Canons of Conduct

The Advocacy HOWTO suggests the following canons of conduct when advocating Linux:

  • As a representative of the Linux community, participate in mailing list and newsgroup discussions in a professional manner. Refrain from name-calling and use of vulgar language. Consider yourself a member of a virtual corporation with Mr. Torvalds as your Chief Executive Officer. Your words will either enhance or degrade the image the reader has of the Linux community.
  • Avoid hyperbole and unsubstantiated claims at all costs. It's unprofessional and will result in unproductive discussions.
  • A thoughtful, well-reasoned response to a posting will not only provide insight for your readers, but will also increase their respect for your knowledge and abilities.
  • Don't bite if offered flame-bait. Too many threads degenerate into a ``My O/S is better than your O/S'' argument. Let's accurately describe the capabilities of Linux and leave it at that.
  • Always remember that if you insult or are disrespectful to someone, their negative experience may be shared with many others. If you do offend someone, please try to make amends.
  • Focus on what Linux has to offer. There is no need to bash the competition. Linux is a good, solid product that stands on its own.
  • Respect the use of other operating systems. While Linux is a wonderful platform, it does not meet everyone's needs.
  • Refer to another product by its proper name. There's nothing to be gained by attempting to ridicule a company or its products by using 'creative spelling'. If we expect respect for Linux, we must respect other products.
  • Give credit where credit is due. Linux is just the kernel. Without the efforts of people involved with the GNU project, MIT, Berkeley and others too numerous to mention, the Linux kernel would not be very useful to most people.
  • Don't insist that Linux is the only answer for a particular application. Just as the Linux community cherishes the freedom that Linux provides them, Linux only solutions would deprive others of their freedom.
  • There will be cases where Linux is not the answer. Be the first to recognize this and offer another solution.

Dealing with people who ask about the price

SlashDot ran an article that raised some interesting questions. In it, a DSE salesman from NewZealand (James Hutton, a local Linux user, sometimes spotted at WLUG meetings) says that people wouldn't buy Linux-based computers, partly or mostly because they couldn't understand why the software was free (let alone Free). To them, obviously the software wasn't even good enough that the author(s) thought they could sell it!

So, why is the software free (and Free)?

There are the obvious "freedom to tinker" style arguments that we're familiar with:

To most people, (and to computer geeks when considering anything other than software) "you get what you pay for". Why is software different?

The majority of software is not "shrink-wrapped" commercial software. There are estimates that only around 10% of all software is written by commercial software vendors for selling off the shelf. The majority of software is written either "in-house" or for contract, for custom solutions. (Of course, if you count units installed or units sold rather than versions released, then shrink-wrapped commercial software is the majority -- StuartYeates) If software is not your core business, and it is merely a tool to help you conduct your business, then it does not affect you much if other people also have access to that software. However, you can benefit from any improvements other people make to the software.

While many developers of FreeSoftware are volunteers doing it for fun and/or recognition, there are many developers who are employed to help make the software better for their employers, and add features needed in their particular situation.

Example 1: from a recent Linux kernel changelog, you can see code contributed from a wide variety of sources such as IBM, HewlettPackard, Debian, RedHat, SUSE, many universities around the world, Telia (a large European Telecoms company), the United States military, Intel, AMD, Samba, DLink, Dell, SGI, ... and dozens of other organisations and companies around the world. These organisations wouldn't spend time and/or money on developers if it wasn't in their interests to help improve the software.

Example 2: the famous Apache software came about because lots of system administrators cooperated to improve the software. They were all trying to make the software better for their own particular purposes, and benefitted from other people's effort to do the same. Today, Apache is used on the majority of internet servers on the planet.

See also:

Part of CategoryPolitics