Archive for the 'Interview' Category

GMail is Down

March 27, 2007

Sorry if you can’t get hold of me – GMail is down and I have just realised that I’m almost incapable of doing anything without it.

Lesson learned – don’t rely on one email address.

Is anyone else having problems? I haven’t been able to log in for a few hours now.

Update: It’s now Wednesday morning in London, and I’m still locked out of my email. It seems like the problem is solved for the ‘vast majority’ of users though, which is good. Sorry if you’re waiting on an email from me.

 Update: At work now, and I have my email back. Thanks Google.


Interview – Alexis Ohanian, Reddit Co-Founder

November 2, 2006


I tracked down Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian today, still reeling from the Wired buy-out of the site. We talked about money, what it’s like to go through a buy-out, the future of Reddit and what he’s going to buy his mum.

Matt: Hi Alexis!

Alexis: w00t

Matt: So, Alexis, how are you feeling?

Alexis: My mom asked me that question this morning. I’ll tell you what I told her: I don’t know.

Matt: Ha! I bet it’s quite a confusing time.

Alexis: Feeling excited about getting done with all the legal wrangling and getting back to working on Reddit. Still in a bit of disbelief. I don’t feel any different.

Matt: Tell me what it’s like to get bought out. Who approached who? What was the process?
Read the rest of this entry »

Interview – Avi Muchnick

October 20, 2006

Avi Muchnick co-founded Worth1000 with Israel Derdik. Now he’s setting his sites on grabbing a piece of the news aggregator market with his new site, Plime. Plime differs from market leaders such as Digg, as it allows users to edit the submissions, in a similar way to Wikipedia.

Matt: So, maybe you could tell me a little about how you started Worth1000?

Muchnick: Sure, I was a graphic designer, but got laid off and decided to go to law school… in the interim before school began I had an idea for a quality Photoshop contest site.

Until then, all I’d seen online were goofy ones done for kicks, but real artists didn’t really participate, or if they did, they got drowned out in a sea of clichés and Internet memes.

Matt: So, worth1000 was set up for the more talented designer?

Read the rest of this entry »

Interview – Richard Stallman

May 13, 2005

Richard Stallman
Richard Stallman is the founder of the Free Software Foundation, creator of the GNU project, and much respected coder, and I was lucky enough to be able to ask him a few questions.

How’s your day going?

I am working, as usual. I am sitting in an airplane. My large battery is unusable because its connector has broken (they always break).

How are your days spent now?

Mostly answering email like this one, plus eating (I just spent three days in Italy and had wonderful food), listening to music, and reading. Once in a while I do sightseeing, if I’m in a place where there’s something to see.

I considered as a joke, sending this interview to you as a word file (obviously I decided against it). How would that have been taken?

People send me Word files once or twice a week on the average. I always explain politely why it is important for people to stop the practice of communicating using word files. After all, most of them just don’t know any better.

I would have explained to you politely, too.

What was the first program you ever wrote?

It was a program to add up the cubes of a table of numbers. I wrote it on paper when I was around 10 years old. No computer was available–all I had was a manual. I wanted to write a program, but since I had no computer, only a fascination for the idea of programming, I had nothing particular in mind to program. So I asked the camp counselor who owned the manual to suggest some task I could write a program for.

You were at the MIT AI lab in the 70’s, did you read GEB (Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid) whilst there?

Yes, we all loved it.

What motivated you to do the work you have done for the free software movement?

When the old software-sharing community died, in the early 80s, our old software (which was free, or something close to it) became obsolete or was privatized. Having experienced freedom and lost it, I wanted to get it back again. And I saw a way to attain freedom using my best skill, which was developing software. All I had to do was
develop an operating system that was entirely free software, one that respects the user’s freedom, and all computer users would have a way to use computers in freedom.

So I began developing the GNU operating system.

The difference between ‘open source’ and ‘free software’ is, for the end user at least, not very well defined. What do you see as the fundamental difference between them?

The idea of the free software movement is that every software user deserves certain essential freedoms:

0. The freedom to run the program as he wishes.

1. The freedom to study the program’s source code
and change it to do what he wishes.

2. The freedom to make copies and distribute them to others.

3. The freedom to publish modified versions.

If a progran tramples our freedom, we write free software to replace it, so that we can have freedom.

In the 90s, the GNU/Linux system turned out to have practical advantages as well. Millions of users started using it, mostly because of these advantages–but many of them never heard about the issue of freedom.

