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

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Jul 30 18:10:01 PDT 2009

Quoting Edward Janne (tigakub at mac.com):

> Would you help me rephrase my questions to avoid lending the
> impression that I have a zero-sum proprietary-OS mindset? I'm not
> entirely sure what I have said to lead you to believe that. 

It's sort of inherent in the underlying assumption that levels of
"adoption of the platform" and the "user base growing fast enough"
are significant concerns, in the first place.  (If you can't see that,
then I'm sorry, but we're probably not going to get anywhere.)

We get that from people all the time, generally leading to a polite
"You're new here, right?" reaction. ;->  E.g.:

  Newcomer:  "We all need to go out and convince all new and novice
  computer users to use Firefox."

  Us:  "Why?  How's that good for us, except in a very general sense of
  slightly promoting W3C standards?"

  Newcomer:  "Bringing in hordes of new users would help Firefox

  Us:  "Sorry, I can't see how."

  Newcomer:  "It'll help the code by resulting in a great deal more bug

  Us:  "Deluging the Firefox team with badly conceived and probably
  useless bug reports, not to mention probably misdirected helpdesk
  requests, would not be helping the project.  Probably a lot more 
  like hurting it severely."

  Newcomer:  "More mindshare would better motivate the developers to do a
  good job."

  Us:  "Again, I can't see it.  Developers are already motivated to do a
  good job.  Why would their knowledge that there are suddenly a couple 
  million more users particularly inspire them?  Doesn't make sense."

  Newcomer:  "It'd result in more resources being available to the

  Us:  "Excuse me, but how does that work?  It's not like there's some
  fixed-size pool of money, and it's apportioned among Firefox, MSIE,
  Opera, Safari, Konqueror, and others according to userbase share.  
  The people who get paid are typically getting paid on some other basis
  entirely, especially in the case of the open source codebases."

I swear I've had that exact conversation on mailing lists and newsgroups
about a dozen times (though I might be omitting some of the obligatory
non-sequitur arguments).

> For the purposes of my paper, would you mind going into more detail  
> about how one would become a process thinker? 

Pretty much the same way one gets to Carnegie Hall.  (I trust you know
the joke.)

It helps to concentrate for a while on actually figuring out problems,
as opposed to just asking other people for the answers -- and I'm not
calling particular attention to the fact that you've been rather
steadfastly doing the latter and not the former since your arrival, here. 
Rather, that's my intent to squarely answer your question as posed.

Often, the first step is to think to yourself "How would I determine the
answer to that question?" For example:  When I was a boy, I started
having some seasonal allergies (to what exactly was never clear).
People would come up and say "Do you have a cold?"

For quite a while, that question bothered me in a fundamental way, but I
couldn't quite put my finger on why.  Then, one day, upon being asked
that question, I suddenly thought: "How would I know?"

In other words, having a runny nose logically means _either_ that one
encountered an irritant (peeling an onion, whatever) _or_ is having an
allergic attack, _or_ is coming down with a cold.  So, logically, if
someone asks you if you have a cold, your first reaction really ought to
be:  How would one determine the answer to that question?   Is there a
process by which one can disambiguate those possibilities, either
zeroing in on one as the confirmed cause or managing to eliminate the
others as candidates?  How do you know you aren't _both_ having an
allergic reaction to (e.g.) cat dander or ragweed pollen _and_ coming
down with a cold?

It turns out, those are often extremely difficult questions to answer, 
so within reason there is often no way to properly answer the original

Basically, it's a rather silly question -- which becomes obvious if you
think "process", and apparently isn't if you don't.

> If Linux is a good operating system, I would think everyone would like
> to see it more widely recognized and used, not because of mindless
> brand loyalty, but because it can benefit society.

Sure, in a very general and low-priority sense, that's possibly the
case, except that it's rather ridiculous to suggest that Linux isn't
"widely recognised" post-1998, and it's extremely available for use by
people wanting it, so in general I have thousands of higher priorities
than making sure it's "more widely recognized and used".  For that
matter, making sure it's "used" sounds rather obnoxiously pushy: 
It will be "used" to the extent that people find it useful.  My
attempting to _make_ it be used seems, on the face of it, to be
somewhere between rude and pointless, depending on how. 

Besides, who says Linux is "a good operating system"?  Good for what?
(Again, that is thinking in _process_ terms.)  Isn't it a question
of utility, that what's good for one person in his/her particular
circumstances would be terrible for another?  Why would I want to go
about convincing people that Linux is categorically "good", when that is
obviously not the case?

> Also, can you help me understand how repeatedly belittling someone who  
> is honestly seeking to understand the Linux community is constructive?  

Can you understand that peppering us with a series of rather poorly
thought out questions in our own community forum, taking over that forum
to get us to help you do your homework, is not at all endearing?  Can 
you get, belatedly, my broad hint that your bothering to do a bit of 
looking around on your own would save a great deal of time for you and
for everyone else?

> Is it some kind of hazing ritual? 

Are you having sense-of-entitlement problems?

Is this entire conversation going to devolve to questions?

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