Group Assignment

Emily Cummins

Text-Context Comparison

Duncan's: The most obvious way Stallman’s site interacts with- or rather contradicts- the context in which it exists is the very basic, low-tech organizational structure. Frankly, if you went to this page not knowing of Stallman as “The guy who invented GNU,” you would think at first it’s just the ramblings of some crazy libertarian. It’s completely dissonant with what you would expect of a legendary hacker genius. There are a few things Stallman might be doing this for. One is that he’s simply too busy or lazy to build and maintain a proper site; this way he can just dump his writings in a semi-organized pile with a minimum (though to be fair, sufficient) amount of organization. I think my gut reaction might be wrong on this one though. The website isn’t really bad per se, it’s just not very polished. Rather, I think the lack of modern trappings on his site is a deliberate attempt to appeal to the counterculture leanings of his allies. A loose, sloppy, utilitarian setup implies creativity and anti-corporatism, which itself implies fringe and counterculture, which in turn implies political activism, and this site, like Stallman’s activities in general in recent years, is not so much about his programming pursuits as it is about his political pursuits.

And of course you also have the possibility of Stallman making his website look like all websites did in the early-mid 90s to reinforce his position as a longstanding idol of computer culture.

Anthony's: Emily Cummins page is much more up to date, style wise and looks much more like most of the other web pages that are currently available, Where as Stallman's web page has an obvious lack of stylization and is purposefully crafted like the old 1990's websites that first came out. The content that stallman talks about in his webpage seems to be about things that he likes to talk about, or things he wants to raise involvement about.

Emily Cummins page uses text as a far different tool to put her point across then Stallman does. she has her text arranged eaily into nice little paragraphs that give it a proffesional appeal, or at least what we preceve to be professional. we would not want to see a long list of short non-complete sentences, but on Emily Cummins page you see short easily read paragraphs next to photographs that seem to go along with the paragraphs. On Stallman's page he uses a variety of types of text. Has a buletined points, with many links, some places he has small paragraphs of text, then he also has long lists in paragraph form.

Also the context of the two pages are very different. Stallman is making a web page for a different reason than Emily. Emily's page is a promotional profesional web page to promote her sustainable designs, and herself as a speaker and a humanitarian. Where as Stallman's page doesn't seem to have a purpose other than his own personal desire to create a site. All that Stallman wants to do with his page is try and get people to be aware of what he wants them to be concerned with.


Interpretation on design: Stallman
With the lack of CSS (, the page provides the information with standard font and link color. Without any design formatting to funnel information accordingly, the info is split into three sections to attempt to show information in a proper fashion. However this is only true for the first portion of the site. The rest is listed with standard HTML such as lists and page breaks, and no content is separated specifically for that contents purposes. Everything seems to be lost in the void of information presented to us.
However, the rule three makes an appearance here by his initial separation of content into three column margins. The rest of the design is pretty linear in its presentation of information. Standard page breaks (<hr> tags), allow for the majority of the content to be broken down into lists, but nothing further in a design aspect has been attempted on the page itself.

Interpretation on design: Cummins
With a modified Wordpress theme as the site's main design, the site is keeping up with the times with its modern design. By altering the blog posts into full out pages, Emily can then create a fully functional site with many tools at her disposal. Tools such as being able to control the font, text size, etc., with only a few clicks of her mouse. Stallman on the other hand has to hand-code all of his updates and posts.
By breaking down the information into their own separate pages, the content is spaced evenly throughout the site, and keeps you looking through it to find all of the information. Subcategories are also found within some of the pages, allowing information to be simplified even more, and be available in little chunks.

Relevent Research

Did my research from Wikipedia, as I don’t think I’m supposed to use the site we’re analyzing to get background information. Do we need more than this?

Richard Stallman was born on March of 1963. In September of 1983 he started a project to create a freeware computer operating system called GNU, and has been that project’s lead architect and organizer ever since. He is credited with starting the free software movement, and even set up an organization called the Free Software Foundation. He is also credited with the concept of “copyleft,” which essentially provides a legal framework for creators to deny themselves ownership of the work they created, allowing anyone who receives the work to reproduce, modify, and distribute it however they see fit. As of the mid 1900s, Stallman no longer devotes all of his time to developing GNU, instead focusing on campaigning against software patents and copyright laws in general. In addition to GNU and the Free Software Foundation, he created the original Emacs, the GNU Compiler Collection, the GNU Debugger, and the League for Programming Freedom, none of which I understand enough to comment on.

A New York native, he first worked with computers in high school, where he was hired by IBM to write a numerical analysis program. He completed the task very early, and spent the rest of his allotted time writing a text editor. After graduating high school he wrote several more programs while working as a lab assistant at Rockefeller University, while trying to decide if he should pursue a career in mathematics or physics. In 1971, while a freshman at Harvard, Richard became a programmer at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, as well as getting his first experience in the growing hacker subculture (where he gained his nickname, “rms”.) He graduated Harvard in 1974, with a Bachelor’s in Physics. He continued working at the AI lab, ultimately deciding to abandon his pursuit of a physics doctorate in favor of programming. While still a graduate student, Stallman published a paper on “Dependency-directed backtracking,” which is very sciencey and computery and important in ways I can’t even begin to fathom. He was involved as a hacker in the AI lab during all of this, where he worked on several important software projects, and became very dissatisfied with the restricted computer access in the lab. In 1977 the lab installed a password control system, and Stallman found a way to decrypt the passwords and sent certain users containing their decoded password with a “suggestion” that they remove the password completely, first establishing his reputation for being creepy and kind of a dick.

Around the turn of the decade, the hacker culture Stallman was deeply involved in at MIT began to fragment, mainly due to the rise of restricted source codes and software licensing among software manufacturers. This made Stallman a sad little puppy, especially when he and some of his friends were refused access to the source code for the AI lab’s new laser printer. Stallman had modified the software on their older printer so it electronically messaged a user when the person’s job was printed, and would message all logged-in users when the printer jammed. Not being able to repeat this modification on the new printer proved a major inconvenience and cemented in Stillman’s mind the notion that human beings have an inalienable right to modify software as they see fit, and that to prevent them from doing as such was akin to a crime against humanity. In 1984 Stallman quit his job at MIT to work full-time on his new project, the GNU system.


Planned survey
- My initial glandular reaction to the website is that he is a man of very strong beliefs and wants people who think like him to agree, and wants to convince others to think like him. He seems to disapprove with a lot of what the US government does, but his views if they do fit into the standard definition would be a liberal. He does a lot of petitions and uses links to try and convince people that what he is saying has a lot of credibility, just because another website says so. A lot of what he talks about seems to be issues that either he is passionate about or angry about.
On the top of the page he has his name and links to many different sites. Underneath that he has disclaimers and copyright information.
then he organizes the first part of the website into three columns the first, with urgent action items, which has a lot of petitions in it. the second has links to the green party and support the liberal democrats, info on lifelong activist, and things like airlines. the third column has a political cartoon, anti Harry Potter books section, and more things on airlines and borders.
Under this there is a long bulleted list of long-term action items that has a lot of petitions and other issues Stallman is interested in.

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