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The Linux Community: Wear Your Hearts On Your Sleeves - page 5

Facing Realities

  • August 30, 2000
  • By Paul Ferris

There is only one question to be asked when it comes to dealing with the ailments of the traditional media and intentionally misleading feedback. Ask the following question:

Is it true?

This is the only question that need be asked. Each of us has our specialty, and, face it, we can be wrong at times. Often, the lie is obvious. In cases of doubt, the lie usually takes on several personas.

The lie:

  • It is in the personal attack, that started as a technical one.
  • It is in the technical flaw that rings true only for the novice.
  • It is in the destructive tone that seeks only to point to failure--without naming the best solution for the problem.
  • It is in the hidden agenda of disruption.

Time and money are not our enemies--these things are. We have built as our strength a way to get along with more than just software as a goal. The methods employed, newsgroups, mailing lists, CVS and public feedback forums--these are ultimately democratic, global, and decentralized in origin. No one point to attack.

Competency, no matter how much FUD, Astroturf and bad press, is still competency. The code continues to improve and the long term result is that the lies aren't forgotten--they are refuted, one at a time.

No single corporation or mindless public relations firm can hold a candle to the glaring light of the open source way. That's the ultimate truth. All short-term gains not made using the methods of democratic software design will fail in the long run, as people and corporations alike continue to try and improve their lives with Open Source software.

That's where the Linux and Open Source movements hold the high ground.

In general, a lot of the media still doesn't understand the open source development phenomena, although the situation is improving. That isn't the case with a lot of corporations that have based their business either as customers or vendors of Linux products. Whether or not the media "gets" Linux or not, these people do--and they're the important ones. The media will come along eventually. In the meantime, Linux grows, regardless.

As an example of the above, there have been pieces in the press that have gone to lengths to describe the current delay in the 2.4 release of the Linux kernel as similar to the delays produced by corporations like Microsoft. But does the Linux community throws rocks at corporate America for things that it itself is guilty of, in similar respects?

No, the delays announced by major corporations were the result of many factors: vaporware, ineptitude, and products whose feature lists changed with the buzzwords of the day.

In the Linux world, there are no secret internal delays--whatever the problem is, is worn on the sleeve of whatever community. In this case the kernel development team. Attempts by myself to educate the person responsible for this kind of misunderstanding were never answered. Bad press about Linux, casting it in a corporate light, even stupidly casting the Linux development team as a corporation--it still makes an interesting news story.

Linus Torvalds is still buying ads at the same rate as before, I'm sure. None, that is. I'm sure that the tendency to talk about us like this, and the fact that the "Open Source Corporation" doesn't purchase a lot of ads are totally unrelated phenomena.

It made an interesting story regardless. The sad part of this little scene is that I tend to like the writing of the author who wrote it, but I stand disappointed along with everyone else who was paying attention at the time. The Linux kernel may be delayed, but everyone knows exactly why. There is no hidden agenda, or mass incompetence being masked by a corporate PR firm.

The delays were not nefarious in origin, a side effect of a ridiculously early product shipping date announced to stall a market change, for example. The delays were literally that--delays. The kernel will be done when it's right, and not a moment sooner. No revenue streams are at stake, which could force an immature product launch for an expectant shareholder audience.

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