As an old saying goes;

My father would sometimes say “Never let the true facts , get in the way of a good story”. Never more that be a more accurate determination of the current gambit by a competing ( yes im not going to say their name this is a Google world after all ) operating system vendor to split and divide the open source community. I dont think that we need worry to much about that though since it appears we are all very much more capable of ensuring division and splits within our own communities.

I recently posted about the issue I have with Webcams and my desire to see a more positive and encouraging attitude towards vendors who are showing an interest in how Open Source software can benefit their product. As I can see from the comments , especially the last one from Vicky Stringer, the Users want to use the system but they find a few things just not working.  I am seeing more and more people on Twitter and in day to day work who are picking up and trying out Ubuntu which is encouraging. It means that as a product ubuntu is  beginning to  gain traction in every day conversation and it looks interesting enough for people to warrant their time and their effort.

There are usually one of three types of groups I see providing support and advice that deters rather than encourages conversation.

The Dont dig there, Dig it elsewhere group
This group wil usuall exist to answer your question with yet another question? Youve asked about a problem with Nero Burner and they they respond , “oh why dont you just use gnome-burner” . Its not a bad response but its not an answer to the problem. We need to learn to answer questions in such a way as to make the result feel like a learning and relevant experience.

 The JFGI and come back when you have learnt group
I have mentioned this one before but the small group who seem to believe that we teach people to fish by giving them a book ( or sending them back to a search engine ) actually believe they are contributing to the support pool. Its frustrating as ever to be told to do something when you dont have the context to do it well in the first place. Again this goes back to the Digging a hole group who wont actually move a conversation forward but have done their best to stop it because “it annoys them !”

The Territorial marking society
I love (or loathe ) these people in particular, and they are the hardest to spot unless your sitting back with a sociologists hat .  These are the ones who will make a comment or a response over the top of anyone elses contribution or suggestion. Usually this comment is to point out that they A) did it before and it didnt work out B) did it bigger and subsequently have the better tools and options  C) have more of them  and dont feel that its useful or D) dont think the suggestion has merit.  These are potentially the most poisonous since their suggestions will actually undermine the interest and investment of taking part in the community.

With time and effort new Ubuntu users will grow past and subsume these smaller groups and in doing so make them less relevant and their contributions less of a deterent.  Its going to come as a hard lesson to many of the “Old Guard” in the open source community but as new people join they will have to put up with people making mistakes and asking the same old questions over and over and over again.

My preffered maxim is “Half of something is better than All of nothing”. In terms of how we embrace and extend our own interests and involvement with the larger scope of suppliers and users this means we need  to sometimes comprise and accept that we cant get everything we want right away. For new users this means dual booting and accepting that a second operating system on your hardrive may give you an option should you get locked out of the first. For the community this means we need to open up conversations with groups we previously shut down and consider what we can take from those opportunities that would benefit everyone.

The good news is that if this is happening then it means that we are getting more new people interested and invested  in time to take part in the open source community and it should be a positive thing to experience. 

I am writing this blog post  to vent some thoughts and ideas which have been bubbling around as part of a discussion over on UbuntuForums , and Grasshoppers.  Its in no way a finished Idea but part of a ongoing understanding of how groups and development and marketing and sales are working though the internet. Social media and online conversations will be growing and if Ubuntu is to be “Linux for human beings” then we need to move from our Teenage years of “potential and conflict” and start considering more mature themes and conversations.

Thanks for reading.

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2 Comments on “As an old saying goes;

  1. I think that’s a bit harsh on the first group, the ‘Don’t dig it there’ people – taking your example anyone trying to run Nero on Linux is looking at a huge amount of hassle, and unless they’ve got some weird brand loyalty to Nero they probably don’t really care about it per se, they just want to burn something.

    Changing platforms is going to require a certain amount of ditching of old expertise and prejudices, and if someone arrives with the understandable, but still mistaken impression that burning=Nero then correcting that /is/ actually the helpful thing to do.

    You get the same thing with questions about running MS Office – you could repspond by telling them about Wine and send them screaming back to Windows, or you could suggest they try OOo which they’ve already got installed. In 99% of cases that’s going to give them the better experience.

  2. I see your point about the Dont dig there, Dig it elsewhere group; but your example is badly chosen. If you want support about Nero Burner or any commercial, proprietary application, get it from your vendor, not from the community.