Missing Mark Pilgrim

I miss Mark Pilgrim. The witty web guru, who either quit, or took a long break from blogging in October has long sat as the number one Google search for “mark,” but I don’t envy him at all. He deserves it.

Mark Pilgrim simply doesn’t give a rat’s ass what anyone else thinks. He says what is on his mind, and doesn’t bother avoiding any toes. His public battles with scripting.com author Dave Winer ascended to a level that simply deserves admiration. Pilgrim, annoyed that Winer constantly edited his blog, without noting the changes, often retracting ad-hominem attacks, made a script to automatically grab a feed of scripting.com and highlight any changes. And then just to keep it honest, Mark made a system on his own blog that allowed anyone to track the revisions he made to any of his posts, no matter how trivial. I think in a way, Mark Pilgrim helped correct the direction of blogs, reminding them of the importance of honesty and openness. “Lighten up, it’s just a blog,” people said. Who knew how important blogs would be a year later in terms of affecting (and effecting) news, policy, and events?

And when he wasn’t making statements about editorial honesty, Pilgrim was keeping it fun with his great sense of humor. He is, to this day, the number one search for “blow me,” a wickedly funny post on Six Apart’s TypeKey authentication system.

Wait, did I hear you say that Dave invented a centralized comment authentication service? Why, yes! It’s called the You Know Me button.
I have no idea how it works, but Dave has humbly offered to run it, so
it must be good. I mean, really. Also, it uses XML-RPC in some way.
What’s not to like? And I would trust Dave Winer with my email address
way more than I would trust Mena Trott. I mean, Jesus Christ, people,
have you seen pictures of that woman? She’s a Persian cat and a monocle away from a James Bond villain.

Dive Into Mark: TypeKey? You Blow Me

Mark didn’t just entertain and impress me, he helped me make an important blog decision. When Six Apart went back on their promise and started charging money for Movable Type 3.0, many people were angry. But Mark Pilgrim said it wasn’t about money. His “Freedom 0” post really moved me.

Movable Type has never been Free Software, as defined by the Free Software Foundation. It has never been open source software, as defined by the Open Source Initiative. Six Apart survived and thrived in the blogging community because Movable Type was “free enough.”

Many people misunderstand Free Software and the GNU General Public License. Many people equate the GPL to the boogeyman, because it’s “viral”, and that sounds like a bad thing. Here’s what viral licensing means: GPL software has the restrictions that it has, and that’s it. The GPL is quite restrictive on developers, not at all on end users. (More on that in a minute.) Regardless, GPL software has the restrictions that it has, but it can never become more restrictive. An upgrade can’t take away freedoms that I enjoyed with an older version.

Freedom 0 is the freedom to run the program, for any purpose. WordPress gives me that freedom; Movable Type does not. It never really did, but it was “free enough” so we all looked the other way, myself included. But Movable Type 3.0 changes the rules, and prices me right out of the market. I do not have the freedom to run the program for any purpose; I only have the limited set of freedoms that Six Apart chooses to bestow upon me, and every new version seems to bestow fewer and fewer freedoms. With Movable Type 2.6, I was allowed to run 11 sites. In 3.0, that right will cost me $535.

WordPress is Free Software. Its rules will never change. In the event that the WordPress community disbands and development stops, a new community can form around the orphaned code. It’s happened once already. In the extremely unlikely event that every single contributor (including every contributor to the original b2) agrees to relicense the code under a more restrictive license, I can still fork the current GPL-licensed code and start a new community around it. There is always a path forward. There are no dead ends.

Movable Type is a dead end. In the long run, the utility of all non-Free software approaches zero. All non-Free software is a dead end.

This site now runs WordPress. Thanks to the wonderful people on the #wordpress

It’s not about who has a right to make a living (everyone does); it’s not about how nice Ben and Mena are (I’ve met them, they are very nice); and it’s certainly not about eating. I’ve taken the $535 that Movable Type would have cost me, and I’ve donated it to the WordPress developers.

It’s not about money; it’s about freedom.

Dive Into Mark: Freedom 0

That did it for me. I was already considering Expression Engine, TextPattern, and WordPress. Mark’s argument won me over, and in the end, it was about freedom. I’d already donated to Movable Type, so the cost of upgrading to 3.0 would have been negligible.

Mark Pilgrim has entertained, intrigued, and inspired me. Come back soon, okay?


  1. Sheldon says

    Any word yet on what happened? I happened upon his blog from a google search and was going to make it a regular read until I noticed that he quit back in October. I hope he comes back too!!!!


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