As editor of the Jargon File and author of a few other well-known documents of similar nature, I often get email requests from enthusiastic network newbies asking (in effect) "how can I learn to be a wizardly hacker?". Back in 1996 I noticed that there didn't seem to be any other FAQs or web documents that addressed this vital question, so I started this one. A lot of hackers now consider it definitive, and I suppose that means it is. Still, I don't claim to be the exclusive authority on this topic; if you don't like what you read here, write your own.
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The work of Richard M. Stallman literally speaks for itself. From the documented source code to the published papers to the recorded speeches, few people have expressed as much willingness to lay their thoughts and their work on the line.
Such openness-if one can pardon a momentary un-Stallman adjective-is refreshing. After all, we live in a society that treats information, especially personal information, as a valuable commodity. The question quickly arises. Why would anybody want to part with so much information and yet appear to demand nothing in return?
As we shall see in later chapters, Stallman does not part with his words or his work altruistically. Every program, speech, and on-the-record bon mot comes with a price, albeit not the kind of price most people are used to paying.
I bring this up not as a warning, but as an admission. As a person who has spent the last year digging up facts on Stallman's personal history, it's more than a little intimidating going up against the Stallman oeuvre. "Never pick a fight with a man who buys his ink by the barrel," goes the old Mark Twain adage. In the case of Stallman, never attempt the definitive biography of a man who trusts his every thought to the public record.