Re: So, did Zawinski get his club?

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From: JS Kelly (
Date: Tue May 02 2000 - 01:01:05 PDT

As far as I know, he did:


On Tue, 2 May 2000, Adam Rifkin -4K wrote:

> I wonder if any company ever succeeds if employees are allowed to "tell
> it like it is":
> > Zawinski's penchant for telling it like it is, or at least like he
> > thinks it is (a characteristic he shares with many hackers), was a
> > public relations disaster.
> Found that quote in a 3-month-old article at Salon:
> (Note the use of the phrase "dreaded FoRK" below. :)
> Anyway, I'm wondering if Zawinski succeeded in getting his club.
> Anyone got any info?
> > Free software! Free night life!
> >
> > Jamie Zawinski fought to open Netscape's source code. Now he wants to
> > liberate San Francisco's fading club scene.
> >
> > By Andrew Leonard
> > Feb. 10, 2000
> >
> > Jamie Zawinski has a face the camera can only love. Framed beneath
> > lush, long dark hair, his intelligent, expressive eyes and ready, ironic
> > smile draw attention like a magnet. For reporters, his habit of
> > dispensing painfully articulate, often outrageous soundbites is equally
> > attractive -- one reason why the former Netscape programmer steals most
> > of the scenes in "Code Rush," an upcoming PBS documentary that focuses
> > on the hectic lives of a team of Netscape coders during the spring of 1998.
> >
> > On the first Wednesday in February, an advance viewing of "Code Rush"
> > debuted at a Mountain View, Calif., studio, about a 45-minute drive
> > south of San Francisco. The hour-long documentary is worth watching. The
> > specific time period captured on film covers a crucial moment in the
> > history of the "free-software movement" -- that frantic couple of months
> > during which Netscape programmers scrambled to clean up the hitherto
> > proprietary source code to the Navigator Web browser so that it could be
> > released as publicly accessible open-source software.
> >
> > But Zawinski couldn't make the screening -- he had another commitment,
> > an appearance that same night before the Board of Appeals of the San
> > Francisco Planning Commission. Zawinski may have quit Netscape in a
> > disgusted huff a little less than a year ago, angry at the constant
> > delays plaguing the development of a new version of Navigator, but that
> > doesn't mean the 30-year-old stock-option millionaire has stopped
> > agitating. For the better part of the last year, in the face of
> > concerted resistance from the San Francisco Police Department and to the
> > delight of a picturesque collection of San Francisco's late night
> > entertainment habitues, Zawinski has been struggling to achieve a new
> > dream -- the purchase of the DNA Lounge, a nightclub.
> >
> > In a scene that simply reeked of wacky San Francisco-ness, Zawinski
> > packed the Board of Appeals hearing with at least 150 fans sporting
> > "Save SF Late Night Culture" stickers -- most of whom were pale-skinned
> > and punk/gothic fashionable enough to qualify for parts as undead extras
> > on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
> >
> > The Zawinski contingent far outnumbered the handful of residents who
> > came to speak in support of the SFPD's attempt to use the DNA's change
> > of ownership to revoke the DNA's extensive after-hours operating
> > permits.
> >
> > For the past several years, the South of Market region of San Francisco
> > has been witness to steadily increasing tension between clubs, some
> > residents and the police. As far as club owners and patrons are
> > concerned, the police, acting on behalf of flush and easily annoyed new
> > residents, are engaged in an organized crackdown on the clubs. The
> > dispute over the DNA's after-hours permits is just the latest skirmish.
> >
> > "San Francisco's clubs are under pressure," says Zawinski, over a sushi
> > lunch in downtown San Francisco's spanking new and ultra-high-tech Sony
> > Metreon building. "And I thought, well, maybe I could try and do
> > something about that. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I was doing
> > it because it was something that mattered to me, and not something that
> > could make money, because it's not."
> >
> > Zawinski's motivation, he says, is akin to one of the key forces that
> > pushes the free-software movement forward. He's "scratching his itch,"
> > he says, quoting Eric Raymond, one of the chief evangelists for free
> > software. Programmers appreciate free software -- software in which the
> > underlying source code is freely accessible and modifiable -- in part
> > because oftentimes they simply want to solve a particular problem they
> > face in their daily coding life, or satisfy an urge to add some new,
> > special feature to their software. Enjoying access to the source code
> > allows them to satisfy those needs -- to scratch those itches.
> >
> > For Zawinski, the current irritation that needs assuaging is what he
> > sees as a marked decline in the number of late-night venues for dancing
> > and live concerts in San Francisco. So Zawinski has set his sights on
> > fixing what he sees as a bug in the city's operating system. This time
> > around, however, he isn't taking advantage of publicly available source
> > code, but instead is capitalizing on the millions of dollars that became
> > the birthright of all early employees of Netscape.
> >
> > Zawinski's post-Netscape adventures offer an intriguing glimpse as to
> > what the future millionaires of the free software world -- the
