Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Advocacy by Highlighting Flaws Found in the Opposition

By Guest Writer Dr. Roy Schesterwitz

Positive advocacy is rarely controversial because it speaks positively of some and negatively of none. But when striving to inform others of better alternatives, it becomes imperative to get their attention without insulting them.

In advocating Linux and other free software projects, it ought not be a taboo to criticise the character of businesses (in the metaphorical sense). People are attached to friends and family, but less so to corporations, unless these corporations pay them a wage. People value people, not brands or code, unless those are their own brands or code, except perhaps in cases of pseudo-kinship and affiliation one conceptualises (marketing professionals know how to develop attachment to brands, including Linux).

There is sometimes a sense of hostility and alienation towards Linux advocates who dare to speak about bad deeds of companies that are acting aggressively, including litigation against Linux. These advocates receive misplaced flak for doing what many others are apprehensive about due to business relationships -- current or prospective -- or perhaps the expectation that seeming 'business-hostile' is counter-productive to one's career.

One must recognise the fact that advocacy which criticises the 'opposition' is not partisanship as long as it is true and consistent. 

We must try to objectively inform people, to challenge out-of-line corporations, to bring a human and humane side to corporations that are otherwise apathetic to human factors, largely unaccountable, and insensitive to the needs of a community if shareholders take charge and those shareholders are not users and/or developers. What distinguishes Linux and other such projects is that stakeholders are mostly users and/or developers, who are sometimes also shareholders. They keep the projects relatively loyal to users and/or developers. That is why so many people love Linux and other free software projects. There is an actual justifiable sense of belonging, control, participation, and -- dare one say -- attachment.

Nobody is immune to criticism and those who are moral have no reason to fear criticism, or even absolute transparency. Rather than criticise critics, we need to listen to their arguments and assess these based on their merits, or lack thereof.

The notion that criticism is by default a "negative" thing is exactly the notion which vicious players want us to embrace. A lot of the time the loudest critics are those whose interests are exactly the same as everyone's, except for a small conspiracy of people at positions of power in corporations which use software to control the users -- a reversal of roles for sure.

The bottom line is, the enemy is not critics within the community; it is often those whom they criticise. It's just not always simple to see it. PR budgets make a tremendous difference.

-- Dr. Roy Schesterwitz

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  1. Nice article, Roy! Good sentiment, and one I agree with as well.

  2. I was pleased that he made himself readily available and appreciate Dr. Schestowitz's participation at Linux Advocates.

  3. Roy has been a friend for a number of years, although we've seemed to have missed each other for, oh...I dunno, two or three years or so. Hazards of Internet friendships. We always know each other is a few keystrokes away and we don't always connect as much as we should...since there is a "window" always open to do so.

    I enjoy his writing, opinions and online presence. Good to see him in this fold.

  4. I think we should be open to speaking of the good and bad of both the competing products and those who make them as well as open source projects and those who make them. Advocacy should be honest and as unbiased as reasonably possible.