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

Tom Tromey tromey at redhat.com
Fri Aug 3 01:03:09 MDT 2001

>>>>> "Scott" == Scott A Herod <herod at interact-tv.com> writes:

Scott> I'd like to think that we are in fact teaching people to
Scott> operate the other way.  I agree that it is inevitable that as
Scott> Linux moves from a "hackers" OS to the community at large there
Scott> will be a smaller percentage of people participating.

I think some people argue that there is a problem here -- that somehow
there are a few hackers and a bunch of freeloaders taking advantage of
them.  I've heard this expressed (not as bluntly).

I don't see it quite that way.

First of all, using software can be participatory.  For instance you
might talk about your experience.  That helps.  Information
circulates; maybe someday it will do some good.

Second, free software is a bit sticky.  You use it.  Then one day you
report a bug (maybe someone made it easy to report them.  Or maybe you
get fed up with that One Annoying Thing).  If you're a programmer you
are suddenly sending in patches.  If you speak Swahili you're
translating the distribution.  Now you can't escape.  You try
proprietary software, but you're frustrated by its opacity.  This
happens a lot.

Finally, there are so many packages out there right now that even the
hackers are "mere users" in most cases.  I have 562 RPMs installed
right now.  I only use a fraction of those (why do I have uucp
installed?  Hmm).  And of that fraction I'm unlikely to notice bugs in
only a few -- if `sort -M' has a bug, I'll never know it (we can
pretty much assume that the obvious bugs are all gone).  If I happen
to notice a bug in my limited domain, these days I'll probably just
file a report.  Time is limited, software is complex, and my own free
software projects consume all my hacking time.  There's no time to
track down and fix that annoying crash in AisleRiot.

Scott> On the other-hand I do believe that the open source community
Scott> in particular is having a big effect on how users (mainly
Scott> developers) react to software problems in general.

I think this is really important.  For me it isn't enough for Linux to
dominate the landscape.  I'd like to live in a world where the default
is to write free software, and where proprietary software is treated
as a sort of ugly necessity.  For one thing, I'd have a nice feeling
of revenge for all those years of having to explain my weird pursuit.


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