On Tuesday, I visited the Treasury Board’s library to hear Richard Stallman give a talk. Although it was my first time seeing him in person, it was pretty much the same talk I’ve heard from him before, either in snippets of video or transcripts. In parts, it was very good. In parts, it was very awkward.
Stallman is just not for everyone, and certainly not for a general audience of civil servants. Some of his talking points were very well expressed, while others were perhaps poorly worded (even if I generally agreed with what he said). Afterward, while answering some of the questions, he acted a bit petulant and whiny (a polite query about the rate of adoption of free software in India was dismissed with a whiny “Well I don’t know! I don’t track that kind of stuff!”). And then there was the performance of his “alter ego” — the less said about that, the better.
I’m grateful for all of the work he’s done for the Free Software Foundation and the GNU Project. However, the FSF should consider limiting Stallman to talks to more technical groups and those already involved with free and open source software. When talking about the history of the project and its importance, it is fantastic listening to him…but he’s definitely not the best person to convince potential new free software users (not to mention their managers). In some cases, he probably hurts his cause more than he helps.