“…it can be seen as a myth and a damaging stereotype which makes Free software users and supporters seem like a sinister conspiracy.”It was several days ago that we mentioned the fact that there is no “the community” in Free software. We cited a nice short article that addresses this issue. The ‘community’ does not exist. It’s merely an attempt to portray Free software as “communism” or a dangerous clique which is always scheming to take over the industry, wreaking chaos in the process. In other other words, it can be seen as a myth and a damaging stereotype which makes Free software users and supporters seem like a sinister conspiracy. It’s a demonisation tool, also.
The Linux Foundation has just announced a new series of audiocasts which makes its debut with a Linus Torvalds interview. The 451 Group has already dived into this first audio and it makes the observation that even Linus agrees with the above. “There is no open source community”, argues Torvalds. Here is a fragment from this excellent analysis:
How can software vendors engage with the open source community? An important step, according to Linus Torvalds, is to stop believing such a thing really exists and start engaging in the development process.
This specific issue is worth emphasising particularly because many times in the past Jeff Waugh tries to wave the “community” wand and claim that we do not serve “the community”. A few of this site’s readers, as well as ourselves, took offense in Jeff’s remark and the especially use of the word “community”, which was seen as out of place.
While on this subject of “community” smears and myths, we wish to present a set of very relevant articles which show how stereotypes get used against Free software. It’s easy to discredit that whom you successfully demonise.
Article #1: Are Linux users really a feral bunch?
It is, however, uncommon for a writer to set out to deliberately provoke Linux users with over-the-top stuff – just to prove his contention that said users are a bunch of ferals.
Article #2: How Not to Treat Your Readership
Given how the technology and methods the Linux community uses are constantly villified, ridiculed, and held in contempt by competitors; by ill-informed IT professionals and hobbyists; and now by journalists who use lies and outrageous comments to hold the community’s response up for ridicule–is it any wonder why the community is so defensive in their responses?
That’s not a justification of bad behavior, but it certainly puts such responses in another light.
Article #3: Myths Stymie Linux Growth
The problem here is that the powers that be have created enough FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about Linux that most decision makers feel it is safer to stick with Windows (including XP). That FUD is fueled by many myths and misconceptions about what Linux can and cannot do.
Article #4: In Defense Of Open Source
Naysayers position open source as a sort of geeky pleasure that’s best reserved only for unwedded twenty- and thirty-something males residing in basements owned by parental figures. That the Linux platform is the product of a wide network of hobbyists. That the solutions which subsist within the Linux system are not worth equal attention to big-name products from firms like Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, and others.
“Back then, to base a business on products built using Linux and open source was a fairly new idea. We were out in the market for fundraising and venture capital, but the investors we talked to were very averse to the idea that with open source that you would not own your intellectual property. Our employees got the idea, and the customers loved it, but the investing community seemed allergic to open source. We were forced to bootstrap for two or three years until we could show traction.”
Matters such as SCO’s Linux assault and Microsoft’s hints of legal action against open source software makers and users tend to dominate the public discourse around open source code.
Some of the examples above were intended to show the impact of FUD and misconceptions that are fueled by stereotypes and fear. This can also lead to legal action and responsive legislation.
Moore notes that most Linux distros are now illegal in Germany as well, because they include the open-source nmap security scanner tool — and some include Metasploit as well.
Last week, the United Kingdom adopted similar laws.
Article #8: From Zero to Holy $&*#!
What if Linux and Free and Open Source Software became illegal to use due to “national security?” Never mind the fact that the American military uses it. Never mind the fact that Microsoft funded both political parties in the year 2000. Never mind that Richard Stallman has accused Microsoft of enabling terrorism in the first place.
Article #9: Top 5 Linux Myths
The sheer ignorance regarding casual Linux users astounds me to no end. While I’m not interested in pointing fingers, there is a lot of misinformation about the Linux community, and we will help to dispel some of these myths, once and for all.
