Don’t fear the beard

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During the 2010 baseball season, the San Francisco Giants — the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants (yours truly never tires of saying that) — had a slogan, “Fear the Beard.” Most of the pitching staff — relievers and closer Brian Wilson specifically — were bearded pitching machines mowing down opposing batters.

Historically speaking, the tech realm and beards have never been too far apart, at least for the men. As such, there are some in the FOSS realm who deserve special recognition for not only advancing free/open source software, but also for forsaking the razor and putting a hairy face forward.

This blog item deals with beards specifically, so those with FOSS’s most awesome goatees — like Red Hat’s Karsten Wade, freelance FOSS journalist Joe “Zonker” Brockmeier and Oregon State University Professor Carlos Jensen, all of whom would definitely get top honors in this category — aren’t included here. Sorry, guys. Same with moustaches: For example, Mark Terranova’s ‘stache belongs in any facial hair Hall of Fame; a piece of work that would easily get him membership in The Village People — and I mean that in a good way (however, truth be told, when he’s got a beard, Mark runs with the best of ‘em).

Here is a sampling of what I find are the best beards in FOSS, in no particular order other than to say that if anyone got a first prize, it would have to go to . . .

Jon ‘maddog’ Hall: Despite getting a lot of input from those who think Richard Stallman should get top billing, sorry, RMS: Maddog takes the prize as the FOSS advocate with historically the best beard in the realm, to which picture at right will attest. Or you could look up Father Christmas in the dictionary and, chances are, you’ll find maddog’s picture with the definition. Despite recently going for the Sean-Connery-as-Indiana-Jones’-Dad look (see next paragraph) to go along with the 70 or so pounds he dropped — a great thing, indeed — Hall’s beard has always been the standard of epic in the FOSS beard pantheon.

[Maddog, shown at left in his new closer cropped form, comments in response to an e-mail: “And for beards, I could NEVER understand why someone would want to put a very sharp instrument close to their throat when they are only partially awake. I have not shaved since 1969 . . . .” Also, to the youngsters out there, maddog has a message: “I am glad that you are twenty . . . I enjoy seeing your youthful energy and beauty, and some days when I wake up and I am stiff, I wish I was twenty again . . . but I only wish that for about fifteen minutes.” Amen to that!]

Richard Stallman: Most people I’ve talked to about this have said, after they stopped laughing at the topic (“No, really, I’m writing on the BEARDS of FOSS . . .”), that RMS should have the top spot, and in lieu of Jon ‘maddog’ Hall’s change in appearance, they might be right. The bearded face that launched a thousand tools to make the Linux kernel run, and launched a free software movement to boot, has been the one most commonly associated with free-as-in-freedom software. Not only this, he also sidelines as a saint — if you’ve never seen the St. Ig-GNU-tius schtick, check it out. I first saw this several years ago when Stallman spoke at UC Berkeley, and it never gets old despite being bearded (and I mean that in a good way).

Timothy Budd: If you are now, or have been, a student of computer science at a university, there’s a chance you may have had a class with a textbook Timothy Budd had written. An associate professor of computer science at Oregon State University — Go Beavers! — Tim has written a dozen textbooks on object-oriented programming, data structures and Leda, a multi-paradigm programming language that yours truly admits to not understanding at all. Be that as it may, Tim’s advocacy for FOSS during his time at OSU — he has had me as well as others speak to his graduate classes on FOSS — and his healthy crop of hair on his chin garners him a spot on the list. Besides, since he is well known by his students for his use of the term “Administrivia,” he gets on the list by simple use of that bearded word alone.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols’ beard is one that most FOSS users and advocates are accustomed to seeing on a nearly daily basis when reading the latest developments in Free/Open Source Software news. Whenever there’s news to be delivered, the FOSS community can count on Steven being the one who brings it to us; not only this, usually Steven is first with the news, which should garner him the nickname “Scoop.” Now writing for ZDNet as well, Steven gets what is rightfully more exposure in writing news that’s important to us — and to everyone else, for that matter. Steven gets extra points for being a Asheville Tourists fan — the Tourists being one of the most unique mascot names for a baseball team in the country.

Me: In an unprecedented display of unabashed ego worthy of another Larry — the CEO of Oracle whom, incidentally, has what’s trying to be a beard on his face, but not doing a very good job of it (but I digress) — I like to think that my beard would rank up there among bearded FOSS titans, not because of any accomplishment of my own — OK, the Lindependence Project . . . maybe — but just by the mere fact that it grows, with Wolfman-like speed, on my face. Herein lies the story: I’m a werewolf. Just kidding — I grew first grew my beard after Jerry Garcia died in Jerry’s honor, but my family hated it. So I went back and forth between having it and not having it until making a pact with my family: Even-numbered years, a moustache; odd-numbered years, the beard.

I’ve missed a lot of people, which is where you come in: Who did I miss and why is should their beard be in the FOSS Hairy-Faced Hall of Fame?

[Photos of Jon “maddog” Hall, Timothy Budd and Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols used by permission. The photo of Richard Stallman was taken by Copyleft and appears here under the GPL and CC-Share-Alike licenses afforded by the photographer. I haven’t decided to give myself permission to use my photo, but it’s probably OK.]

[FSF Associate Member] (Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
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  1. Colonel Panik
    January 27, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    What is going on in the FOSS world that you are trying to
    divert our attention from?

    The “unkempt” look is universal among geeks. Free/Open and proprietary geeks alike. Not news worthy.

    It is not the length of the beard but the length of time one
    has been sporting facial hair. My own starting point was ’72 or ’73. Yes, that blood in the morning was the impetus for my avoiding the razor.

  2. January 29, 2011 at 7:46 am

    I think the independent nature of us ‘frontier-folk’, who sport a beard more because it just seems to make sense to do it, have a natural affinity with anything free of dictatorial control. FOSS speaks to that, just as the same may have been true of the frontier folk who panned for gold, adventured through unknown lands, and paved the way for others to follow. Even with the long history of Linux, its still ‘frontier territory’ in computing, which is not only exciting but where us bearded folk belong. I could never imagine Bill Gates or Balmer with a beard. Nor could I imagine them having the stomach to live in the FOSS world.

  3. January 29, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Yeah, I would say the FOSS delineation is more than a bit disingenuous since many of the luminaries that have given us the tools we use daily to develop FOSS, were the quintessential ‘Bearded Programmer’ of Infocom Implementor fame. In fact, several of these core programming tools have spawned FOSS offspring; particularly the Gnu compiler suite.

    Here are some of these Bearded Gods:

    Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson; gave us C
    Bjarne Stroustrup; gave us C++
    John McCarthy; gave us LISP
    James Gosling; gave us JAVA
    Alan Cox; Linux Kernel hacker

    For my vote, Alan Cox FTW!

    visual reference: http://linuxpoison.blogspot.com/2007/12/they-are-computer-god.html

  4. anuz
    January 29, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    you should also include alan cox and al viro

  5. February 3, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    The length of mine varies from time to time:

    http://cfajohnson.com/photos/sp/Chris_Johnson-2009-09-01-01.html

    • February 3, 2011 at 2:54 pm

      Awesome beard, Chris!

  6. February 18, 2011 at 6:38 am

    Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, is growing a FOSS beard. I saw him a few weeks ago and it looked pretty good.

  1. January 30, 2011 at 7:45 am
  2. March 3, 2011 at 6:09 pm

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