[sf-lug] [LINUX USER QUESTIONAIRE] How did you become a Linux user?

Edward Janne tigakub at mac.com
Tue Jul 28 18:41:35 PDT 2009

On Jul 28, 2009, at 5:32 PM, Rick Moen wrote:

> 1. Edward, how long _is_ your questionnaire?

I have six further questions. Some one suggested I post them one at a  
time, but perhaps in the interests of brevity I should simply post  
them all at once.

But I should like to wait to see if others feel this research is too  

> 2.  As long as you're plowing onward:

> Quoting Edward Janne (tigakub at mac.com):
>> Question 2: How did you become a Linux user?
> As stated, this question lacks context, i.e., we can't tell whether  
> you
> are asking _by what method_ each respondent became a Linux user, or  
> why.
> The literal-minded interpretation of your question is the former  
> one, i.e.,
> that you're asking after the mechanics of initially installing and
> running Linux -- but that doesn't make a great deal of sense.  Why on
> earth would you want to know?  What possible use would you (or your
> professor) have for that information?  Don't you also need to know
> _when_?  If you do, why don't you say so?

The aim is to obtain qualitative data which describes cultural  
characteristics, rather than quantitative data which often become  
meaningless statistics that tempt the researcher into drawing  
conclusions where none can really be made. Certainly "when" one first  
started using Linux could be considered an indicator of how familiar a  
user is with Linux, but doesn't really account for frequency or depth  
of use. Asking "how" someone first became a Linux user will reveal to  
me many things. Was it out of necessity? Was it out of curiosity? It  
goes a long way to revealing different types of Linux users, although  
of course not an exhaustive taxonomy.

And if the questions sound open ended and vague, that is how it should  
be. I am not supposed to steer the study one way or another, but to  
leave it up to the respondents to decide how they wish to respond. How  
you choose to interpret my questions is interesting in its own right.  
Your responses, for instance, have already answered several of my  
other questions.

> And, actually, the question also fails to say what you mean by  
> "become a
> Linux user".  Do you mean "used a shell account on a Linux  
> machine"?  Do
> you mean "installed a Linux distribution"?  Do you mean "used in any  
> way
> a device that runs Linux"?

You have identified three broad categories. I presume you consider all  
these to be Linux users in a narrow sense. Are there sub-groups within  
the Linux community? Do those who can rebuild the kernel regularly  
gather to guffaw at the antics of less proficient users?

> Hundreds of millions of people use devices that run Linux, including  
> all
> TiVo users, all Palm Pre users, all Google G1 users, all Motorola  
> RAZRv6
> users, all users of the Google search engine, users of many and  
> perhaps
> most of the world's Web servers, and pretty much anyone who's used
> software that's done DNS queries.  Among others.

It certainly never occurred to me that one may be a Linux user without  
even knowing it. Makes sense though, just as most iPhone users don't  
know they're using OS X, or even care for that matter. That will be  
fascinating to discuss in my paper. I'm especially interested to know  
how incidental or unwitting users are perceived by "true" (and I use  
this word tentatively) Linux users.

Questions that come to mind: Do you like or dislike the idea that some  
users are not even aware that they are using Linux? Is recognition of  
the platform important? Why?

> I first became _aware_ of being at that moment running processes on a
> Linux machine in 1992, when I logged into a shell account on a  
> friend's
> experimental machine.  I first constructed (i.e., software-loaded) a
> Linux machine in 1993, using downloaded copies of H.J. Liu's boot and
> root floppy images for constructing such systems.

That is very cool! How did it feel to do that? What do you think of  
how easy it is to install Linux now?


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