The politics of the command line

Free software has lead to communities of diverse individuals forming to fight for a common cause.

Blake Stowell, a SCO executive was quoted as saying "Call me crazy, but I somehow think that Pamela Jones isn't just a paralegal with nothing better to do with her life than host a Web site called Groklaw that is dedicated to bashing SCO. I think there is a lot more to her background and intentions than she is willing to reveal publicly. I believe that Big Blue looms large behind Pamela Jones..."

In truth, the phenomenon of Groklaw owed little to IBM, and much to the energy of Pamela Jones and the loose community of individuals who used the website as a sounding board. "When I started to write about SCO, I did so a lot because I thought it was funny," Jones has said.

"At the time, I was experimenting with graphics and text juxtapositions, and it made me laugh. I thought it was the stupidest lawsuit in the history of the world, and I was just writing to the air." Very soon, this translated into activism of a sort that is characteristic of free software projects.

Bashing the shell

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Much of modern intellectual thought has defined itself by questioning the rites of authorship, authenticity and identity.

This paradox lies at the heart of the debate about 'Intellectual Property Rights' and the 'ownership' of ideas - a debate in which the Linux and free software movement has found itself leading the way.

Software is an unlikely medium for social change, and an inauspicious starting point. Free software cannot produce vaccines or treat disease.

Nor can it put a roof over an orphan's head or fill an empty stomach. But nonetheless, during the last two decades, the politics of the bash shell and the command line have proved as effective as many conventional social movements in rallying diverse individuals from many different communities to a common cause.

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