A Requiem for Ian Murdock
Wednesday 30 December 2015 by Bradley M. Kuhn
[ This post was crossposted on Conservancy's website. ]
I first met Ian Murdock gathered around a table at some bar, somewhere, after some
conference in the late 1990s. Progeny Linux Systems' founding was soon to be
announced, and Ian had invited a group from the Debian BoF along to hear about “something
interesting”; the post-BoF meetup was actually a briefing on his plans for Progeny.
Many of the details (such as which conference and where on the planet it was), I've
forgotten, but I've never forgotten Ian gathering us around, bending my ear to hear in
the loud bar, and getting one of my first insider scoops on something big that was about
to happen in Free Software. Ian was truly famous in my world; I felt like I'd won the
jackpot of meeting a rock star.
More recently, I gave a keynote at DebConf this year and talked about how long I've
used Debian and how much it has meant to me. I've since then talked with many people
about how the Debian community is rapidly becoming a unicorn among Free Software projects
— one of the last true community-driven, non-commercial projects.
A culture like that needs a huge group to rise to fruition, and there are no specific
actions that can ensure creation of a multi-generational project like Debian. But, there
are lots of ways to make the wrong decisions early. As near as I can tell, Ian artfully
avoided the project-ending mistakes; he made the early decisions right.
Ian cared about Free Software and wanted to make something useful for the community. He
teamed up with (for a time in Debian's earliest history) the FSF to help Debian in its
non-profit connections and roots. And, when the time came, he did what all great leaders
do: he stepped aside and let a democratic structure form. He paved the way for the
creation of Debian's strong Constitutional and democratic governance. Debian has had
many great leaders in its long history, but Ian was (effectively) the first DPL, and he
chose not to be a BDFL.
The Free Software community remains relatively young. Thus, loss of our community members
jar us in the manner that uniquely unsettles the young. In other words, anyone we lose
now, as we've lost Ian this week, has died too young. It's a cliché to say, but I
say anyway that we should remind ourselves to engage with those around us every day, and
to welcome new people gladly. When Ian invited me around that table, I was truly nobody:
he'd never met me before — indeed no one in the Free Software community knew who I was
then. Yet, the mere fact that I stayed late at a conference to attend the Debian BoF was
enough for him — enough for him to even invite me to hear the secret plans of his new
company. Ian's trust — his welcoming nature — remains for me unforgettable. I hope to
watch that nature flourish in our community for the remainder of all our lives.
On 2016, ജനുവരി 4 9:41:19 AM IST, Arun Khan <knura9(a)gmail.com> wrote:
Sharing this sad news.
-- Arun Khan
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, Jan 3, 2016 at 9:04 PM
Subject: [PLUG] Ian Murdock, co creator of debian passes away
To: PLUG <plug-mail(a)plug.org.in>
Debian was named after Debra Lynn (his then girlfriend), and himself
(Deb and Ian)
He was just 42 and cause of his death is not made public.
Sent from my Android device with K-9 Mail. Please excuse my brevity.