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You-Know-Who

He has no job, he has no car, he has no cellphone - and without a cellphone he'll never get laid. His kingdom is not of this world. Meet You-Know-Who.


By all accounts, You-Know-Who was born on Manhattan to his parents. He started playing with computers in high school. He got a job writing a preprocessor for PL/1 but typically had to gut his design when he lost control of his code. This personality shortcoming was to plague him all throughout his life.

You-Know-Who also worked as a laboratory assistant in a biology lab. It was here he learned how much he enjoyed torturing poor defenceless animals.

You-Know-Who became a programmer at the MIT AI laboratory. This is where he began inculcating his cult worship. People were supposed to refer to him only as 'You-Know-Who'. He enrolled in a graduate programme but later dropped out as it was too much work to bother about.

In 1977 when MIT installed a password control system, You-Know-Who promptly removed all passwords and told everyone there would be free access to the system. If You-Know-Who had ever had any hopes the computer industry would take him seriously and offer him a job, those hopes were dashed now.

In the early 1980s most of the programmers at MIT left to start their own company. You-Know-Who was not invited to join, and for obvious reasons. Instead, You-Know-Who, forced to stay behind, jealously copied all their code in an effort to 'keep up'. Naturally he was not paid a wooden nickel for his pointless exercise; he was only laughed at more.

Incapable of suffering this humiliation any longer, You-Know-Who finally quit MIT in 1984 and the institute held a celebration party once they knew he was gone forever.

You-Know-Who's career is spotted by repeated failure to finish projects. The only job he carried out to his own satisfaction was the torture of poor defenceless animals in the biology lab. Everything else he ever started always ended as a wash-out.

You-Know-Who began to understand that if he was to succeed in this world - and succeed without a house, a car, a cellphone, or sex - he would have to resort to devious means. So began You-Know-Who's walk down the Road of Perdition.

The You-Know-What Project

You-Know-Who announced his 'You-Know-What Project' in September 1983. He did this by writing to everyone he knew in plain text mail messages broken at the twenty fourth column. As most people couldn't read the nonsense, the project went largely unnoticed.

In 1985 You-Know-Who published his 'Comm-Unix Manifesto' where he explained he and other programmers would be 'a community recreating a Unix around which the programmers of the world can unite'.

'And thereof our name. It has nothing to do with communism. I am not a communist and I have testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities to that effect.' - You-Know-Who on the steps of the Capitol, 1985

Unfortunately You-Know-Who's 'Comm-Unix' never got off the ground. You-Know-Who spent most of his time writing silly Lisp macros. So in 1991 when Linus Torvalds of Turku Finland and the University of Helsinki emerged with a 'Comm-Unix' of his own, You-Know-Who was crushed.

Ulrich & You-Know-Who

When You-Know-Who found out about the emergence of another Comm-Unix and further found out that reputable engineers were contributing to this project, he began threatening them and demanding they work on his non-existent project instead.

When these programmers of repute stood their ground and You-Know-Who once more recognised defeat, he instead began a campaign to hijack the entire Torvalds project, both renaming it to reflect his ownership and taking credit for Torvalds' work.

To this day a full one sixth of all references to Torvalds' work at Wikipedia incorrectly assign ownership and credit to You-Know-Who.

Of You-Know-Who Ulrich Drepper of Red Hat wrote the following.

'You-Know-Who recently tried what I would call a hostile takeover of our project. He tried to conspire behind my back and persuade the other main developers to take control so that in the end he is in control and can dictate whatever pleases him. This attempt failed but he kept on pressuring people everywhere and it got really ugly.

'The morale of this is that people will hopefully realise what a control freak and raging manic You-Know-Who is. Don't trust him. As soon as something isn't in line with his view he'll stab you in the back. *NEVER* voluntarily put a project you work on under his Comm-Unix umbrella since this means in You-Know-Who's opinion that he has the right to make decisions for your project.

