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maddog: Forum Will Answer Enterprise Questions - page 2

Creating a New Kind of Conference

  • September 18, 2003
  • By Brian Proffitt

LinuxPlanet: You have been a big proponent of having community involvement in this Enterprise Forum. Where do you see the role of the Linux community in the face of all of the corporate activity that surrounds Linux? How does that gap get bridged?

The Linux community is still the heart of Linux and FOSS development. People who don't believe that are just not opening their eyes. Even if some large companies have hired FOSS developers, the developer's ties are stronger to the community than they are to their companies. This (in my opinion) is actually good for their company.

Linux started out as a "hobby" for some of the developers, and it has been described as "fun" by Linus Torvalds, the acknowledged "father" of Linux. A lot of these same developers are still on the project after more than a decade, and still see it as "fun", even though they have gone to work for some of these corporate entities.

This portion of the FOSS development is crucial, for it lends the spontaneity and "outside-the-box" thinking that often times gets crushed in corporate time pressures.

However, most of these core developers also recognize that without the push from commerce, Linux probably would be only a small fraction of the marketplace that it now holds, and there would probably be certain crucial pieces missing.

I embrace the community, and I love going to community events.

This forum is not aimed at the FOSS community. It is aimed at people outside that community, to help them understand and join that community.

Along those lines we have invited local LUGs to provide demos of Linux and FOSS software being used different ways. Jupitermedia has contributed exhibit space, electricity and exhibit furniture to this end.

LinuxPlanet: What are some ways vendors can get involved in the community? And, conversely, do you have thoughts on how the community can reach out to vendors?

maddog: The best way that vendors can get involved with the community is just to support it better.

First of all, we need even more device drivers for different types of hardware. When hardware comes out with just support for other operating systems, it sends a message to potential Linux users. I know that I do not buy hardware that is not listed on some Linux compatibility list, but often I do not have my list with me. If I saw on a box that the hardware device drivers for Linux were available on the net at a particular location, I would be more inclined to buy it. I have often been to computer shows looking at brochures of hardware that I know has support in Linux. And I mention this to the people at the event. They say "Oh yes, our hardware is supported," but then I point out that it is not listed with the other operating systems on their brochures.

I see advertisements in Linux magazines from major vendors that boldly point out that their hardware and Linux was used to make a certain movie, or solve a certain problem. Then the same advertisement is in another magazine, or at the airport with almost exactly the same wording, and the word "Linux" is left out.

Having vendor's presentations available in OpenOffice, and displayed using Linux would be nice. After all, OpenOffice runs on Microsoft products, Solaris, OS X, Linux and even more. Why would someone use an office system that runs only on one or two systems? If the reader can not see the contents, you could pull down a copy of OpenOffice, or supply it on a CD-ROM to them.

At a "PC" show it is difficult to sit through an Open Source presentation given on a closed-source product. At a FOSS event it is intolerable.

Training salespeople and managers a little about FOSS and Linux would be nice. I do not expect each one to use it, but it would be nice if they could combat the FUD that is sent around.

Stop thinking of Open Source developers as "those guys who may be good techies, but..." Most people that I know in the FOSS space are multi-dimensional people, and are incredibly bright. The latest person that I have been talking with over the net started programming at 6, learned about Linux at 12, created his own distribution at 14, and is now going to Ohio State. He plays the guitar, reads a lot, has a girlfriend, and is interested in many things outside of computer science. He also wants to go on and get his MBA. So please, "Mr. Businessman", let down your hair, take off the suit and join us at a Free and Open Source Technical conference once in a while. You might be amazed at what you see.

Every once in a while it is nice to say "thank you" to a developer. So many times all they hear is about bugs or problems, or requested new features. We forget to say a simple "thank you" for what they have done.

Now the other side... for the community:

Not every company is evil. FOSS people have to remember that companies are responsible for being profitable. Companies that are not profitable do what we call "go out of business." Therefore they have to make tough decisions that often do not make sense to us. This may include not shipping our favorite operating system on every piece of their hardware. They have to do this where it makes business sense.

Take a business person to breakfast. Try to understand their business. Perhaps FOSS software can make it better.

On the other hand there are people who would take advantage of the community, and we have to be on the watch for them.

Things take time. Not every decision or action can happen at Internet speed.

We should not "oversell" FOSS. Particularly we should not have people use the code before its time. If a piece of code, or a system, does not meet a person's needs, and they fail using it, it will be a long time before they try to use it again.

On the other hand, if they are successful at using the software the first time, even for the simplest task, they will try it on something else, and something else. Then in the future, if they fail, they will know that it was simply them trying to use the software for what it was not intended or ready. After a series of successes, a failure is not catastrophic.

Finally, and this is for both groups, take a lesson from Linus and have FUN. Of course each of us has bad days, but if you are not having FUN overall, then perhaps you are doing something wrong.

I think there would be a lot fewer heart attacks in the world at tender ages if people spent more time having FUN.

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