The Linux community can always be a better place. I have always pictured the “perfect” Linux community as one that is helpful and kind to others, nonexclusive, professional (not in the sense of business formality) and free of bureaucracy. As picturesque as that is, I have doubts to whether that will ever happen. Too many people have attitudes that limit the community. I cannot recount how many people have told me they want to use Linux but don’t want to get around the online community. In this series of blog posts, I plan on addressing several sticking points that are not helping the Linux community, basically a subject per part. We’re close, but we’re not there yet.
The Activism Needs to End
Anyone remember the failed “BadVista” campaign the FSF ran a few years ago? Remember the protests in the hazmat suits? How about the protesters against the OOXML document format? Or even the student who ran across a stage behind Bill Gates with a sign that said “FLOSS” on it? Ever feel a little… embarassed? I’m not saying that the people protesting are not fighting the good fight, because they are, just not in the best way.
Thankfully, the FSF seems to be changing it’s tune. It’s turning to actually creating better products than the competition, rather than having a fit because the competition has a lock on the market. The truth is that there are better ways to approach software injustice… and step one is to not blow it out of proportion. It’s just a piece of software — remember that.
Protesting, of course, is not the only form of activism. There’s also the issue of what is said online. Of course, I could make a 1000 volume book on the junk that happens online. People say a lot of stupid things — mainly because they feel free from the consequences that could be faced in the real world. It’s a shame, it’s a freak show, it’s the online community… not much that can be done there. However, there are a few things that can make things better for everyone. First, attack blogs need to go.
When I think of an attack blog, the first one that comes to mind is “Boycott Novell.” Just a few minutes on the site makes me nautious. So many self-pointing links, angry rants (and pointless rants?… irrational rants?), and images disparaging Microsoft, it leaves me almost embarassed to say I know of anything about Linux. It’s not that the site fights for a competitor, it’s on our side. The site just goes about it in the wrong way – primarily by demonizing a company, and even more specifically demonizing individuals. That’s not good. It makes us look bad and very unprofessional. I mean professional in the sense that we can stand competition, we face it with our own offerings, and we do not stoop to such low levels as attacking individuals. Remember, it’s just a piece of software!
So, instead of activism, we should keep focusing on what we do best: software! If we stick to that, how can we go wrong? If we fall behind, it may not be because of the software, but if it really is better than the competition, people will use it. Remember that the business world is a dirty place, and sometimes someone will sleaze by with a plan that will hold us back. Help somebody on the forums, IRC, or mailing lists. A little kindness goes a long way — a lot further than any sleazy business plan because you end up with another happy user using your software, a user earned by hard work, not just paying someone off. It is also important respect the competition, because that will give us a good reputation with end users, and possibly make things easier when working with the competition.
I’ll follow up soon with Part II. I’m not exactly sure what topic I will hit at just yet, but the Linux community has given me a lot to work with.