[sf-lug] [LINUX USER QUESTIONAIRE] Linux growth

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Jul 30 10:49:57 PDT 2009

Quoting Edward Janne (tigakub at mac.com):

> Question 5: Is the Linux user base growing fast enough? 

I can tell that you're not a "process" thinker, because my immediate
reaction was "Fast enough to accomplish _what_ specifically?"

> What do the members of the group do to encourage adoption of the
> platform?

Your question suggests the zero-sum proprietary-OS mindset at work.
It's kind of depressing to still encounter that in 2009.

Quoting myself from
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/12/26/1040511127721.html (interview,

  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  cannot be "withdrawn from the market" at the whim of some company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.

  Q: What do you hope to achieve by this advocacy?

  A: I hope to have fun, to learn, to help those willing to "help themselves"
  by learning about their systems, to become qualified to work
  professionally with better and more-interesting technology, to spend
  more of my time around people I enjoy, and to improve my quality of life
  by improving the grade of tools I work with.

  Please note that "converting users to Linux" is nowhere on that list. 

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