While driving to Oxford yesterday (more on that tomorrow I feel) I was listening to Radio 1. The Scott Mills show had someone ring in asking for Laura's autograph. (I'm not sure exactly who she is other than someone who's having her diary from university read out on the show and appears to work for it somehow.) Scott then proceeded to try and get people to ring in with more pointless autographs that they had.
This got me thinking. I don't think I've asked anyone for an autograph since Eddie Izzard signed my jacket when I was 15. I don't think I'd be that bothered about getting anyone's these days. But there are probably a bunch of people I'd quite like to have a drink and a chat with.
And that led me down the path of the people I consider famous in the Free Software world that I've met and had what I consider proper conversations with. They probably don't remember them or me, but it's a level of access that I don't think is mirrored in other industries, such as the music biz. If I were a lowly guy with a band in my garage then I'm unlikely to get to meet the movers and shakers of the record industry and even if I managed to be in the same room as them they're unlikely to have a decent conversation with me.
Yet in the Free Software community even a lowly unknown like me can rub shoulders with people who really make things happen and actually have meaningful exchanges with them. How cool is that? All you have to tend to do is make the effort to turn up to events; sometimes just your local LUG if you're lucky, or maybe a free LinuxExpo, or maybe something like Debconf. I think this is a pretty low barrier to entry. And I think it's a real strength of the community. In fact, it's part of what helps us have the community.
(Maybe I'm just easily impressed by people though. And to be fair the people I'm viewing as famous probably aren't widely known to the non IT world. I still think it's a remarkable thing about the way in which we operate, something to be proud of and to not forget about.)