Respect. (As I hear the kids say.)

Glyn Moody is re-tagging all his old posts, so subscribers to his RSS feed are getting a quick run through his blogging history. If you have any interest in Open Source or Open Science, check him out.
To whet your appetite: today he re-tagged a post pointing to a story that was posted to LWN.net in March, on Project Gutenberg founder Michael Hart (wikipedia, Poynder interview, PG about: page, blog of sorts). Hart is quite a character (as seems common among visionaries), and the linked resources make interesting reading (especially Hart’s own writing). What really grabbed my attention was this detail from Glyn’s article:

Even 20 years after Project Gutenberg had begun, Hart had only created 10 ebooks..

That was my “holy crap” moment for the day. Think about it: it’s 1971, what will become the Internet consists of 15 nodes and about 100 people, Sir Tim won’t invent the Web for another 20 years, and you are given an account on one of those nodes. What will you do with it? Well, if you’re Michael Hart, you will see forward more than a quarter of a century and begin Project Gutenberg, and then for well over twenty years you will be virtually its sole proponent and defender. In 1997, PG had 313 ebooks. In 1998, collaboration with the University of Illinois PC User Group finally set the wheels in motion for the creation of the PG we all know and love today; by the end of that year there were 1600 ebooks in the collection, and today there are 20,000. The clarity of that original vision and the tenacity with which Hart made it a reality are simply breathtaking.

2 thoughts on “Respect. (As I hear the kids say.)

  1. Wow. That’s really something. Inspiring antidote to the culture of instant gratification.
    I’m glad you pointed to RMS also. He’s already been recognized by many for his foresight, but is still dismissed by so many others as some kind of crackpot. (A zealot! Oh my!) I think it will become clearer all the time how wise he has been. Whether we live in a better digital world because of what he’s done, or worse in spite of it, I think people will acknowledge he is/was correct and he’ll be honored for that vision and his work in support of it.

  2. RMS is who I think of, when I think “visionary”. As for being nuts, well, he’s decidedly odd, but I think that’s generally a good thing. (Insert Mandy Rice-Davies reference.) Besides, “they called me mad, and I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me.”

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