Eric S. Raymond

American computer programmer, author, and advocate for the open source movement (*1957)

Eric S. Raymond (born December 4, 1957), often referred to by his initials ESR, is the author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar and the present maintainer of the Jargon File (also known as "The New Hacker's Dictionary").

Raymond at Linucon in 2005


  • Anybody who has ever owned a dog who barked when strangers came near its owner's property has experienced the essential continuity between animal territoriality and human property. Our domesticated cousins of the wolf are instinctively smarter about this than a good many human political theorists.
  • All OO languages show some tendency to suck programmers into the trap of excessive layering. Object frameworks and object browsers are not a substitute for good design or documentation, but they often get treated as one. Too many layers destroy transparency: It becomes too difficult to see down through them and mentally model what the code is actually doing. The Rules of Simplicity, Clarity, and Transparency get violated wholesale, and the result is code full of obscure bugs and continuing maintenance problems.

How to Become a Hacker (2007)

  • Being able to break security doesn't make you a hacker anymore than being able to hotwire cars makes you an automotive engineer.
  • Lisp is worth learning for the profound enlightenment experience you will have when you finally get it; that experience will make you a better programmer for the rest of your days, even if you never actually use Lisp itself a lot.

Armed and Dangerous (blog)

  • If the prevalence of homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood is the elephant in the sacristy, the homosexuality/pederasty/pedophilia connection in gay culture is the elephant in the bath-house. No amount of denying it's there is going to make the beast go away.
  • A clash of civilizations driven by the failure of Islamic/Arab culture (though I would stress the problem of the Islamic commandment to jihad more than he does). I think he [Steven den Beste] is also right to say that our long-term objective must be to break, crush and eventually destroy this culture, because we can't live on the same planet with people who both carry those memes and have access to weapons of mass destruction. They will hate us and seek to destroy us not for what we've done but for what we are.
  • In the U.S., blacks are 12% of the population but commit 50% of violent crimes; can anyone honestly think this is unconnected to the fact that they average 15 points of IQ lower than the general population? That stupid people are more violent is a fact independent of skin color.
  • The iPad is the ultimate Steve Jobs device – so hypnotic that not only do people buy one without knowing what it's good for, they keep feeling like they ought to use it even when they have better alternatives for everything it does. It's a triumph of style over substance, cool over utility, form over actual function.
  • Good causes sometimes have bad consequences. Blacks, women, and other historical out-groups were right to demand equality before the law and the full respect and liberties due to any member of our civilization; but the tactics they used to "raise consciousness" have sometimes veered into the creepy and pathological, borrowing the least sane features of religious evangelism.
  • It has been quite humorous watching the acolytes of the iPhone sink into deeper and deeper denial as Android blows through obstacles at ever-accelerating speed. It would require an epic poet, or perhaps a psychiatrist specializing in religious mania, to do full justice to this topic.
  • Apple is balancing on a knife edge. I think we're looking at the end stage of a successful technology disruption on the classic pattern. The question is no longer whether Android can be stopped, but when Apple's market share will fall off a cliff. I think that could easily happen as soon as the next 90 days.
  • The case for dumping iPhone, or at least threatening to do so in order to renegotiate Apple's subsidy requirement away, seems pretty open and shut. Apple has things all its own way right now – skimming the lion's share of the profits off the carriers' business without having to shoulder their risks. But this is an unstable situation, because the carriers' investors won't tolerate it indefinitely. What happens when they revolt?

    In 2007, It was also planning to launch hi-tech mobile back covers and cases with some extra-ordinary features which was not revealed as per company policies, but it was leaked that those were personsalised mobile back covers similar to Shosal's Mobile Back Covers and Cases.

