In Memorium: Open Source Writer Joe Barr
Wow, sudden and sad news, this. A powerful, respected voice in IT trade journalism has been stilled. Joe Barr, a colleague of The Station at NewsForge -- now Linux.com-- several years ago, died in his sleep July 10 in his home near Austin, Texas. He was 61.
Warthawg, which was his email handle, wrote fiery, insightful (and inciteful) articles extolling Linux and CLI (command-line interface, a basic form of programming) and against the Microsofties and doddering fools of development at any desk. He was a writer/editor at several publications and eventually became known within the open source community as one of the most knowledgable journalists about Linux anywhere.
Yours truly was his editor at times, but Joe was the real teacher in many cases.
He identified companies and people that created crappy software and torched them with regularity, and then explained how they cut corners or took the expedient way, instead of the correct way. He believed completely in the world community of software developers, and trusted that with lots of eyes collaborating on projects, those projects would get done and done correctly.
He also wrote a regular column on CLI development, and was one of the best instructors there was in that discipline.
Here's a very personalized example of one of his articles: My first 10 years with Linux (2006). If you go to the Linux.com site and enter "Joe Barr" into the search engine, you'll find a long list of articles that he wrote, and wrote well.
Joe was no doddering geek himself, although he often described himself as one. He knew his trade and he taught us all things that we didn't know, he stuck to his guns on polemics, and he was right most of the time. We'd have hated to face him in a courtroom, had he chosen the law as his profession. He was a special guy, a case study of a developer-turned-journalist who had a heart of platinum and a brain to match.
Joe and yours truly had many long talks deep into the night, and it wasn't all about software and computers. He'd often end the conversation abruptly with the line, "I've got to go now and feed the donkeys." And he did have donkeys at his little place.
He was a well-versed, well-traveled man who was a bit crusty on the outside to some people but a true softie inside -- especially to his friends. He was generous, caring and very loyal. Those are family and personal values that cannot be overvalued.
We won't forget you, Joe. Your work will stand for as long as software development exists.
What's it like feeding donkeys in heaven, Joe? Can you send us a report? How about 400 words on it?
Until we meet again on the other side ...