Pointless Quagmire

With respect to bringing Linux to the masses, Linux culture is its own worst enemy… A few observations if I may.

  • Pick ONE Linux distro and promote that to the mainstream.  Ubuntu should probably be the one.  They will figure out about the many distributions in due time, and can think about the over-abundance of choices later.
  • People are intimidated by the word “Linux,” and for good reason.  Unless absolutely necessary, leave it out of the equation altogether.  For example, the word “Ubuntu” all by itself is just fine.  “Ubuntu Linux” is an unnecessary clarification.  The phrase “GNU/Linux” (in whatever context) is extremely unnecessary, and does not need to be part of the presentation of FOSS to average computer users.
  • Stop bothering potential newcomers with introductions to the various desktop environments.  The modern paradigm properly makes no distinction between an Operating System and it’s so-called ‘Desktop Environment.’  New users will (after becoming sufficiently comfortable with whatever D.E. was packaged with their OS) eventually learn about the additional choices – and even then still may not care a wink about it.
  • When introducing newcomers to their new Linux Operating System.  Don’t even bother mentioning the Command Line.  They don’t care.  Actually, they don’t even want to know it exists.  They just want to get up and running and get comfortable performing basic tasks.  Mouse-centric GUIs are the now the norm for mainstream computer users.  Let’s leave it that way.  It’s Ok…really.  They’ll survive.  When the time and circumstances are right they will come around and ask you about ‘this Command Line thing.’  Feel free then to take the ball and run with it.
  • Free “…as in Speech, as in Beer” is not an intuitive analogy for the two primary characteristics of free software, and is actually counter-productive.  The only thing this tired and overly perpetuated phrase is good for is to help with gaining acceptance among entrenched members of the Linux subculture, which is its own worst enemy (assuming its goal is truly to bring Linux to the masses).
  • No one cares about the Penguin.  The Penguin does not inspire people to switch Operating Systems.  Let it go.
  • When promoting software to the mainstream let the word “Free” simply mean ‘no cost’ and leave it at that.  When promoting software to potential developers use whatever designation(s) you want, because they already get it.  But whatever you do, at least make an allowance for the different types of visitors who may show up at the software homepage. Newcomers are only interested in the type of software being offered, whether it’s easy to acquire & install, and the fact that it is apparently free, which is pretty neat.
  • Make all FOSS cross-platform.  Once people finally grab hold of the idea that free (as in ‘no cost’) software can be both intuitive and reliable they will eventually begin to seek out more of it.  Assuming this process doesn’t become intimidating and overly complex they will begin to adopt more of it as well, using it meanwhile on their commercial OS of choice.  Once regular, everyday users are running a sufficient spectrum of quality Open Source, cross-platform software they are in a prime position to make the final realization that even their very Operating System can be high quality, reliable, and Free.  Hopefully their chosen Free Operating System will also be intuitive and friendly to new users.  With the added knowledge that their productivity (and everyday) software is already available for the Free Operating System, the motivation to migrate over grows exponentially higher, and becomes significantly more likely.
  • Decide once and for all which is of greater importance:  Perpetuating the many longstanding tenets of Linux subculture, or bringing Linux to the masses.  Because one of these has to give.
Published in: on July 29, 2010 at 5:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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