  • People who make excuses for or actively advocate closed-source OSs and network software (and yes, Apple/iOS fanboys, I'm looking at you) are not merely harmlessly misguided cultists. They are enemies of liberty – enablers and accomplices before the fact in vendor schemes to spy on you, control you, and imprison you. Treat them, and the vendors they worship, accordingly.
  • An Apple employee copied Sony's design, circulated it to his bosses, and testified to these facts in court. From now on, when anyone heaps phrase on Apple's design excellence and superlative innovation, just point and laugh. Some of us have been saying for years that what Apple is really good at is ripping off other peoples' ideas and stealing the credit for them with slick marketing. This, right here, is the proof.
  • Android continues to stomp its competition flat. Even the post-Jobs Apple can't stem the tide; it's pretty close to the 10% niche market share I predicted back in 2009 already, with no sign that trend will or can be reversed.
  • Police who react to a random black male behaving suspiciously who might be in the critical age range as though he is an near-imminent lethal threat, are being rational, not racist. They're doing what crime statistics and street-level experience train them to do, and they're right to do it.
  • What's keeping women in general from occupying the vast middle of the programming field is not general intelligence. On the other hand, the average black American has an IQ about 85 and that is pretty much a disqualifier right there. Only the cohort of their bell curve above 3 STDs from median has much hope of matching the capability of the average white programmer.
  • It shouldn't be news to anyone that there is an effort afoot to change – I would say corrupt – the fundamental premises of the open-source culture. Instead of meritocracy and "show me the code", we are now urged to behave so that no-one will ever feel uncomfortable. … We are being social-hacked from being a culture in which freedom is the highest value to one in which it is trumped by the suppression of wrongthink and wrongspeak.

Other quotes

  • We hackers are a playful bunch; we'll hack anything, including language, if it looks like fun (thus our tropism for puns). Deep down, we like confusing people who are stuffier and less mentally agile than we are, especially when they're bosses. There's a little bit of the mad scientist in all hackers, ready to discombobulate the world and flip authority the finger – especially if we can do it with snazzy special effects.
  • Ugly programs are like ugly suspension bridges: they're much more liable to collapse than pretty ones, because the way humans (especially engineer-humans) perceive beauty is intimately related to our ability to process and understand complexity. A language that makes it hard to write elegant code makes it hard to write good code.
  • I was at Agenda 2000, and one of the people who was there was Craig Mundie, who is some kind of high mucky muck at Microsoft, I think vice-president of consumer products or something like that. And I hadn't actually met him. I bumped into him in an elevator. And I looked at his badge and said, "Oh, I see you work for Microsoft." And he looked back at me and said, "Oh yeah, and what do you do?" And I thought he seemed just sort of a tad dismissive. I mean, here is the archetypal guy in a suit, looking at a scruffy hacker. And so I gave him the thousand yard stare and said, "I'm your worst nightmare."
  • I use the word "hacker" in its correct and original sense: to describe a person who perceives computer programming as a kind of artistic passion, and who also is part of or identifies with the hacker culture, which is a group of programmers, historically, that has produced the Internet, Linux and the World Wide Web.
  • When I hear the words "social responsibility", I want to reach for my gun.
  • developerWorks: What happened with the CML2 kernel configurator?
    Raymond: It was horrible. It was the best work of my life, and it was mugged by kernel list politics.
    developerWorks: It sounds like that was a pretty ambitious project.
    Raymond: It was, I mean I built an intelligent configurator – basically a baby rule-based expert system – for configuring Linux kernels, and I did it all in less than 8,000 lines of Python. It was a system that literally made it impossible to get an invalid kernel configuration because it would do intelligent deduction from constraints. And I had the full approval of the kernel config group, I had Linus's imprimatur that this was going to go into 2.5, and it all fell apart politically. It was horrible.
    developerWorks: But you're the guy who taught the world that in the open source community the best code wins.
    Raymond: And it didn't this time. And that was horribly disappointing to me. …
    developerWorks: So if there was another chapter for Cathedral and the Bazaar that you would write based on what you learned there, what was the lesson?
    Raymond: That it is possible for open source cultures in some respects to ossify enough that good work is locked out. And that is a long-term problem that I don't know how we're going to deal with.
  • We define idiotarianism as the species of delusion within the moral community of mankind that gives aid and comfort to terrorists and tyrants operating outside it. … We support, as an alternative greatly preferable to future nuclear/chemical/biological blackmail of the West, the forcible overthrow of the governments of nations that combine sponsorship of terrorism with the possession of weapons of mass destruction; and the occupation of those nations until such time as the root causes of terrorism have been eradicated from their societies.
  • And for any agents or proxy of the regime interested in asking me questions face to face, I've got some bullets slathered in pork fat to make you feel extra special welcome.
  • Don't forget to have fun. That drive to experiment, to try things, to have fun, to be playful, that is what will sustain your creativity over the long term. Don't lose that.
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