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Celebrating Ian Murdock, founder of the greatest free software community-driven project, recently died at the age of 42

Celebrating Ian Murdock, founder of the greatest free software community-driven project, recently died at the age of 42

Hi all,

on the 28th December 2015, a guy who has changed my life, as well as the life of many other people, has died.

Ian Murdock has left us at the age of 42 for unclear causes. This post is celebrating him as a person who has made a real "community".

I have never known Ian, I don't know which kind of man he was, but I know that in 1993 he has started a community of people that is actually doing something useful for the world, more than just speaking about it.

In my opinion it is of great importance for us all not only what they are doing, but how the project was started and taken forward from the community itself for 23 years right now.

I have ever thought that if we believe in power of human beings connected in networks, we can learn a lot from Ian's life, and we should apply the best practices he has started in our everyday activities.

I think the best way to #thanksIanMurdock for all his work is to introduce you briefly to the Debian project he has started and quoting some of his own statements, as Martin Michlmayr and the #DebianCommunity have done at #FOSDEM2016, the European Free Software and Open Source DEvelopment Meeting few days ago in Bruxelles. I thank Martin and the Debian community for the memorial moment at FOSDEM and among all, Stefano `zack` Zacchiroli, who has tweeted some quotes and inspired me for this post. All quotes you read here are taken from their presentation/messages.

DebConf 2015 - group photo

Ian Murdock has founded the Debian project which is the most widespread free software operating system in the world if we consider its derivatives. So it is the Ubuntu operating system that some of you may know.

Debian has given a boost to the GNU/Linux development and adoption to many users in the world,

An operating system is the software that makes your computer or, nowadays, your smartphone working. It is a collection of packages that can hold applications, documents, graphics, and any other modules you can think of.

Let me add just one technical note: packages are installed, removed and configured by a software called the "package manager". You have to know that Ian has designed the Debian Advanced Package management Tool (technical name apt) that  has worked for 15 years like the markets we find now in our brand new smartphones. I agree with Maurizio Napolitano that this is one great innovation that we should tribute to Ian.

Talking about the hearts of Debian you should know that it has many:

  • as the heart of the Debian operating system there are the Linux kernel and the GNU tools;
  • as the heart of the Debian project there is the community;
  • as the heart of the Debian name there is love, because the name is the synthesis of Debra and Ian

Debian is more than just an operating system: Debian has a Social Contract and Guidelines that their members sign and pursue in the goals of freedom and respect to all users in the world.

Maybe it is not easy to catch how the building of an operating system relates to ethical networks of groups and individuals Martin Kappers Michlmayr at FOSDEM2016 included a quote from Robinson Branden, who has been Debian Project Leader to introduce this:

"Debian is about individual empowerment in a cooperative social environment – about taking responsibility while sharing responsibility".

- Robinson Branden (2015)

And my feeling is that it applies completely to the world that I dream.

I hope that now you have got the very basics of the Debian project. Here follows some quotes of Ian Murdock, the man who has started it all #ThanksIan #RIP - Rest In software Programmes (as he will truly be):

In memoriam of Ian Murdock, a community founder

People often ask me what I would identify as Debian’s most important contribution to the world. I believe it’s Debian’s decision to adopt a community-based development model. As far as I know, this marks the first time that a project intentionally set out to be developed by the community that used it.
This is a central and critical component of the power of the open source movement — after all, if you remove the community from open source software, it’s just software.

— Ian Murdock (2003)

The package system was not designed to manage software. It was designed to facilitate collaboration.
— Ian Murdock (2004)

The Debian design process is open to ensure that the system is of the highest quality and that it reflects the needs of the user community. By involving others with a wide range of abilities and backgrounds, Debian is able to be developed in a modular fashion.
— Ian Murdock, The Debian Manifesto (1994)

And my final test as to whether or not Debian succeeded was: could the founder step away from the project and could the project keep going because that is the only point at which you know that the project has basically taken a life of its own.
— Ian Murdock (2004)

...and geeky guys... remember:

#thanksIan withoud you I would be ended a Windows sysadmin

Luca `fero` Ferroni,

in the hope that Ian's hacktivism inspires the Social Business World community,  the solidarity-based economy networks, and whoever tries to do his best to be ethical and strive to make a better world to be lived as one.

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  • Michele (@michele)
    By Michele (@michele)

    Thanks for this Luca!

    I guess not many people (including me, and I feel very sorry for being so ignorant) knew him except for developers committed to open source. A big loss for the world for sure.

    As a non-dev I highly value the words cooperation, collaboration and, mostly, community but for what I can understand there's much much more also on the tech side the world owes Ian and people like him.

    RIP Ian.

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