> > programmers currently getting fat off of the inflated stock prices of
> > companies like Red Hat and VA Linux -- could decide to do with their
> > riches. If his example is any guide, they may well translate their
> > hacker obsessions into more worldly pursuits. But that's not the only
> > reason to pay attention to Zawinski's late-night crusade.
> >
> > Part of the backstory to the struggle over the DNA is the increasing
> > gentrification of the South of Market region. The Northern California
> > economy is awash with money -- much of it made from the same dot-com
> > industry that bestowed its largesse on Zawinski. Though not the only
> > factor putting pressure on the nightclubs, the arrival of well-heeled
> > new residents snapping up half-million-dollar condominiums is one reason
> > why the police are cracking down.
> >
> > To some observers, the showdown is just one more example of how the
> > dot-com economy is reshaping San Francisco, or, to put it more
> > stridently, how the Internet is ruining San Francisco. But the story
> > isn't quite that simple. Jamie Zawinski, as a key Netscape programmer,
> > is as responsible as any single person for delivering the code that made
> > the Internet economy possible. But is he ruining San Francisco? Hardly --
> > he's attempting to make his own changes, to fight against the tide.
> >
> > And it's not all that quixotic a mission. Zawinski's appearance at the
> > board of appeals was a huge success -- the commissioners unanimously
> > agreed to deny the police their attempt to change the DNA's permits.
> >
> > The dot-com economy may take away ... but it also giveth.
> >
> > Among the journalists and hackers who pay attention to the world of free
> > software, Jamie Zawinski is notorious for a whole laundry list of
> > reasons. At Netscape, where for a time he lived inside a camouflage tent
> > spread over his cubicle, and shaved one side of his head while letting
> > hair on the other grow long, Zawinski became an obvious focal point for
> > the hordes of Netscape observers frantic to get a close look at the new
> > world of the Net. Zawinski's legend only grew when, on April 1, exactly
> > one year to the day after helping to organize a huge party to celebrate
> > the public release of the Navigator source code, he quit Netscape,
> > denouncing the entire project, known as "Mozilla," as hopelessly flawed.
> >
> > Ever since, the trade press has labeled Mozilla a free-software failure.
> >
> > Mention Zawinski's name around Mozilla folks these days and you are
> > likely to get a deep sigh. Zawinski's penchant for telling it like it
> > is, or at least like he thinks it is (a characteristic he shares with
> > many hackers), was a public relations disaster. When I told one
> > consultant who works with Netscape that I'd been having a hard time
> > getting Zawinski to make any further comments about Mozilla, the
> > consultant shrugged his shoulders.
> >
> > "Hasn't he said enough already?" wondered the consultant.
> >
> > Some of the South of Market residents who supported the SFPD's attempt
> > to cut back on the DNA's operating hours are also wont to grumble. At
> > the board of appeals hearing, Jim Meko, president of the South of Market
> > Resident's Association (SOMARA), called Zawinski "arrogant" and attacked
> > him for having hired "paid political consultants" to manipulate the
> > local press. At the hearing, other SOMARA members could be seen visibly
> > grimacing in annoyance when Zawinski pointedly made reference to his
> > former Netscape employment while addressing the board -- apparently, it
> > wasn't the first time Zawinski had touted his Netscape lineage.
> >
> > But in the insular world of free software programmers Zawinski's
> > reputation dates back to long before he ever wrote a single line of code
> > for Netscape. In the early '90s, Zawinski worked at Lucid, a Bay Area
> > start-up that sold high-end programming tools. Zawinski's main
> > contribution to Lucid was the creation of Lucid Emacs, a new version of
> > one of the most popular free software tools then in existence -- the
> > Emacs text editor, originally written by a programmer named Richard Stallman.
> >
> > Stallman is the founding father of the organized wing of the free
> > software movement. Long before Linux began spreading throughout the
> > computing universe, programmers all over the world used Emacs as their
> > all-purpose workhorse. But there was a problem, according to Lucid. In
> > the early '90s, says Zawinski, the pace of Emacs development had slowed
> > to a near standstill. Lucid management desired a version of Emacs that
> > included a set of features that didn't yet exist. Since the program was
> > free software, that presented no great difficulty -- eventually,
> > Zawinski added most of the necessary features himself.
> >
> > "Emacs [version number] 19 wasn't done yet," says Zawinski, "so I solved
> > the problem by writing my own version of Emacs 19. One thing led to
> > another, and that didn't work out, so we released our own 'FoRK' of
> > Emacs 19 -- 'Lucid emacs' which has now been renamed Xemacs. And it's
> > still alive today, because it has features and a design that a lot of
> > people find more compelling than the other Emacs."
> >
> > One thing led to another ... Buried in that throw-away phrase is an
> > instructive bit of early free software history. Stallman and the Lucid
> > developers did not see eye-to-eye on a series of questions, including
> > who to blame for the delay in Emacs 19, what feature set to include in