'This becomes even more frightening if you know the story behind it. When I started our work, You-Know-Who threatened me and tried to force me to contribute rather to his project instead. Work on Torvalds' would be counter productive to his Comm-Unix Manifesto, he said. But when I resisted he began his 'embrace and extend', which if performed by other better known forces of evil would have resulted in an public outcry. And so now the blowhard is claiming credit for everything that led to Torvalds' success.

'You-Know-Who demands everything be labeled in a way which gives him credit. I find this completely unacceptable and can assure you none of our work is part of his project. A major part of what he claims credit for is simply going away.

'This part has a morale too and it's almost the same: DON'T TRUST THIS PERSON!' - Ulrich Drepper, Red Hat

Jamie & You-Know-Who

A company called Lucid once worked with You-Know-Who's silly Lisp macros. One of their clients wanted a working version. They spent considerable time and money (over $1 million) making this happen. When they were finished, You-Know-Who tried to lay claim to all their work.

Jamie Zawinski of Lucid recounts the entire story and provides an online copy of the correspondence behind it.

A few select quotes from that correspondence.

'I ran our project in a much more open inclusive way than You-Know-Who runs his projects. I was not just willing but eager to delegate significant and critical pieces of the project to other hackers once they'd shown they knew what they were doing. But You-Know-Who is never willing to do this with anybody.' - Jamie Zawinski

'The concept of free software doesn't belong to anyone.' - Richard Gabriel

'We waited for years and years for You-Know-Who. The idea of free software is a good one, but if you cannot live up to its needs, you should let go. Free software is an idea so good that you shouldn't smother it by claiming you own it. You-Know-Who doesn't own the concept of free software, and he doesn't own the exclusive rights to work on any project.' - Richard Gabriel

'I find it upsetting that, despite all of the criticism you heap upon us, it is clear that you have never even run our program.' - Jamie Zawinski

'You-Know-Who went ahead and implemented a monster Lisp environment that collapsed under its own weight.' - Per Abrahamsen

'You-Know-Who thinks he's a great programmer. I go to work for him, hoping some of that 'greatness' will rub off. But it turns out the single most common theme in his work is 'too much work', 'takes too long', and 'I don't want to bother'.' - Jim Blandy

'The (lack of) structure in You-Know-Who's work and his lack of clean internal interfaces are fundamentally unmaintainable.' - Richard Gabriel

Wired & You-Know-Who

Even mighty Wired Magazine have recognised the growing menace of You-Know-Who.

'You-Know-Who has been arguing as far back as 1984 that proprietary software is practically a crime against humanity. That's the year he launched a project called Comm-Unix with the aim of creating a free operating system that would displace Unix. He obstinately rejects the term open source despite its now near universal use, preferring free software, the name he coined.

'And although Torvalds released the kernel of his operating system well before You-Know-Who produced a reliable one of his own, You-Know-Who insists Torvalds' work should properly be called Comm-Unix - never mind that Torvalds' work has nothing to do with Comm-Unix and now approaches SIX MILLION LINES OF CODE.

'You-Know-Who declined to be interviewed unless we used the term 'Comm-Unix' throughout our conversation.' - Wired Magazine

You-Know-Who & The Future

You-Know-Who is a demagogue continually in need of a cause. After proselytising for years about 'Comm-Unix' and seeing others make good on his promises, there's really not much more to say or do.

You-Know-Who still travels the globe giving the same three speeches (available online) he wrote some twenty years ago. Sometimes he gets people to pay for this, other times he doesn't. The cause is wearing thin.

As a result, You-Know-Who for all practical purposes abandoned programming and his 'Comm-Unix' fifteen years ago. He's taking up other causes instead. Most of these causes involve a boycott of some sort.

  • Boycott Caterpillar. This because Israelis have used their bulldozers to raze Palestinian homes.
  • Boycott Coca-Cola. No one knows why, but it has nothing to do with sugared water being bad.
  • Boycott the IEEE. Because they publish copyrighted research papers. The real reason is another.
  • Boycott Harry Potter. Because Harry Potter's the sworn enemy of You-Know-Who.

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