So who is this ESR character, anyway?

I wonder that myself, sometimes. This page is written for the benefit of anyone who may have stumbled on this website without having previously tripped over my public Famous Internet Geek persona.

I'm a long-time hacker, active in the Internet culture since the 1970s, who got unexpectedly famous in the late 1990s as a result of events I have described elsewhere — like the song goes, it took me twenty years to become an overnight sensation. I either founded or re-invented (depending on who you ask, and how some history is interpreted; I prefer ‘re-invented’, myself) the open source movement. If that term means nothing to you, think Linux. Linux is the open-source community's flagship product.

Today I'm one of the half-dozen or so most influential people in that movement; in fact, a lot of people would put me among the top three, with Linus Torvalds and Richard M. Stallman. The community has a tradition of tri-letterizing its heroes — I suppose that began with Stallman, already a hero when I was a fledgling programmer in the early 1980s, who was generally known as RMS even then. Linus Torvalds is just ‘Linus’, perhaps because (unlike ‘Richard’ or ‘Eric’) one can refer to him by simply first name with very little risk of aliasing problems.

I think I started to be routinely triletterized into ‘ESR’ around 1998 on Slashdot; that was a few months after the fame thing started to kick in seriously. It's at best a mixed blessing. Fame is tactically useful, but the pressures and expectations that go with it can be nasty stuff. I have written at more length about the problem in Take My Job, Please!

If you want to learn more about me, browsing through my essays would be a good place to start.