a dating profile by a picky mid-30's single woman.

except he gets way more speaking requests than he has time

No harm being picky if one can get away with it.

"If it is night, and the stars are beautiful, I hesitate to say so, lest my hosts feel obligated to try to get one for me."

Sometimes I like to put one foot in front of another. But not during dancing, just during walking. During dancing I must be left alone to sway to the music, which you must ensure is at precisely 47 decibels, unless it is country-and-western, in which case -- since the cowboy hat you must supply me with (only Kangaroo skin cowboy hats, please, head measurement 58 cm, unless we are at altitude, in which case it should be a size 59) will interfere with my hearing very slightly -- the decibel level may approach 49.5, unless there's a slide guitar solo being played, in which case someone must immediately turn the volume down to 43. When I put one foot in front of another, during walking, you must take care to have all obstacles that I can trip over removed or placed to the side, with the exception of cats' tails, which I happen to like to tread on, though only Siamese cats, and the tails must be a combination of black and silver in colour, and at least 28 cm long, and without any especially gristly parts that can hurt my left foot, which is unaccustomed to doing the treading (I normally use only my right foot for the treading). ...

The practice of "requisite specificity" need not entail brevity, it now seems clear, but without scanning the item again, I wonder now if perhaps possibly maybe he left anything out . . . .

This guy seems to have made incomplete contracts complete!

It's amusing to read in total, but I would imagine he compiled that list over many years. He just added to it every time something came up, but like free software, never bothered to delete from it, letting others do the filtering. The programmer part of him probably thinks that is the most efficient way to interact with people who he's never met before.

I'm reminded of some Robin Hanson notion here. I feel the judgmental backlash is only because he's still alive and part of this generation. I would love to have something like this left over from my grandfather (father is already too close). It gives you a picture of a person that you won't get even from a biography.

Right. And if the filtering is an example of Brown M&Ms for someone who has limited time and doesn't know how much the other side wants it, then that's perfectly logical. If however having other people filter for you because you are lazy, that's not very kind. Take the code analogy a bit further "I present the computer with code, and if it doesn't run, then the computer and I are simply not compatible."

Whatever part of the brain that other people have that makes them instinctively try to reject other human beings I don't have it. So, I have no problem laughing at the essay and discussing the behavior without making any insinuations about the author.

Who is this clown?

What cave do you live in?

I have never heard of this guy either and I bet not many economists across the world have either. I'm pretty sure a poll at the AEA or even a poll of CNN or NYT editors will also reveal the same degree of unawareness. One doesn't have to live in a cave to not keep track of some obscure computer people.

"Obscure." Mercy sakes.

Try this:

News flash: There are several worthwhile people whom most AEA members are unaware of.

Exactly! All I'm saying is that you don't necessarily have to live in a cave to be unaware of this dude.

This is being remixed here:

This is a post by Eric Raymond in which he explains that travel reduces one's reserves for accommodating stress.

Eric's rider is a list of things written by a sane adult. Stallman's is anything but.

I hope that Stallman finds a sympathetic biographer who can explain him to the world he has changed. There is a fascinating and important story there about a driven genius, about creativity and collaboration and eccentricity and principle without compromise. But very few writers could tolerate him for long enough to draw it out, and he would probably insist that the text be given away for free.

Like most people who have met him, I don't want to spend time in his presence either. Yet he has accomplished more social change than I (or the mean-spirited commenters above) ever will. Surely someone can turn this irony into a good book.

Some Parrot somewhere can be made to talk.

>>Yet he has accomplished more social change than I (or the mean-spirited commenters above) ever will. Surely someone can turn this irony into a good book.<<


Too much uninformed snark here.

Brown M&Ms, anyone?

This stuff is funny even when it's idiots.

I saw this at [] two days ago, who apparently took it from user precipice [] who apparently took it from twitter user avi bryant [!/avibryant/status/129258497215971328]... maybe he was your source, too?

I read this on The Browser and thought it was an hilarious example of Asperger's in action.I think Tyler Cowan needs to explain both why it is an essay and even more why it is 'great.' Would he call, or instance, the Christian Bale meltdown that went viral a few years ago 'great' because it was an extreme example of someone lacking social integration while zealously looking out after their own interests? That is, great in the sense of 'extreme?'

More importantly, is this evidence of how different Austrian/Libertarian brains work? Always thought those guys suffered from too sharp focus on specific aspects of reality without a sense of context....

No, there is autism and adhd well represented. Though not 'opposites' they are sort of different ends of a spectrum. And there are plenty of 'normal' people too. I also think 'rationals' are probably more highly represented in progressives than average.

Besides, even if this meme is true, I see it as symmetrical with the obnoxious people who like to sit around in meetings talking about nothing and accomplishing nothing than intellectual circle jerks.

If you buy bus or train tickets for me, do not give my name! Big
Brother has no right to know where I travel, or where you travel, or
where anyone travels.

How come he's ok with the airlines playing Big Brother but not the bus and train companies. Is this an ideological compromise?

Thoudht of that too...

There should be an episode of Fawlty Towers featuring this guest. In fact, I wonder whether his aversion to hotels goes back to his experiences at a Torquay hotel.

A document like this for babies would cure TGS.

Off-topic, but could you have a voluntary intellectual property contract? In other words, Google would sign up to get IP protection. Individuals wouldn't because they have no commercial interest, and they also wouldn't be subject to the restrictions. If the commercial software companies want to protect the code from individuals then they treat them as trade secrets. It is called "code" after all. Maybe I misunderstand the point of "free software" (even after reading the essay on free vs open source I'm still confused).

I deal with many speakers in my work, and have dealt with more than one thousand speakers over the last 25 years.

Stallman's requests are clear and straightforward. It is best to not have to guess about what your guest speakers want, what they require, and what they will do.

Only an experienced speaker who knows his topic and knows himself and who also knows what organizers must and should do to make a presentation effective and successful could put this together.

To someone who does not organize speeches and presentations, his "essay" might appear over the top. It is not. It is excellent, and I wish more speakers were as clear and as self-aware as Stallman appears to be. Based on that "essay" I believe Stallman would be a great speaker to work with - no games and no guessing.

(Written as someone with no personal or professional interest in Stallman's topics.)

Has anyone thought about a hoax?

"So please, unless I am in grave immediate danger, please don't offer help."

Given his ethos, I find it interesting that he is such a stickler on attribution (calling things GNU/Linux). I'm not saying that this is inconsistent, but it is interesting. While it appears that he believes that authors of work do not necessarily deserve to be paid, with money, for others to enjoy the benefits of the author's work, the author seems to be at least entitled to some attribution.

What if I lived in a world in which I believed that software / art / etc. should be liberated from such trivial burdens? Does that make me a software anarchist?

" appears that he believes that authors of work do not necessarily deserve to be paid..."

That's a misunderstanding. His philosophy is explained well here:

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