Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What Is Our Goal Here?

It's no secret that Linux tends to be a controversial topic, and that's doubly true when those participating in the discussion care passionately about the free and open source operating system. No big surprise, then, that in its first few months, Linux Advocates has seen some heated debates.

Whether the topic is why Linux matters so much, which distro is best, how best to refer to the OS, or whether a particular distro is taking the right approach, there has been no shortage of passionate opinions, and that's exactly as it should be. It seems safe to say that we all care about Linux, and typically our views are an expression of that deep-seated interest.

Where things take an unfortunate turn is when we all believe we're arguing for the advancement of Linux, yet we're not actually pursuing the same, specific goals, causing us to disagree on the details. There have been a few less-than-perfectly-cordial exchanges on these pages in the past week or so that have made me believe part of the problem here is the existence of divergent objectives.

So, I now think this is a critical question for those interested in advocating Linux. Namely, what, exactly, are we trying to achieve?

Measures of success

My own general goal in writing about and trying to advance Linux is essentially wider mainstream adoption. I'd love to see Linux used and embraced by more everyday users, bringing its many and varied benefits to more of the computing world. That, to me, would be the ultimate measure of success for the OS. It's also why I tend to take a pretty pragmatic approach, steeped in years of experience in the mainstream computing world.

I do believe, though, that other Linux advocates have different goals. I can't presume to speak for them, of course, but here are a few I'm inclined to infer:

* To create an archetype -- the ideal, perfect operating system

* To prove the innate merit of open source and/or free software

* To take market share away from Microsoft and/or Apple

* To promote a more cost-effective approach to computing

* To advance a particular distro or project in which they have a vested interest of some kind.

In search of a common understanding

Some of these goals overlap, of course, and there are surely others as well. 

In any case, however, I think it's important that we clarify what it is we're trying to achieve here – whether it's one or many things. Only then can we discuss and argue rationally, working from a common understanding.

What do you hope to achieve for Linux? Take a few minutes to think about it, because I'm not sure it's always entirely obvious. When you think you know the answer, please share it in the comments.

In the grand scheme of things, we here in the Linux community are still a relatively small crew. It would be a shame to let ourselves be divided by simple misunderstandings as to what we're trying to achieve.

-- Katherine

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  1. I personally advocate Linux just as it is, a plethora of choice and freedom to do so. If money is the object, there are ways to do that, it has been proven over and over. If I wanted to be forced to use a particular desktop, I have other OS choices to do that with. I just want to have fun and enjoy my ability to do anything I want with my desktop.

  2. I am here to help.

    That's my goal, with everything I do, in a nutshell.

    Sometimes my opinions and passions and love of conversation with others who are equally passionate and have different opinions lead to crazy talk, but at the end of it all, I like to remember a few things.

    We all have limited time here, we all have very personal needs and desired outcomes, and we all have feelings.

    We're all good at something.

    We can all contribute to the free software world.

  3. For me its to let other people know of this wonderful thing that i have found. And most of all, to show them that they dont need to be rewted by the big conglomorates, learn to put yourself at the helm, ( teach a man to fish & all that) some of us tend to trust ourselves and our communities more than the corporations, and last but not least the community is tremendous, with its varied & passionate opinions always gives plenty food for thought.

  4. I would be more specific with the archetype: The goal is to build both the highest quality operating system technically, but also one that runs entirely free-licensed software.

    Some people de-emphasize the idea of an entirelyl free-licensd operating system, but, take that idea away, and much of the point is gone, so far as I'm concerned. You don't empower people all that much by technical excellence alone.

  5. This is a nice post that I can agree with. I can say that I switch, full time, to Linux (Xubuntu) one year ago and feel it's at the point that it's finally usable for everything I did on Windows, Including Gaming.

    That's not to say that it's perfect, it's not, but neither was Windows. Most importantly is that I actually have freedom and choices in Linux, I can choose what UI I want or which distro that works best for me. I can chose if I want to buy some Software or try an Open Source, free equivelant. Having a choice in anything is an important thing.

    After my year with Linux I can say with complete honesty, I am so sorry for bad mouthing Linux for those 15 years, and I truly feel sorry for Windows users whom have become addicted with the help of Microsoft’s 'Hooks' and feel like they have no choice.

  6. With experience comes perspective. Linux brings perspective. You don't know what you are missing until you try it. Thanks for your feedback.

  7. Yes, ease of use empowers users. But if that was the only criterion, then there would be no need for FOSS. There's plenty of proprietary software that is easy to use.

  8. I think for the most part I agree with Katherine in that I would like to see "wider mainstream adoption."

    I would like to see the number of users competing with Microsoft or Apple, but not using the term "market share." The term contains the word market, which woefully implies money inevitably creeping into the equation, and money changes everything.

    It would be a dream to see Linux distros pre-installed on new machines in vast numbers. There can still be a plethora of choices, but I think there needs to be a little more unity (not necessarily Unity?) on the backend. Possibly more unified software repositories and Apps, etc.. Just so when you come across a fellow Linux user, not always using the same flavor, there's a common connection. Maybe the choice between distros should be just that, choice, not functionality or source. A lot of these are pet projects of volunteers and nobody wants to see their project get axed in favor or a mass deploy model. I don't either.

    That's the best answer I have for what I'd like to see from our efforts. To answer the exact question of the article, "What do I want to achieve?" I just want to help. Whatever direction we take to advance Linux.

  9. There has to be distinction of real goals and methods used to achieve goals and the results of achieving these goals. The real goal one might imagine is to liberate the distribution of power. Power in terms of performance, in terms of flexibility, security, availabilty. Liberty in terms of freedom from constraints of price, platform and politics.

    Now I agree that while these are ideological goals, they may be tainted by commercial interest, personal needs and preferences, and moral evangelism. Ideology goes nowhere unless it fulfills someone's needs somewhere and so this "contamination" is not only inevitable, it is necessary.

  10. For myself, the "Linux goal" is to maintain Linux as a viable choice -- a pragmatic, credible and accessible alternative to proprietary operating systems (especially for "ordinary" users and consumer hardware).

  11. I enjoyed that article. I agree with your opening statement on the various frictions with the Linux community seeming to occur where goals overlap or run against each other. I think an article on the roots of these goals might not be a bad idea.
    On a personal level, this article makes me think about what are my goals as a mere Linux user? The answer to that is simple. It is to make my life better. It has nothing to do with mainstream adoption, market share or the tyranny of proprietary software. I want to simplify my life, be able to communicate with the world and have fun with my children. Which is why I use Linux.
    Why I enjoy Linux is for any one of a hundred reasons and are outside the scope of a comment box!
    And having made my life better and having enjoyed the process, I feel I have a responsibility to share my experience of using Linux with others. Not by telling them how terrible their mainstream, proprietary, market leading life is but instead by going...."hey..check this out. It's pretty cool"

  12. I do want to see market share taken from Microsoft and Apple. But it's not out of any personal vendetta, or even out of a sense that their products are technologically inferior. I want as many people as possible to avoid software walled gardens and proprietary restrictions on their use and redistribution of software.

    I like and use Linux, but I would be just as satisfied if more people started using other open source operating systems: FreeBSD, IllumOS (the OpenSolaris fork), GNU/Hurd, or anything else that comes along.