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Philip Greenspun is a semi-retired American computer scientist, educator, and early Internet entrepreneur who was a pioneer in developing online communities.

Greenspun was born on September 28, 1963, grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and received an S.B. in Mathematics from MIT in 1982. After working for Hewlett Packard Research Labs in Palo Alto and Symbolics, he became a founder of ICAD, Inc. Greenspun returned to MIT to study Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, eventually receiving a Ph.D.

Among software engineers, Greenspun is known for his Tenth Rule of Programming: "Any sufficiently complicated C or Fortran program contains an ad hoc, informally-specified, bug-ridden, slow implementation of half of Common Lisp."

In 1993, Greenspun founded (website:, an online community for people helping each other to improve their photographic skills. He seeded the community with Travels with Samantha, a photo-illustrated account of a trip from Boston to Alaska and back, Philip and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing (Alex is Philip's samoyed dog), and Software Engineering for Internet Applications, the textbook for his MIT course. Greenspun's Oracle-based community site LUSENET was an important early host of free forums.

After setting up the Hearst Corporation's internet services and building some early e-commerce sites (including one for MIT Press), he released a free software toolkit called the ArsDigita Community System, built on top of AOLserver and Oracle. Greenspun started a company to sell support and service contracts for the toolkit, which remained free, and grew ArsDigita to about $20 million in revenue before taking a venture capital investment.

A few months after the $38 million venture capital deal closed, the investors pushed Greenspun out of the company. About six months later Greenspun and his co-founders, unhappy with the financial performance of the company, used their stock ownership to vote themselves back on the Board of directors. The venture capitalists sued Greenspun and his co-founders in Delaware Chancery Court over control of the company, because they felt the stockholder agreement prohibited Greenspun's actions. The case was dismissed after ArsDigita purchased back Greenspun's controlling share for $7.6 million (according to Eve Andersson). ArsDigita was dissolved about eight months later, with some of the assets being acquired by Red Hat.

When he is not flying airplanes and helicopters or traveling he teaches electrical engineering or computer science classes at MIT.

Greenspun and his co-founders started a non-profit foundation that ran the ArsDigita Prize, an award for young web developers, and the ArsDigita University, a tuition-free one-year program teaching the core Computer Science curriculum, one course at a time.

One of Greenspun's most famous students is Randal Pinkett, who built an online community for low-income housing residents in Greenspun's 6.171 Software Engineering for Internet Applications course. Pinkett went on to win NBC TV show The Apprentice.

In 2007, Greenspun donated $20,000 to Wikimedia Foundation to start a fund for the payment of illustrators to assist Wikipedia article authors.

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