1. Linux Users Are Cheap. Ah, this is one of my favorites. It seems that Linux users have long since been seen as cheap, despite the fact that so many of them in the States earn up to six figures. First, define cheap? Are we cheap because we choose not to buy brand new everything with every release of our selected OS?
Article #10: OpenSSL gets hard-fought revalidation
After a long and arduous journey that included a suspended validation last year [...] OpenSSL has regained its FIPS 140-2 validation
“We called it the FUD campaign,” he says. “There were all kinds of complaints sent to the CMVP including one about ‘Commie code.’ [...] Silly or no, each complaint that’s filed really slows down the process.”
“…the ones they did see often contained redacted, or blacked-out, data about who had filed the complaint .. in some cases, proprietary software vendors were lodging the complaints.
Article #10: Tech writers think Ubuntu is for morons
What is it about Ubuntu Linux that makes otherwise competent technical writers switch to Moron Mode? Everywhere I turn, I see articles on how to do obvious things in Ubuntu. Books on Ubuntu concentrate on listing every insignificant detail of every obvious procedure; things that are inherently self-explanatory are explained in depth. Subjects that have any inkling of technical complexity are skipped because, “Whoa — those are way too hard for you stupid Ubuntu users to grasp, so let’s just skip them and pretend everything’s peachy.”
Article #11: IT Pro Learns Lesson Through Linux Install
Repeated efforts at Nationwide Mutual Insurance to try Linux on the mainframe faced internal opposition, some of it from IT employees worried that a mainframe-based server consolidation would be a threat to their jobs. They “fought tooth and nail to keep it from happening,” said James Vincent, a mainframe systems engineering consultant at Nationwide.
Their resistance taught Vincent a lesson that he put to use after the Linux project was finally approved in 2005. Part of Vincent’s job involved working with the employees who had feared the project, including IT staffers who worked on Unix systems.
Article #12: The commie smear against open source
Because proprietary companies will always spend more of their money on marketing than open source outfits, it pops up regularly in the best of places, such as at Time Magazine recently. Or Microsoft sends CEO Steve Ballmer to London, so he can rant about how his lawyers are going to make all Linux users pay Microsoft for their stuff.
This is not “the gift economy,” as Justin Fox calls it in Time. This is people taking advantage of the fact that the Internet has no distribution costs, which means marketing costs can also sink to zero. No ads in Time doesn’t make you a communist.
Article #13: Free software, free speech
I can understand that a teenage, underprivileged geek reacts like that, but not mature people who are blessed with the gift of words and the privilege of a good education. Regular visitors of my blog know that nothing outrages me more than people who apply these guerrilla tactics. Whether it is Ian Ferguson who said that “the flaming Linux bigots should take a backseat”, Mohit Joshi, who equaled GNU to communism or the more recently Bruce Byfield, who obviously couldn’t take the heat anymore and decided to proclaim unilaterally that all bloggers who don’t agree with him are automatically “conspiracy theorists”.
Article #14: Sounds like another fanboy rant to me
I found this comment while I was browsing through an MS-Windows oriented site where a blogger said something nasty about Microsoft. It isn’t even worth to refer to the link, because it has nothing to do with this story. It’s about the name-calling these Microsoft fans do. I heard ‘zealots’, ‘bigots’, ‘advocates’, the whole lot. Words I never knew before, because English is not my native tongue. I don’t mind to be called a fanboy, because that is what I am. What may be not too clear to these Microsoft zealots is why I am a fanboy. It’s not because I really dig this “free the software, free the world” ideology. That came much later. It’s because I like this “gimme the source” idea.
As a matter of fact, I think that Microsoft itself has created the “Linux fanboys” they are complaining about, just like all the legal trouble they have found themselves in the last few decades. In Dutch there is a saying “wie goed doet, goed ontmoet”, which means that all good things come to those who make them happen. I think the reverse is true as well. So next time you call me a “Linux fanboy”, remember why I became one. To all those “Windows fanboys” I’d like to say, I’ve become a Linux fanboy because I have used Linux for a long time. Have you? I know first hand what MS-Windows is all about..
These references will hopefully prove valuable for one purpose or another. █