[lug] The changing Linux Community was Re: cp and rm

J. Wayde Allen wallen at lug.boulder.co.us
Thu Aug 2 13:30:20 MDT 2001

On Thu, 2 Aug 2001, Michael Deck wrote:

> It's hard to see how the Linux community can aspire to world domination and 
> at the same time expect every user to 'chip in' and make everything work.

OK, I don't intend to be inflammatory, especially on my own mailing lists,
but fear that what I'm about to say will strike a spark.

On the world domination idea my take, perhaps incorrectly, is that this
was originally meant kind of tongue-in-cheek.  Later, as it started to
even look possible people started to believe it.  I personally am not sure
that it makes sense to "aspire" to world domination.  One should always be
careful what you wish for.

As for the rest of the sentence, quite frankly this position is
entitlement at its full best.  The implication, whether intended or not,
is that everything should work whether people 'chip in' as you say or
not.  The implication here is a bit more extreme than the guy who simply
says I bought it so it should work.  At least in that case, this person
did supply some resources back to the supplier.

> Most of the world has neither interest, expertise, nor time to do so.

Not true!  This is the advocacy of one sided communication and apathy.  

> What the community is going through right now is the heartache of
> trying to figure out whether its goal is world domination or niche
> occupation.

I think that is partly true.  It is certainly a good part of the
discussion, but I tend to think there is more to it than that.  There is a
certain amount of culture clash too.  You've got the blending of the
problem solving mentality and the quick fix or make it someone else's
problem mentality.

> The other big decision for the community is whether it wants to see
> itself as based around software that is inexpensive and happens to be
> great, or based around software that is great and happens to be
> inexpensive.

I get the feeling that there is more than meets the eye in this
paragraph?  I can't say I'm sure what you are really trying to get at

> My feeling is that the commercial distros are going to help, rather than 
> hurt, by making it possible to have it both ways.

As long as we don't lose sight of the having it both ways condition I
think we all are in agreement here.

> If I'm inclined to chip in, I can grab a base distro and keep up to
> date with patches and even contribute. My costs are lower because I
> contribute my effort.  Otherwise I buy a new box at CompUSA whenever I
> think I need to, I buy add-ons as needed, and I rely on various
> channels of support. Some of that support is free (provided, as with
> most commercial software, by a community of interested volunteers) and
> some of it is not. The commercial distros, armed with my cash, can put
> resources toward fixing problems that their customers are likely to
> have; volunteers will fix problems that they perceive which may be a
> different priority set.

Yes, that is the basic underlying philosophy.  I think we are in good
agreement here.

> I'm grateful to the volunteers but I'm unlikely to ever be one. If offered 
> the choice between volunteering to help code open-source projects or go use 
> Micro$oft products, I'd probably end up with the latter.

This however, is where the rubber leaves the road.  In an open source
community, help comes in an awful lot of ways.  The recent perception that
all help must be in the form of answering tough questions, fixing bugs, or
writing new code has missed the point.  There are many other aspects of
help.  The developer who never hears about people having problems with
his/her code is hampered in not knowing that a fix is needed.  People who
don't help identify hardware problems prevent an awareness of these
problems from surfacing and hence getting fixed.  Also, for the people
answering questions, as has recently been noted, simply reporting the
solution back helps not only everyone listening and documents the fix, but
also helps the person who supplied the initial guess.  It helps build

If Microsoft products suit your purpose and works better for you, then
certainly by all means use them.  I'd rather be pragmatic rather than

> I'm already spending 20 hours a week contributing to the community in
> other ways.  Others will find that writing open source software is the
> ideal outlet for their energies.

Not sure what community you mean here?

> I like having the choice between commercial 'buy-ware' and volunteer 
> 'share-ware'. And I'm pleased to see the level of required philosophical 
> and ideological 'indoctrination' required to participate in the larger 
> Linux community declining. 

I've been part of the Linux community for probably around 8 years now, and
I've never seen a requirement for what you call "philosophical or
ideological indoctrination".  Most of the Linux people I know are very
open minded and willing to explain and discuss most anything from any
angle you choose.  The only indoctrination that I've seen is a somewhat
tacit assumption that people enter the discussion with a willingness to
learn from each other.  Computing and networking are large complex topics
and there isn't just one right way.

> When using an operating system requires you to take a loyalty oath,
> you know something's wrong.

And has anyone asked you to take an oath?

- Wayde
  (wallen at lug.boulder.co.us)

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