[lug] The changing Linux Community was Re: cp and rm
alanr at unix.sh
Fri Aug 3 04:11:47 MDT 2001
Tom Tromey wrote:
> But I also sometimes get reports (usually via some indirect method,
> like, say, the gcc mailing list) that say "Automake sucks" (the short
> form) or "Automake is much too complex. Why can't it `just work'?"
> (actual complaint). This sort of thing is really pretty useless. If
> I'm feeling generous, it might get a response and generate a useful
> conversation. But by itself it conveys nothing but the poster's
> apparent frustration with some unknown facet of the program.
Or, (since they're probably a newbie) with every facet of the program -
since they're *all* unknown ;-)
> So, there's education for us to do with new users. We have to explain
> to them why the principles of free software are important (at least,
> those of us who think they are can explain this :-). We have to try
> to help them understand that free software isn't simply a commodity
> like a fork or a spoon, but instead is deeply intertwined with its
> social structures.
This is something IBM is trying to learn about. I spend some of my time
trying to help individuals understand how to interact with these structures.
> Whether they like it or not, they're in the soup
> with us. Criticism is really, really useful. It is much more useful
> than praise!
Absolutely. I rarely learn something interesting from someone who agrees
and often learn interesting things from people who disagree with me.
> But it has to be focussed, and specific, and
> unfortunately making this sort of criticism is not a skill we are born
And, conversely, listening to comments to pick out the useful criticism
that's hidden in them is not an innate skill for many (any?) of us either.
There was a guy on the linux-ha mailing list who was just as annoying as he
could be -- he asked these questions, and didn't take pat answers -- it was
*so* annoying. I learned some good things from him -- I learned that I had
solved several very subtle problems in non-obvious ways -- and that they
weren't clearly explained so that the rationale was obvious. Several of the
issues intertwined and by the time I got done explaining everything I'd
written a paper on it - which I got published in ALS.
Now lots of people understand what I did and why I did it that way. If he
hadn't been so annoying to me then I would never have written the paper.
This paper has probably brought around a 3-4 more contributors from
universities who wouldn't work on things unless they had papers written on
By the way, the annoying fellow got special mention as being my inspiration
for the paper ;-). He served a REALLY useful function.
-- Alan Robertson
alanr at unix.sh
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