“You have no girlfriend to make out with”

So there you have it, a mouthful of personal opinions. I bet you wanted to spend your time doing something else, like making out with your girlfriend (haha, just kidding, if you actually reading my opinion on OOXML you have no girlfriend to make out with).

That quote is from a comment on Slashdot by Miguel de Icaza. Miguel de Icaza founded Gnome, one of the two main desktop environments available for GNU/Linux systems (the other is KDE). He also founded Mono, a “free software” project that is a rehashing of the patent-encumbered Microsoft .NET framework. Basically, using Mono sacrifices the free software ideology and makes one more vulnerable to legal attacks by Microsoft in the future. Miguel de Icaza is also known as being somewhat of a Microsoft shill.

In case you haven’t followed the news, there is a war brewing between two competing next-generation document formats, OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Microsoft’s Office Open eXtensible Markup Language (OOXML). Just for context, the current document format that you are most likely familiar with is Microsoft Word’s proprietary .doc format. OOXML, proposed by Microsoft, is touted as an “open implementation”, but all it’s really doing is wrapping a layer of XML around the old proprietary formats. The spec doesn’t go into detail on how a lot of things are supposed to be implemented, so the only ones who’d actually be able to implement a proper OOXML reader/writer would be Microsoft themselves. Obviously, that’s not a real open standard. ODF was proposed by a large consortium of people and companies, is a true open standard, is already implemented in all big four editing suites, and was accepted by the International Organization for Standards (ISO) in 2006. This should be a no-brainer.

But the main thrust of this post is Miguel de Icaza’s sheer ineptitude as a debater and proponent for OOXML. He’s absolutely terrible at it, and if Microsoft knows what’s good for them, they’d reign him in. I’ve read many back-and-forth arguments with Miguel de Icaza on one side and ODF proponents and OOXML detractors on the other, and Miguel comes off as horribly lacking in debating skill. He intersperses hand-waving technical discussion with the kind of crude insults one would find more at home in middle school, yet Miguel is 35 years old! How the hell does he expect to be taken seriously when he makes crude ad hominem attacks against his opponents’ theorized lack of girlfriends?

He’s an embarrassment, especially to Novel, where he is Vice President. Nobody’s going to knock his programming ability, but he clearly can’t hold his own in debates without resorting to school yard tactics that make him a laughingstock. Whoever is in charge of him should keep him indoors in front of a computer coding. He’s not cut out for the job of opening his mouth and trying to convince anyone of anything. And don’t think I’m taking this one comment out of context. He makes these kinds of childish insults repeatedly, both in his Slashdot postings and on his personal blog. I’m not going to go any further and try to speculate into why he argues like this, as that would be insulting. It’s enough merely to point it out.

4 Responses to ““You have no girlfriend to make out with””

  1. Kelly Martin Says:

    I used to work with Miguel back in the days when I as a GIMP and GNOME developer. Arrogant, obnoxious bastard. Then again, consider the company he keeps: open source hackers, who are mainly teenaged boys with no social skills. Also compare with Eric Raymond, another shining star of the open source movement — and also an arrogant prick who is as likely to talk about his collection of guns and his “open relationship” as he is about open source (a topic about which he actually knows rather little).

    The good people in Open Source are the ones who avoid the spotlight. The ones who constantly grab it are the ones you want to avoid.

  2. Cyde Weys Says:

    I wouldn’t say that just two obnoxious people establish a pattern. Linus Torvalds is pretty level-headed and not prone to these kinds of problems. Richard Stallman is, of course, Richard Stallman, but a lot of us like it that way, and he’s definitely the kind of person you can trust never to compromise his principles.

  3. JoshuaZ Says:

    While Miguel de Icaza may be an ass, I don’t think this comment by itself is strong evidence for the claim. As I read it, the remark was more a collective self-deprecatory remark about what sort of people read this sort of slashdot comment, not just his opponents. Now, there are other parts of that comment that do back up the thesis, but the quote in the title does not.

  4. Cyde Weys Says:

    Well I suppose there are multiple ways to interpret that quote, but as you point out, it does not stand in isolation. Some of his responses to detractors on his blog are especially juvenile.