In 1998, some of them began talking about “open source” instead of free software. Open source advocates do not say that open source is a matter of respecting the user’s freedom. Instead they recommend a “development model” which they say typically produces “better” software (they mean this in a purely practical sense). To the extent
this is true, it is a nice bonus, but I don’t think this is as important as freedom.

Why do you think the open source group decided to split from the free software movement?

See above.

Do you think this has split the focus of your similar efforts, and made them less effective?

The open source advocates don’t work directly against us, and many of them develop free software. However, when our work and the community that we built are mistakenly attributed to “open source”, that certainly interferes with spreading the philosophy of free software.

Do you ever see a full GNU OS coming about? Will you ever replace the code that Linux occupies in the GNU/Linux OS?

I don’t know, but this is not a vitally important question. Rememer, we developed GNU for a purpose–to have a complete free operating system so we could live in freedom. We have a complete free operating system now, the GNU/Linux system, so the crucial goal has been achieved. The fact that it was achieved with the help of Linus Torvalds’ kernel is not a bad thing.

Do you use any non-free software?

I won’t have any non-free software installed on my computer, but I’m willing to type at a non-free program on your computer occasionally.

Under what circumstances would you? Would you not use a windows machine out of principle, even if it were all that was available?

If I am visiting a place where there is a Windows machine, I don’t mind using it a little. That’s as far as I will go. I wouldn’t have a machine set up with Windows for me to use regularly.

Would you use Windows even if Microsoft gave away the source code and compiled files for free?

I don’t care what price they charge, I care whether it respects my freedom. If they make it free software (that is, respect the four freedoms), then I would have no ethical objection to using it. I would probably still prefer GNU/Linux, but that would no longer be a
question of principle the way it is today.

By keeping file formats proprietary, such as GIF, do you think that companies risk harming widespread adoption of that format as free software cannot make use of it?

I am not sure what that means. We use the term “proprietary” to refer to non-free software, but it is not clear what that term would mean for file formats. It would be better to use a clearer term.

The problem with GIF format was that making GIF files uses a data compression algorithm that was patented. That was a big problem, and we asked everyone to stop using GIF format so as to solve this problem. (Fortunately the patents have expired.) However, there is a big difference between a patented technique and a proprietary program.

The GIF case shows why this question isn’t really meaningful for file formats. Compuserve developed GIF format, I think, but the company that attacked it with a patent was Unisys. Compuserve was surely unhappy that Unisys started threatening GIF users, but could not do anyting tp stop it. Did Unisys care if GIF format was used less
because of their patent attacks? I doubt it. Unisys just wanted to bleed others else as much as it could.

Personally I find myself able to work on personal projects, when I have little or no motivation when working on academic projects. What do you think is the main motivator for creating free software?

I have seen several motives for developing free software:

  • Politicial idealism–making a world of freedom.
  • Fun.
  • To be admired.
  • To get a professional reputation.
  • To express gratitude for the great free software we’ve already developed.
  • To get paid.
  • What packages would you recommend to someone coming from a typical Windows/MS background wishing to completely switch to free software?

    I can’t help you there. I do almost all my work in Emacs, which is an editor designed for power users. It is probably not what beginners want to use.

    Do companies like Apple, with respect to their use of UNIX in the recent OS versions, encourage you?

    I’ve never been particularly enthusiastic about the use of Unix. Remember, I led development of the GNU system, whose principal feature is that GNU’s Not Unix.

    Apple made the uninteresting parts of its system free, which is a step in the right direction, but not a significant contribution. The more interesting programs, which would have been a contribution, are not free.

    We need to stop feeling flattered when companies use our work, and start judging how much they contribute to the community.

    What about the increased popularity of free software such as Firefox, as it seems to have appealed to a large number of people who would otherwise be unaware of the free software movement?

    I’m glad if Firefox attracts people to the free software community, but you should note that the official binary of Firefox are not free software. The source code is free software, but the binary includes a non-free program and has an EULA whose consistency with free software is dubious.

    A volunteer is now working on preparing our own binaries of Firefox and Mozilla.

    What would your advice be to people like me, who are about to graduate and enter the commercial sector as a programmer? Can we make a living writing free software, or is it inevitable that we must work writing proprietary code?

    Most paid software development work is neither free software not proprietary software–it is software for private use. There’s nothing wrong with developing software for private use, as long as you respect the freedom of the client who’s going to use it, and there’s no plan to release it as proprietary software.

