Aug 26, 2008

The Illusion of Community

Responding to this article. If you choose to read it, try to read between the lines of the troll-speak. The guy makes a really good point, he just seems to feel the need to say it in a rather immature way.

I'll agree with him that Linux users should stop complaining when other people do things that don't support them (like the Democrats/Olympics using Silverlight). One of the drawbacks of Linux is that there is no support for certain things. If you didn't know this when you chose Linux, you do now. So shut up and accept the fact that Linux is not perfect. Or maybe even try doing something constructive instead of just complaining.

Now to my main point. He says that Linux is not a democracy, it is an anarchy. That is what I think really hits the nail right on the head. Linux is not a united community under the banner of Linux, rather it is a divided battlefield of users flocking under various banners labelled "KDE" or "Emacs" or the like, all of whom will go to great lengths to point out how the others under the same banner of Linux are wrong. And even then, people under the same banner are willing to turn on the group when they decide they don't like where the group is going (this is called "forking"), and then divide the community even further.

Some examples:
I use Ubuntu. I'd probably get called a n00b if I went to a Linux conference.
I use Vim. I'd get shunned by some Emacs users.
I use GVim. I'd probably get shunned by some Vim users. It's graphical, it must be for wussies.
I use NVidia's drivers. I'd get shunned for using proprietary software on my machine.
Yet people like the LinuxHaters author would probably dump me into the category of "Linux user" or "luser" as many of them so eloquently put it. Do I feel like I'm in a community?

Sometimes. There are plenty of great people who are under the banner of Linux. I'd guess they are the majority of people who make up the "Linux community". Yet their voices are all drowned out by the more militant types. I've had plenty of great experiences using Ubuntu forums to get things working, but have seen enough "RTFM" or "winblows/proprietary is teh ghey" to hesitate posting things in there.

One time I mentioned "Ubuntu forums" at the Montreal Linux Users' Group which stemmed a huge rant about how nobody on there knows about what they are talking about (I believe it was called "the blind leading the blind"). I didn't go back to the MLUG. It was not a community, but a group of elitists. That has been my perception of the Linux community.

So if you choose to go with Linux, remember that there are a lot of people out there worth ignoring. Linux itself is a good thing, and the community has it's moments, but I wouldn't list the community as a benefit of using the OS.


thecodewitch said...

Excellent post, and excellent blog!

I found this through the linuxhaters blog link, and I'm an instant fan.

I've added a link from my site as well.

Rob Britton said...


I have to say that I'm not a Linux hater, I like to think of myself as a bit more pragmatic than the loud-voiced Linux zealots out there.