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Eric S. Raymond

Eric S. Raymond

Eric Steven Raymond (born December 4, 1957), often referred to as ESR, is a computer programmer, author and open source software advocate. His name became known within the hacker culture when he became the maintainer of the "Jargon File". After the 1997 publication of "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", Raymond became, for a number of years, an informal representative of the open source movement.


Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1957, Raymond lived in Venezuela before settling in Pennsylvania in 1971. Raymond says his mild form of congenital cerebral palsy motivated him to pursue a future in computing; his involvement with hacker culture began in 1976, and he contributed to his first free software project in the late 1980s. His primary contributions to open source software have been maintaining the fetchmail email client for a certain time, and gpsd. Other contributions have included Emacs editing modes and portions of libraries like GNU ncurses, giflib/libungif, and libpng. He also wrote CML2, a source code configuration system; while originally intended for the Linux kernel, it was rejected by kernel developers. Raymond attributed this rejection to "kernel list politics".

Raymond is the author of a number of How-to documents and FAQs, many of which are included in the Linux Documentation Project corpus. Raymond's 2003 book The Art of Unix Programming covers Unix history and culture, and modern user tools available for programming and accomplishing tasks in Unix. Raymond has also been the editor of the Jargon File since he adopted it in 1990.

Other than his computing interests, Raymond has a strong interest in science fiction, and has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Raymond is a neopagan, an avowed anarcho-capitalist, and an advocate of a general right to possess and use firearms. Raymond ceased blogging in June 2006, but resumed in June 2008, making reference to "a certain lawsuit now in court" as the cause for the inactivity.

Open source

Raymond coined the aphorism "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." He credits Linus Torvalds with the inspiration for this quotation, which he dubs "Linus's law". The quotation appears in The Cathedral and the Bazaar, published in 1997. Raymond became a prominent voice in the open source movement and co-founded the Open Source Initiative in 1998. He also took on the self-appointed role of ambassador of open source to the press, business and public. The release of the Mozilla (then Netscape) source code in 1998 was an early accomplishment. He accepted stock options from VA Software to provide credibility to the company and act as a hired "corporate conscience and has spoken in more than fifteen countries on six continents including a lecture at Microsoft.

In his open source advocacy, Raymond refused to speculate on whether the "bazaar" development model could be applied to works such as books and music, not wanting to "weaken the winning argument for open-sourcing software by tying it to a potential loser". Later, he said that it could not work for an encyclopedia; he was particularly critical of Wikipedia, calling it a "disaster", and raising concerns about the factual accuracy and neutrality of its article about him.

Raymond has had a number of public disputes with other figures in the free software movement. He has rejected what he describes as the "very seductive" moral and ethical rhetoric of Richard Stallman and the Free Software Foundation, asserting that this is "not because his principles are wrong, but because that kind of language ... simply does not persuade anybody."

Raymond addressed some of his critics from the software development community in his 1999 essay "Take My Job, Please!", stating that he was willing to "back to the hilt" anyone qualified and willing to take his job and present the case for open source to the world. In February 2005, Raymond stepped down as the president of the Open Source Initiative.

Raymond was granted 150,000 share options of VA Linux which reached a value of $32 million on the day of VA's IPO. His shares vested over a four year period contingent on him staying on the board. Twelve months later, following the internet bubble burst, shares of VA had dropped from a high of $242.87 to $14.


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