> > new versions of Emacs, and, perhaps most importantly, the proposed
> > inclusion of Lucid Emacs in the otherwise proprietary tool kit of
> > programs that Lucid was attempting to sell. The result was the last
> > thing that anybody in the free software community wants to happen to a
> > given project -- a dreaded "FoRK": the creation of two separate
> > development trees for a single software program.
> >
> > "Back then we were Satan [to Stallman]," recalls Zawinski. "We were the
> > enemy as far as I can tell. Hopefully he has recalibrated at this point."
> >
> > Moral of the Emacs story? Programmers can be very stubborn -- Stallman,
> > to be sure, is legendary for his intransigence. But Zawinski is equally
> > difficult to deter -- indeed, it requires a special degree of chutzpah
> > to write an entirely new version of one of the most famous programs in
> > the free software arsenal.
> >
> > But hardheadedness can be a virtue, even if it does lead to the
> > occasional debilitating fork. The success of the free-software movement
> > owes a lot to arrogant programmers who are dead certain that they are
> > absolutely, unshakably right. Zawinski's willingness to grapple with
> > Stallman was a sign that he would not give up easily when thwarted. And
> > going head to head with Stallman, no doubt, is an experience not all
> > that different from attempting to fight city hall.
> >
> > The difference, of course, between Zawinski, version 2000, and Zawinski,
> > version 1993, is his access to cash. Hacking code doesn't cost much
> > money, but buying a night club in the over-heated real estate market of
> > San Francisco doesn't come cheap. Just how much he is paying, Zawinski
> > declines to say, other than a shamefaced "probably too much." But money
> > is not the problem.
> >
> > "I don't remember who it was that I was talking to," recalls Zawinski,
> > "but I was just whining about it [the decline of the late night scene]
> > as usual, and they were like, 'well why don't you buy a club.'"
> >
> > As we sit together in the Metreon -- a building that is itself a
> > testament to the vast economic and technological changes storming
> > through San Francisco, a building surrounded on almost every side by
> > companies that have built their business models on providing some kind
> > of service via the Internet -- it seems all too fitting to hear Zawinski
> > recall that moment when he realized that he didn't have to just accept
> > the changes in his neighborhood, but could actually do something about
> > them. Even though his actions could be seen as easy target for
> > contradiction, Zawinski is attempting to roll back changes that are in
> > part caused by the same economic upheaval that has given him the
> > wherewithal to fight those changes.
> >
> > But Zawinski isn't too interested in following down that narrative path.
> > "Change happens," he notes. And unlike some other club owners, Zawinski
> > doesn't want to get drawn into a debate about whether the pressure on
> > the clubs is a result of dot-com yuppies invading the neighborhood. He'd
> > also rather not fixate on how great things used to be.
> >
> > "Nothing stands still," says Zawinski. "The real question is can you
> > change it? You can always affect things -- so can you change it in a way
> > that will make you as happy with it in the future as you were in the
> > past? Maybe it won't be the same, but it might be something else you
> > also like."
> >
> > Perhaps it's the malleability of code that makes some programmers,
> > especially free software programmers, so optimistic that they can fix
> > things, that problems are solvable, that a solution is always waiting to
> > be found. Software can be fixed. Programmers live in a world where
> > reality can be shaped according to their will -- all they have to do is
> > write another line of code.
> >
> > Zawinski's triumphant appearance before the board of appeals might
> > suggest that he is finding San Francisco politics as amenable to his
> > manipulation as digital ones and zeroes. It does help, of course, to
> > have the cash to buy know-how -- Zawinski concedes that he has hired
> > "many people to advise me on many subjects." It also helps to be on a
> > politically popular side of an issue. The board of appeals commissioners
> > clearly did not want to be accused of killing fun in San Francisco, and
> > several of them grandstanded before the assembled crowd as if they
> > themselves were running for office.
> >
> > Whether or not the future will be as friendly is, of course, anyone's
> > guess. Zawinski hasn't completed his purchase yet, although it is in
> > escrow and he's confident that "unless something unexpected" happens, he
> > should have no serious roadblocks ahead. There's also no telling if his
> > plans to make the DNA Lounge a "total nerd-space" -- complete with
> > interactive video and live Webcasts for bands -- will be a success. If
> > the police, stung by their defeat at the board of appeals, decide to
> > make Zawinski's life miserable they have the power to do so, no matter
> > how many stock options Zawinski has exercised.
> >
> > But it's the effort that inspires, not necessarily the outcome. Many
> > free-software programmers believe they can change the world for the
> > better. So far, most have done it by writing software. But there really
> > are no limits to where their passion can be put to work.
> ----
> Thanks John Tigue for pointing me to the "404 Research Lab":

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