Richard Stallman's Rider: Crazy Demands for Speaking Engagements

Richard Stallman, an incredibly thorough man.
If you're not familiar with the concept of riders, let's jump in to a quick background. When someone hits a certain level of fame to the point where they are in demand, whether it be for a talk show, charity event, or whatever, they given the opportunity to list any specific "needs" they have in order to follow through with their commitment. Stories and rumors abound as to craziness of some celebrities demands, one of the most famous being Van Halen's backstage order that there be a bowl of M&Ms with all the brown ones removed.

So you get the idea: Some famous people inflate their egos even more by making some poor intern cater to capricious and absurd requests. But we're not just talking A-list actors or carefree rock bands, geek icon Richard Stallman just might outdo all of Hollywoods most ridiculous riders.

Stallman is the leader of the free software movement and father of GNU, a free open source operating system, and as such, he is frequently sought after for various speaking engagements. Like an actor on set or a musician backstage, Stallman has a few desires that need to be met before he commits.

Some of these desires are entirely reasonable, such as the way his speech is distributed online, how long he'll speak, what he needs on stage (paper, pens, etc.), and so on. But the rider, which is more than 8,000 words, also goes off the deep end a little bit, especially in terms of specificity.

Here are some highlights:
  • "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."
  • "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 you are thinking of setting up a lunch or dinner for me with more than 4 people total, please consider that as a meeting, and discuss it with me in advance.  Such meals draw on my strength, just like speeches and interviews.  They are not relaxation, they are work."
  • "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. 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."
  • "Don't ask me "Where do you want to eat?" or "What kind of restaurant do you want to go to?"  I can't make an intelligent decision without knowing the facts, and unless I am already familiar with the city we're in, I can only get those facts from you.

So, Stallman isn't exactly a egomaniacal jerk, but he is damn particular, and good-god the man is verbose. You can find his entire list of demands and specifications here.
I'm the former Interactives Editor at Zimbio. I'm in an emotionally abusive relationship with my cat. Follow me: Google