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Please Do Not Buy Richard Stallman a Parrot And Other Rules

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Richard Stallman is leader of the free software movement and father of GNU. Naturally, he's in demand as a speaker. And so NATURALLY he has a completely ride-the-orangutan insane tour rider.

It starts off relatively normally. It tells you how to pronounce GNU, gives some brief biographical data, and basically gives you a run down of how long you can expect him to talk, and what about. (2.5 hours including questions.) But from there, things get a little surreal. It goes on and on for basically ever. We pulled out the good stuff for you.


Stallman the Prima Dona:

I absolutely refuse to have a break in the middle of my speech. Once I start, I will go straight through.

If you are thinking of erecting a larger event around my speech, which includes inviting other speakers to speak before or after me, please talk with me about the plans for that larger event _before_ inviting other speakers. I want to make sure the event entirely supports the goals and principles I work for, and I want to review the publicity plans for the event.

If corporations sponsor my talk, I am willing to include a small tasteful note of thanks in announcements and brochures, but no more than that. There should be no descriptions of their products or services, and no banners with their names. If a would-be sponsor insists on more than that, we have to do without that sponsor.



A supply of tea with milk and sugar would be nice. If it is tea I really like, I like it without milk and sugar. With milk and sugar, any kind of tea is fine. I always bring tea bags with me, so if we use my tea bags, I will certainly like that tea without milk or sugar.

If I am quite sleepy, I would like two cans or small bottles of non-diet Pepsi. (I dislike the taste of coke, and of all diet soda; also, there is an international boycott of the Coca Cola company for killing union organizers in Colombia and Guatemala; see However, if I am not very sleepy, I won't want Pepsi, because it is better if I don't drink so much sugar.

(Suddenly, the Pepsi in the video above makes a lot more sense. He was sleepy!)


I do not eat breakfast. Please do not ask me any questions about what I will do breakfast. Please just do not bring it up.

I enjoy delicious food, and I like most kinds of cooking if they are done well (the exception being that I cannot eat anything very spicy). If I am ordering from the menu in a restaurant which has a variety, there's no need for you to worry about the question of what I like; I will take care of it.

But if you want to cook for me, or invite me to a restaurant that specializes in just one thing, or invite me to dinner with a preset menu, you need to know what I dislike:

eggplant, usually (there are occasional exceptions)
hot pepper
liver (even in trace quantities)
stomach and intestine; other organ meats
cooked tuna
egg yolk, if the taste is noticeable, except when boiled completely hard
many strong cheeses, especially those with green fungus
desserts that contain fruit or liqueur flavors
sour fruits, such as grapefruit and many oranges
coffee (though weak coffee flavor can be good in desserts)
the taste of alcohol (so I don't drink anything stronger than wine)

Don't ever try to decide what food I should eat without asking me. Never assume that I will surely like a certain dish, merely because most people do. Instead, ask me in advance!


(When in doubt, you can always offer Richard Stallman something from his foot. Again, see the video above.)

Dining With Richard:

The only general thing I can tell you is that what I like or dislike about a meal is the sensation of eating the food. Other things, such as the decor of a restaurant, or the view from its windows, are secondary. Let's choose the restaurant based on its food.



I am willing to stay in a hotel if there is no other way. Please book the hotel for me and arrange to pay the hotel directly.

But please DON'T make a hotel reservation until we have fully explored other options. If there is anyone who wants to offer a spare couch, I would much rather stay there than in a hotel (provided I have a door I can close, in order to have some privacy). Staying with someone is more fun for me than a hotel, and it would also save you money.

Above 72 fahrenheit (22 centigrade) I find sleeping quite difficult. (If the air is dry, I can stand 23 degrees.) A little above that temperature, a strong electric fan blowing on me enables me to sleep. More than 3 degrees above that temperature, I need air conditioning to sleep.

If there is a substantial chance of indoor temperatures too hot for me, please arrange _in advance_ for me to have what I need.

If you are planning for me to stay in a hotel, DO NOT take for granted that the hotel has air conditioning—or that it will be working when I arrive. Some hotels shut off their air conditioning systems for part of the year. They often think it is unnecessary in seasons when the temperature is usually in the mid 20s—and they follow their schedule like stupid robots even if there is a heat wave.

So you must explicitly ask them: "Do you have air conditioning? Will it be functioning for the dates XXX-YYY?"

In some hotels with central air conditioning, it simply does not work very well: it can make a room less hot, but can't make it cool. Before using a hotel that has central air conditioning, find out what temperature it can actually lower a room to, during the relevant dates.


Kind of a Dick:

Please don't be surprised if I pull out my computer at dinner and begin handling some of my email. I have difficulty hearing when there is noise; at dinner, when people are speaking to each other, I usually cannot hear their words. Rather than feel bored, or impose on everyone by asking them to speak slowly at me, I do some work.

Please don't try to pressure me to "relax" instead, and fall behind on my work. Surely you do not really want me to have to work double the next day to catch up (assuming I even COULD catch up). Please do not interfere as I do what I need to do.

One situation where I do not need help, let alone supervision, is in crossing streets. I grew up in the middle of the world's biggest city, full of cars, and I have crossed streets without assistance even in the chaotic traffic of Bangalore and Delhi. Please just leave me alone when I cross streets.



I like cats if they are friendly, but they are not good for me; I am somewhat allergic to them. This allergy makes my face itch and my eyes water. So the bed, and the room I will usually be staying in, need to be clean of cat hair. However, it is no problem if there is a cat elsewhere in the house—I might even enjoy it if the cat is

Dogs that bark angrily and/or jump up on me frighten me, unless they are small and cannot reach much above my knees. But if they only bark or jump when we enter the house, I can cope, as long as you hold the
dog away from me at that time. Aside from that issue, I'm ok with dogs.

If you can find a host for me that has a friendly parrot, I will be very very glad. If you can find someone who has a friendly parrot I can visit with, that will be nice too.

DON'T buy a parrot figuring that it will be a fun surprise for me. To acquire a parrot is a major decision: it is likely to outlive you. If you don't know how to treat the parrot, it could be emotionally scarred and spend many decades feeling frightened and unhappy. If you buy a captured wild parrot, you will promote a cruel and devastating practice, and the parrot will be emotionally scarred before you get it. Meeting that sad animal is not an agreeable surprise.


If you've got some time to kill, read the entire thing. The rider is both hilarious, and a little sad. Stallman's done a lot of good for society, but this seems like a document written by someone with some underlying issues to work through.

[MySociety via John Gruber]