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Editor's Note: Colleagues, Not Competitors
Who's the Most Important Person in Linuxland? We Are.
May 20, 2000
I recently received a questionnaire from a public-relations firm regarding the Linux explosion and how Linux publications/Web sites could be best served by public-relations firms. These sorts of requests are not unheard-of in the publishing world, but a couple of the questions in the survey got me to thinking about the nature of Linux and why there's a different mindset among Linux users.
Basically, the underlying purpose of the public-relations survey was to establish hierarchies in the Linux world: figure out who was important and who was not important, so that the P.R. folks would know who to court and who to ignore. That thrust was jarring to me: in my mind, Red Hat Software and Caldera are important (these were the two firms cited in the survey as being market leaders), but there are many companies and individuals who are just as important. The Linux kernel team. The volunteers who develop and support Debian GNU/Linux. Advocates like Eric Raymond, Richard Stallman, and Bruce Perens. Patrick Volkerding of Slackware Linux. The Linuxware folks who are fighting the good battle. Alan Cox. Sensei of Linuxnewbie.org. The tireless KDE and GNOME developers. The corporate suits at IBM, SGI, Oracle, and H-P who had the guts to make business commitments to a scruffy operating system. And so on--the list could go on and on and on.
Of course, Linux isn't a purely egalitarian space: there are some folks who are more essential than others. But because of its very nature, Linux is an open space, open for all who bring passion to their lives and endeavors. So I didn't even bother responding to the question, knowing that it wasn't very likely that someone outside of the Linux space would understand my assertion that we're all important.
But the question that threw me for a loop concerned our "competitors." Make no doubt about it: the traditional publishing world is rather cutthroat when it comes to rivalries, and there's an element of truth to all those movies that show crusading journalists rushing to score a scoop or an exclusive at the expense of their competitors. I happen to live in a two-newspaper town where there are heated rivalries between the two newspapers--rivalries that I personally experienced when both papers came a-courtin' for my services some time ago.
Frankly, I was stumped when I tried to reconcile that past brush with rivalries with what is happening in the Linux/Open Source space. At Linux Today, we freely point readers to other Linux/Open Source Web sites; the entire point of the site to expand the Linux space by showing readers the wide variety of viewpoints regarding Linux. I can point to many sites that cover Linux--LinuxWorld, Slashdot, LinuxMall, Linux Magazine, Linux Journal, Linux Weekly News--and honestly tell readers that these publications are excellent and worth reading on a regular basis. There are many excellent writers (Bob McMillan, Greta Durr, Joe Barr, Doc Searls, Phil Hughes, Nick Petreley, plus our own Paul Ferris, Michael Hall, and Dennis Powell) working in the Linux space, and they all deserve recognition.
So what did I tell the public-relations agency about our "competitors"? I told them that I didn't have competitors--I had colleagues. And this is why the Linux space is different than most other spaces in a too-competitive world.