[conspire] linuxmanship

Daniel Gimpelevich daniel at gimpelevich.san-francisco.ca.us
Thu Dec 7 17:30:04 PST 2006

On Thu, 07 Dec 2006 16:36:59 -0800, Rick Moen wrote:

> Actually, you've just been introduced to the fine art of charientism -- 
> sort of like when an Englishman refers to someone as "clever".
> (It's a peculiarly English type of insult:  Foreigners are sometimes
> said to be "clever", i.e., tricky and untrustworthy.  A fine young
> Englishman with roughly the same qualities would be described as "a
> smart lad".)

Ah. Makes much more sense now.

>> OK, this time I don't really see what you mean.
> I summarily denied your premise about the essay advising readers to
> disregard non-Linux solutions.

Hmm. I'm having a little trouble reconciling the above statement with the
one below, which seemed self-evident, at least to me.

> But I'm not selling -- and neither is the essay.  The latter is a set of
> techniques one might use in business to overcome objections to a
> Linux-based solution.  It is not an attempt to sway random members of
> the public encountering it on the Web to adopt Linux-based anything.
> I imagine that Don's probably gotten a boatload of crank e-mail, over
> the years, from OS-advocacy cretins making that exact error.

This may sound odd, but I actually had the very text quoted below in mind
as a model for forming objections to Don's essay. It seemed to me that the
sheer volume of pleas for help with Windows that filter into everything
under the sun negated, to some degree, the lack of "a zero-sum competition
for popularity" as a force driving the advancement of Linux, because let's
face it: When somebody uses Windows, everybody suffers. This is where
Don's original intention has more meaning today. At the same time, the
approach the essay describes seeks to address sales resistance in the form
of objections to a Linux-based solution by fighting fire with fire, and
seems to just laugh off the idea that occasionally, water may also come in
handy. I see the sales resistance and the expectation of being
disingenuous as two pointer variables referring to the same memory
location. Feeding into an expectation of being disingenuous is what leads
to the rather sad results Edmund described. To counter that, I think that
expectation needs to be confronted head-on in some way.

> I've gotten a few, myself.  If I'm feeling polite, I might respond to
> them the way I did in my Sydney Morning Herald / The Age interview
> (http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/12/26/1040511127721.html):
>   Q:  Do you think you could achieve more if your advocacy was a little
>   less strident?
>   A: I'm reminded of a story about the 19th century US public speaker
>   and political figure Robert G. Ingersoll, who was wildly popular with
>   the public but inspired influential "establishment" detractors by being
>   publicly non-religious: Some reporters came to visit, and asked him
>   about the rumours that his son had gotten drunk during a wild party and
>   fell unconscious under the table. Ingersoll paused for effect, then
>   started: "Well, first of all, he didn't fall under the table. And he
>   wasn't actually unconscious. For that matter, he didn't fall. And there
>   wasn't any party, and he didn't have anything to drink.... And, by the
>   way, I don't have a son."
>   So it's not what I'd call strident, and I don't do advocacy. At least,
>   not in the usual sense of the term.
>   The usual sort of OS advocacy is what the "Team OS/2" crowd used to do:
>   They knew that their favourite software would live or die by the level
>   of corporate acceptance and release/maintenance of proprietary
>   shrink-wrapped OS/2 applications. They lobbied, they lost, IBM lost
>   interest, and now their favourite OS is effectively dead.
>   But Linux is fundamentally different because it and all key applications
>   are open source: the programmer community that maintains it is
>   self-supporting, and would keep it advancing and and healthy regardless
>   of whether the business world and general public uses it with wild
>   abandon, only a little, or not at all. Because of its open-source
>   licence terms, its raw source code is permanently available. Linux
>   cannot be "withdrawn from the market" at the whim of some company - as
>   is slowly happening to OS/2. (Ed: IBM finally pulled the plug on OS/2 on
>   December 10.)
>   Therefore, Linux users are not in a zero-sum competition for popularity
>   with proponents of other operating systems (unlike, say, OS/2,
>   MS-Windows, and Mac OS users). I can honestly wish Apple Computer well
>   with their eye-pleasing and well-made (if a bit slow and inflexible) Mac
>   OS X operating system: wishing them well doesn't mean wishing Linux ill.
>   Note that all of the identifiable "Linux companies" could blow away in
>   the breeze like just so much Enron stock, and the advance of Linux would
>   not be materially impaired, because what matters is source code and the
>   licensing thereof, which has rather little to do with any of those
>   firms' fortunes.
>   Further, and getting back to your original point, I honestly don't care
>   if you or anyone else gets "converted" to Linux. I don't have to. I'm no
>   better off if you do; I'm no worse off if you don't.
>   What I do care about is giving making useful information and help
>   available to people using Linux or interested in it. Why? Partly to
>   redeem the trust shown by others when they helped me. Partly because
>   it's interesting. Partly because researching and then teaching things I
>   usually start knowing little about is the best way I know to learn. And
>   partly out of pure, unadulterated self-interest: people knowing your
>   name is at least a foot in the door, in the IT business.
>   As to stridency, there _is_ a well-known problem of all on-line
>   discussion media. Some people become emotionally invested in positions
>   they've taken in technical arguments, and gratuituously turn technical
>   disagreements into verbal brawls. And unfortunately they tend to be
>   drawn to people like me who attempt to state their views clearly and
>   forcefully. It's as if you were to say "I like herring" and thereby
>   summon every dedicated herring-hater within a hundred-mile radius. The
>   problem comes with the territory.
>   But that causes occasional unpleasantness and back-biting _among_ some
>   on-line Linux users, not an aspect of "advocacy", which isn't something
>   we have much use for, generally - especially where the term refers to
>   convincing the unwilling. 
> And, in conclusion, herring-haters suck ass.

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