that old GNU/Linux argument

Alexandre Oliva aoliva at
Sat Jul 26 01:26:56 UTC 2008

On Jul 24, 2008, Marko Vojinovic <vvmarko at> wrote:

> Persons A and B are running a marathon on the Olympic games.

You're quite creative at presenting analogies that sound convincing to
support a point you're trying to make, and that hide all of their
flaws in the careful manipulation of the mapping so that they end up
supporting your point of view.  One thing you need to learn (or maybe
you do, and you hope people won't challenge the mapping) is that this
doesn't make for convincing arguments.

Say, you start out by putting it as if there had been a race, a
competition between GNU and Linux, as if they'd started at about the
same time, and as if both used something that is not much relevant
(albeit useful), and GNU wants to claim credit for Linux.

Well, none of this is true, but it's the basis for your marathon

GNU started much earlier, and developed a lot of software for which it
deserves the credit.  You could make a parallel to it as the first
laps of a relay race, and the last lap was the development of a

Now, this is going to be funny, because both Hurd and Linux started
their development to complete the GNU system.  You could make a
parallel to it as two teams that had identical twins running at
identical speed during the same turns, except for the last one.

These identical twins, in the original Greek olympic tradition, were
all GNUdists :-)  Now, those running the last turn weren't identical

One of them was a GNUdist.  But he didn't quite run, he walked.  He
dropped the baton twice.  It was not funny to watch.

The other was too young to run on those olympic games.  Four years
later, he was allowed to compete, so he picked up the baton that had
been sitting there waiting for him (while the GNUdist had just picked
up the baton for the second time) and quickly ran around the field and
crossed the finish line in just a few months.

Clearly, the last GNUdist runner performed poorly, and the non-GNUdist
runner did a good job and his team won.

In the following olympic games, the last GNUdist runner announced it
wasn't a priority for him to cross the finish line any more.  Not that
anyone cared, the gold medals had already been presented to the other
team, of 3 GNUdists and the 1 non-GNUdist racer.

That sounds about right, except for the 3:1 proportion.  In real life,
it was more like 11:1, but this last racer attended the ceremony,
accepted the 12 medals on behalf of his team, but refused to send the
11 medals that each team mate deserved.  And he believes he earned
them, even though he was no faster than anyone other than that
unfortunate last GNUdist.

FTR, none of the racers represent any single person; each racer would
map better to a team of developers.

Alexandre Oliva
Free Software Evangelist  oliva@{,}
FSFLA Board Member       ¡Sé Libre! =>
Red Hat Compiler Engineer   aoliva@{,}

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