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

John Karns jkarns at csd.net
Thu Aug 2 22:06:17 MDT 2001

On Thu, 2 Aug 2001, J. Wayde Allen said:

> 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.

My idea of the world domination issue coincides with what you're saying
here, and my feeling is that a good many of us have this kind of
understanding, at least those of us who have been involved with the OS
over the past several years.

But perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of Linux is that in a
larger sense, it has transcended being just an OS.  The world has never
seen the likes of something so advanced coming from a "grass roots"
community effort.  It is as much of a social-economic phenomenon as
anything else; a product of the desires of the intellectual elite to
maintain control over part of the domain of cyber space which is so
intertwined with their professional lively hoods and personal interests.
The GPL was key to providing the vehicle, and runs counter to the all the
fundamentals of capitalism, wherein almost anything having intrinsic value
and requiring a large investment of human resources to develop eventually
ends up being privately owned.

Riding on top of all that is the involvement of the corporate sector; a
strange mix of community involvement with the monoliths of the
capitalistic world.  My take is that the motivation driving corporate
involvement seems to be, in large part a hedge against total domination by
the MS monopoly, which these corp's seem to be at a loss in knowing how to
deal with through the usual means of market competition - with IBM at the
extreme end followed by Sun and Oracle, with the rest more toward the
middle such as HP and Dell.  But the majority don't seem quite able to
genuinely commit to Linux, since it doesn't fit into a corporate business

In order for the OS to truly achieve full potential, I think it needs the
commitment of these entities.  As a niche OS it will never be a truly
workable alternative.  And in order to become mainstream Linux will almost
certainly need to acclimate itself a bit more to commercialism where users
are willing to support product development in areas where there are no
viable open source alternatives.

> > 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.

If Linux is to attain the critical mass it needs to become truly
mainstream, then I think the second part of the equation is unavoidable;
it will help drive the corporate involvement I mentioned above.  There
will undoubtedly always be those who choose Linux only because it's
available as a free download, without any thoughts about contributing back
to the community.  As far as I'm concerned that's ok with me, although I
may not be too inclined to volunteer too much effort to help such people.
They would none the less have a role to play: adding to the citical mass
of users which will drive mainstream acceptance of the OS.

> > 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.

Without trying to put words in anyone's mouth, I interpret the
"indoctrination" to mean that in the past there were no casual users of
Linux.  One had to be committed to delve into the details of OS
configuration (thus "indoctrinated") in order to install and use it.  As
has been said countless times, if Linux can be accessible to the average
user while retaining the structural foundation which gives the flexibility
to the experienced user, then all the better.  Not an easy task, IMO.

John Karns                                        jkarns at csd.net
  Subject line of a recent spam msg: "Email Advertising WITHOUT Spam!......"

More information about the LUG mailing list