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This version: Eduardo Ochs, 2004nov05
Latest version:    <http://angg.twu.net/eev-current/doc/TOURISM>
      htmlized:    <http://angg.twu.net/eev-current/doc/TOURISM.html>
First version: see <http://web.archive.org/web/*/angg.twu.net>
    See also:      <http://angg.twu.net/eev-current/README.html>

A Brief Statement About Tourism

I need to start by quoting some paragraphs from the transcription of a
speech (<http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/stallman-kth.html>) that
Richard Stallman gave at the KTH (Royal Institute of Technology) in
Stockholm, Sweden, at the 30th of October of 1986. They'll probably
make clear enough how we are far nowadays from being in a perfect

    In the old days on ITS it was considered desirable that everyone could
    look at any file, change any file, because we had reasons to. I remember
    one interesting scandal where somebody sent a request for help in using
    Macsyma. Macsyma is a symbolic algebra program that was developed at MIT.
    He sent to one of the people working on it a request for some help, and he
    got an answer a few hours later from somebody else. He was horrified, he
    sent a message ``so-and-so must be reading your mail, can it be that mail
    files aren't properly protected on your system?'' ``Of course, no file is
    protected on our system. What's the problem? You got your answer sooner;
    why are you unhappy? Of course we read each other's mail so we can find
    people like you and help them.'' Some people just don't know when they're
    well off.
    But gradually things got worse and worse, it's just the nature of the way
    the system had been constructed forced people to demand more and more
    security. Until eventually I was forced to stop using the machine, because
    I refused to have a password that was secret. Ever since passwords first
    appeared at the MIT-AI lab I had come to the conclusion that to stand up
    for my belief, to follow my belief that there should be no passwords, I
    should always make sure to have a password that is as obvious as possible
    and I should tell everyone what it is. Because I don't believe that it's
    really desirable to have security on a computer, I shouldn't be willing to
    help uphold the security regime. On the systems that permit it I use the
    ``empty password'', and on systems where that isn't allowed, or where that
    means you can't log in at all from other places, things like that, I use
    my login name as my password. It's about as obvious as you can get. And
    when people point out that this way people might be able to log in as me,
    i say ``yes that's the idea, somebody might have a need to get some data
    from this machine. I want to make sure that they aren't screwed by
    And another thing that I always do is I always turn off all protection on
    my directory and files, because from time to time I have useful programs
    stored there and if there's a bug I want people to be able to fix it.
    But that machine wasn't designed also to support the phenomenon called
    ``tourism''. Now ``tourism'' is a very old tradition at the AI lab, that
    went along with our other forms of anarchy, and that was that we'd let
    outsiders come and use the machine. Now in the days where anybody could
    walk up to the machine and log in as anything he pleased this was
    automatic: if you came and visited, you could log in and you could work.
    Later on we formalized this a little bit, as an accepted tradition
    specially when the Arpanet began and people started connecting to our
    machines from all over the country. Now what we'd hope for was that these
    people would actually learn to program and they would start changing the
    operating system. If you say this to the system manager anywhere else he'd
    be horrified. If you'd suggest that any outsider might use the machine,
    he'll say ``But what if he starts changing our system programs?'' But for
    us, when an outsider started to change the system programs, that meant he
    was showing a real interest in becoming a contributing member of the
    community. We would always encourage them to do this. Starting, of course,
    by writing new system utilities, small ones, and we would look over what
    they had done and correct it, but then they would move on to adding
    features to existing, large utilities. And these are programs that have
    existed for ten years or perhaps fifteen years, growing piece by piece as
    one craftsman after an other added new features.
    Sort of like cities in France you might say, where you can see the
    extremely old buildings with additions made a few hundred years later all
    the way up to the present. Where in the field of computing, a program that
    was started in 1965 is essentially that. So we would always hope for
    tourists to become system maintainers, and perhaps then they would get
    hired, after they had already begun working on system programs and shown
    us that they were capable of doing good work.
    But the ITS machines had certain other features that helped prevent this
    from getting out of hand, one of these was the ``spy'' feature, where
    anybody could watch what anyone else was doing. And of course tourists
    loved to spy, they think it's such a neat thing, it's a little bit naughty
    you see, but the result is that if any tourist starts doing anything that
    causes trouble there's always somebody else watching him. So pretty soon
    his friends would get very mad because they would know that the continued
    existence of tourism depended on tourists being responsible. So usually
    there would be somebody who would know who the guy was, and we'd be able
    to let him leave us alone. And if we couldn't, then what we would do was
    we would turn off access from certain places completely, for a while, and
    when we turned it back on, he would have gone away and forgotten about us.
    And so it went on for years and years and years.

We can't have such level of tourism anymore, except maybe in few cases where
we can be quite sure that no irresponsible script kiddies will have access to
the machines; but by packing the public parts of our home directories and
making them available we can give an offline way to let outsiders spy us, and
if things work right then some of those outsiders will start doing the same.

(By the way, how many times have you programmed together with other people? In
more than fifteen years programming in my spare time I did it together with
other people a couple of times, at most. Is there anybody else in the same

Important links:

  ôó The eev Manifesto
  ôó The README of the package with my home stuff (~ 900K).
  ôó My main page.
  ôó http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/ (rmt)

(^ fix this)