Who Are This Year’s Free Software Heroes?

Part of what makes the free and open source software community so awe-inspiring is that countering all the negative forces on software freedom each and every day are countless positive forces, contributing, enabling and chipping away at the FUD.

It is just such people who are ideal candidates for the 13th annual Free Software Awards, of course, nominations for which are now being accepted by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the GNU Project.

Aiming to recognize individuals who have made “a great contribution to the progress and development of free software, through activities that accord with the spirit of free software,” the Award for the Advancement of Free Software was given last year to John Gilmore for his work in network security.

Who should be recognized this year? Linux bloggers had no shortage of ideas.

Github’s ‘Heroic Effort’

“Charles Oliver Nutter,” suggested David Masover, a Slashdot blogger. “For JRuby and for how helpful he’s been with Ruby questions, whether or not they involve JRuby.”

While the FSF’s Award for the Advancement of Free Software is open only to individuals, its Award for Projects of Social Benefit focuses on projects. Targeting that second group, Github was Masover’s second suggestion.

“While their own code contributions have been relatively modest, distributed version control dramatically lowers the barrier of entry to contributing to a project, and Github makes that even easier,” he noted. “Seriously, you see an interesting open source project, you can click a button to fork it. There’s also their heroic effort to rescue the works of Why The Lucky Stiff.”

‘An Exceptional Advocate’

Alternatively, for the FSF’s individual award, Jody Goldberg was the suggestion of Chris Travers, a Slashdot blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project.

“The Gnumeric spreadsheet is the best spreadsheet I have ever used,” Travers explained. “It is extremely full-featured, robust and solid, and the import/export formats are better than Excel.”

In fact, “the few tests I have seen putting Gnumeric and Excel head-to-head have suggested that Gnumeric is the better program by any objective measure,” he added.

Two other possibilities that came to mind for Travers were Tom Lane and Josh Berkus.

“While it isn’t copyleft, the BSD-licensed PostgreSQL RDBMS is a real competitor to MS SQL, DB2 and Oracle on the mid-range,” he pointed out. “Of the Free Software projects in this area, it is easily the best. Tom Lane has done extremely well at leading the development of this project and Josh Berkus has been an exceptional advocate.”

‘I Have to Nominate Google’

Then again, “I suggest Pamela Jones and friends for their tireless work on Groklaw countering FUD thrown against Free software,” consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack chimed in.

Barbara Hudson, a blogger on Slashdot who goes by “Tom” on the site, also zeroed in on the legal realm.

“I have to nominate Google,” she told Linux Girl. “Oracle and Apple are tag-teaming to try to destroy Android through the courts, while Microsoft and Apple are attacking Google over unencumbered video formats.

“Additionally, Google told the Department of Justice to keep their mitts to themselves when the DoJ wanted to paw through the logs from the wireless sniffing episode, and made it stick,” she explained. “That’s got to be good for some bonus points.”

It’s just possible that “the companies attacking open source in the courts wouldn’t be as threatened by free software if they devoted more resources to innovation, and less to litigation,” Hudson mused. “As it stands, the only ‘win-win’ is, as always, the lawyers on both sides.”

‘A Community-Involved Model’

Linus Torvalds was the first suggestion of Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza: “It is hard to conceive of a world in which he doesn’t already have one, but we appear to live in it,” Espinoza explained. “I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t have one who deserves one more.”

Next in line, “I would nominate Dries Buytaert, the unifying force behind Drupal, which is turning out to be the right or at minimum chosen solution for a truly vast range of websites,” Espinoza added.

“Drupal has a highly community-involved model, and the user base really has the option to help steer Drupal through its website,” he pointed out. “The community has everything from international release parties to ongoing dialogue — in other words, it is an actual community.”

‘You Could Nominate a 6-Year-Old’

For Slashdot blogger hairyfeet, “the one who is most deserving by miles is Mark Shuttleworth because he is the ONLY one that is actually trying to make a functional desktop for normal people,” hairyfeet told Linux Girl.

Of course, “Free Software is a cooperative product of the world,” blogger Robert Pogson pointed out. “No individual owns it or owns leadership of it.”

Accordingly, “you could nominate a 6-year-old child for exhibiting unimaginable joy using GCompris or IBM or Red Hat for leading business to adopt FLOSS,” he concluded. “Everyone who uses FLOSS and shows it to others not so blessed should receive the award. How about the geeks keeping connectivity in Cairo?”

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