DHH Keynote of Rails Conf 2019: Open source beyond the market

Interesting transcript and video of keynote given by DHH at the last Rails Conf.

Several questions about software open source and motivation, a dense presentation:


It was a quite interesting talk in DHH style. Provocative, inspiring.

One thing though I didn’t get about Richard Stallman and Bill Gates. He pointed out they share much background (education, time and so on) and they both went to “restrictive” licenses either proprietary or GPL. But of course, RoR is a different thing completely free/libre with MIT licence. Like Stallman, all time talks about how proprietary companies are mocking community with replacing free/libre terms with open source and now DHH makes point MIT is a new free/libre software and how GPL is restrictive license.

I think MIT is also isn’t the best choice for a license (talk from CodeBeam STO 2018 about some edge cases to elaborate).


Is there a text summary or transcript of that talk from CodeBeam about MIT? I’d love some reading for the train

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I had to quit reading here, it is a patently false statement and seems important to his thesis.

What I do think is interesting is how both Gates and Stallman anchored their worldview in a scarcity paradigm that embraced a similar fear of the freeloader problem, and relied on software licenses, that is contracts, to counter it.

I don’t care much for the GPL, but I do know that was not created to prevent “freeloading”. Some people use it for that reason now - without a doubt its a consideration for many choosing this license.

We do not have to guess or wonder about this. Stallman wrote down the reasons why he started GNU. The license exists to further those aims.

Once GNU is written, everyone will be able to obtain good system software free, just like air.(3)


Complete system sources will be available to everyone. As a result, a user who needs changes in the system will always be free to make them himself, or hire any available programmer or company to make them for him. Users will no longer be at the mercy of one programmer or company which owns the sources and is in sole position to make changes.

For the GPL specifically, they articulate several important freedoms:

  • the freedom to use the software for any purpose,
  • the freedom to change the software to suit your needs,
  • the freedom to share the software with your friends and neighbors, and
  • the freedom to share the changes you make.

GPL requires source be released for any binaries built using GPL software not “because freeloaders” but because you cannot change binaries yourself if they are broken or unsuited to your use case. Stallman wants computer users to have the freedom to modify any software that they use, full stop. GPL does more to advance this agenda in many respects.


I fully agree with your statements based on the clear motivations written by Stallman, I think that the motivations of Stallman aren’t related to some perceived effects, such as people choosing GPL trying to avoid what they think as takers against the maintainers that are givers.

Yes, hence my acknowledgement

Some people use it for that reason now - without a doubt its a consideration for many choosing this license.

It doesn’t change the fact that the Rails Conf key note contained lazy false-hoods.

Yes and I totally agree, but the overall key note cannot be invalidated as it covered other interesting points as well, such as the importance of a human approach to development tools, one of the thinks that make Elixir so powerful given that it follows the same ethos of Ruby, the developer happiness, I think that even with this issues it worth the read.

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