Thursday, April 25, 2013

Power in Numbers

by Dietrich Schmitz

We enjoy and reaps the benefits of choice.

I've been thinking about what effect choice has.  If you are using Linux then you are aware to some extent about the nature of things that set it apart from other operating systems.

Your journey in getting to the point of switching may have an interesting tale, or, you may have simply stumbled upon it in some random fashion.  Still here you are, using it.

But have you given any thought to what effect you are having in your choice to use one Distro over another?  Does the question even matter?

In thinking about all of the wonderful variation and vast array of Distros from which to choose, your selection and the combined users around the globe who have chosen the same Distro do have an effect on the dynamics behind development for your Distro.  The more popular it becomes, so too do the demands placed on Developers continue to grow correspondingly.

So, I thought when I supported Fuduntu that I was having a positive effect.  In a way I was, but then another dynamic came into play which placed Developers into a vice and resulted in a decision to 'end of life' what I still believe is a great Distro.

While I feel saddened that Fuduntu has closed it doors, I am happy for at least the choice made by its founder +Andrew Wyatt who now can resume a personal life which was consumed supporting this Distro.

It doesn't seem right to me that so much good can come from one person's efforts only to push them into a corner or create stress and unhappiness.

So, where do you go when something like this happens?  It's a good question.  Should I be more selective in which Distro I choose this time around?  What can I do to have maximal 'positive' effect in the community and benefit a larger cause and serve my own personal interests at the same time?

These questions are worth considering.  Would it be better to support one of the larger Distros or one of the commercial ones?

I submit as food for thought that endorsing a commercially-backed community Distro is the best choice.

It's the best choice because if the majority of Linux users move away from the small fledgling Distros to a small handful of larger, stable organizations, it will have a multiplier effect.

Power in numbers means that we achieve a group purpose and Developers who may have written for a smaller Distro can contribute to a focused demand for a larger Distro which has hundreds of committers and thereby reduce the burden of responsibility placed on themselves for carrying the load of work on a small Distro, as was done by +Andrew Wyatt.  He was, to a large extent, a 'one-Man Band'.  And while he is very talented, there are only so many hours in a day which get consumed.  The project ate him up, quite literally.

So, when you make the choice to use a large commercial Distro, you are widening its base, its foundation, which allows its structure to grow high like a building.  The load of shared work and responsibilities are spread more evenly across the project with hundreds of staff to do the programming at hand.

With that, I submit that we do enjoy choice but we must exercise care in doing so.  It does have an effect.  When you choose a young Distro you get limited resources and your positive effect is less felt.  

When you join and support a larger commercial Distro you help consolidate and create efficiencies as demand rises.

Thus, I have made my choice to go with Fedora 18 as it serves as the community Distro for ongoing Red Hat Enterprise Linux research and development.

Think about your choice and see if it makes sense to stay where you are.  Consider Power in Numbers. 

-- Dietrich

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