    What was the last book you read?

    It’s called Signs of Life, by Ricard Solé and Brian Goodwin and is about emergent complexity in living systems. Before that I read The Other Side of the Story, which was a rather clever romantic comedy. I’m also reading Sitti Nurbaya, an old Indonesian novel, to study Indonesian.

    What else occupies your time; do you have any personal projects on the go currently?

    My work doesn’t consist of projects. My work is spreading the philosophy of free software, leading the free software movement (to the extent that people are willing to follow), and managing the Free Software Foundation.

    What is your favourite gadget?

    I don’t understand the question.

    What computer/software do you use on a daily basis?

    Emacs, Emacs, and Emacs.

    What do you see yourself and the free software movement doing in the future?

    I can’t see the future, because it depends on you. Freedom could triumph or it could be wiped out. If you want it to triumph, you had better join us in fighting for it.

    Interview – Judge Jules

    April 1, 2005

    Judge Jules

    How’s your day going?

    I’m on a Finnair flight from Helsinki to London Heathrow, coming back to the UK for my weekend gigs and to check out the new releases from the past couple of days.

    How was the Miami Winter Music Conference?

    I was only there for two days, so I didn’t check out any other parties apart from the two where I played, both of which were outstanding. Most importantly there were lots of close old friends there to hang out with.

    You have a website and keep it pretty up to date, you also claim to reply to every E-Mail sent to you. Do you think that having this kind of web presence is important for DJ’s?

    I think it’s exceptionally important. Answering 500-1000 emails per week and updating my site takes 20 hours plus per week. However, just about no other dj seems to do this- most other djs’ sites are updated very infrequently, so perhaps I’m being over-keen!

    Is it true that you got your name from having a degree in Law?

    Yes, it was a nickname that kinda evolved from my legal background. Like all good nicknames it was given to me by a mate and stuck. I don’t think anyone should make up their own nickname- it’s your mates’ task.

    Where did you study?

    LSE (London school of Economics)

    How did you first get into Dj’ing?

    Promoting my own parties, both legal and illegal in North London.

    What do you think about laptop DJ’s? Is it possible to do a good, beat-mixed set?

    Two or three of the world’s top ten dj’s use laptops, but personally I think it looks a bit too nerdy and scientific. Having said that, I play only cdr’s, not vinyl any more, since nearly everything I get arrives on cd or mp3.

    How do you feel about the music industry at the moment, is it evil?

    I wouldn’t say evil, but there’s a lot of complacency and playing it safe in major labels. Most of the innovation starts life in the independent sector, and only gets taken on board by the majors once it becomes a safe bet.

    Do you think that file sharing is harming sales, or is it helping artists reach a wider audience?

    As a dj, file sharing of my live sets has definitely generated work in far-flung parts of the world, but at the same time it’s had a hugely detrimental effect on music sales, particularly in genres such as dance music that appeal to the technologically savvy.

    What made you decide to switch to CD mixing?

    I do my own edits of 99% of the tunes I play so it’s a necessity. The amount of travelling I do makes it vastly more convenient too.

    Is there much difference in using CD’s over Vinyl?

    The physical process of mixing is pretty much identical, but the ability to rapidly return to a set cue-point is a major plus point for cd mixers.

    What sort of set-up do you use for producing?

    Mackie digital desk, Logic pro audio with Pro Tools, lots of plug ins and sound cards.

    What’s on your rider?

    A bottle of vodka and a flask of cranberry, enough light to see my cd’s behind the decks (it’s amazing how often things are too dark) and minimum deck height of 4’6″ to help my back problem. Low decks can send you
    straight to the chiropractor the following day.

    What’s your favourite gadget, the one you couldn’t live without?

    My laptop (Mac G4 aluminium)

    How do you listen to music on the move?

    Via i-Tunes through my laptop. I’ve got an i-Pod too, but I’ve always got my laptop with me, so I use that more often.

    What’s your all time favourite album?

    Joy Division- Closer

    Who have you most enjoyed working/playing with?

    Too many to mention- Norman Jay, John Kelly, Eddie Halliwell to name but a few.

    If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would it be?

    James Brown

    Do you have any plans/projects in the pipeline for the future?

    Artist album due this year, mens’ clothing line due late 2005, the return of our successful Ibiza summer club night Judgement Sundays in June, and the May re-opening of our Ibiza restaurant and Bar Kasbah… And of course the summer dance festivals.