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Why Freeloaders Are Essential To FOSS Project Success

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the happy-to-not-help dept.

Open Source 86

dp619 writes "Outercurve Foundation technical director Stephen Walli has written a blog post arguing that attracting users is fundamental to the ability of open source projects to recruit 'new blood' and contributors who are willing to code. 'So in the end, it's all about freeloaders, but from the perspective that you want as many as possible. That means you're "doing it right" in developing a broad base of users by making their experience easy, making it easy for them to contribute, and ultimately to create an ecosystem that continues to sustain itself,' he wrote."

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86 comments

Force in numbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43164165)

If your FOSS project only has a handful of users, it's nice.

If your FOSS project has thousands of users, it's good.

If your FOSS project has millions of users, it's excellent.

Re:Force in numbers (1, Insightful)

Xemu (50595) | about a year ago | (#43164463)

If your FOSS project only has a handful of users, it's nice.

If your FOSS project has thousands of users, it's good.

If your FOSS project has millions of users, it's excellent.

You have mixed up cause and effect, good Sir.

e.g

The way you wrote it: If your egg lays a millions of chickens, it's excellent.
The right way: If your chicken lays a million eggs, it's excellent.

Re:Force in numbers (2)

cheater512 (783349) | about a year ago | (#43165193)

Well it would be excellent if your egg laid millions of chickens.
You could charge scientists who want to study your egg.

In related news... (1)

DoctorBonzo (2646833) | about a year ago | (#43169713)

Science has answered the age-old question: Which came first: the chicken or the egg?

In evolutionary terms, it was definitely the egg, just not a chicken egg.

Re:Force in numbers (3, Funny)

ButchDeLoria (2772751) | about a year ago | (#43164879)

It goes in reverse, actually; the less people that use a FOSS project, the better it is. After all, open source is only for hipsters that can't afford a proper operating system.

Re:Force in numbers (1)

Garridan (597129) | about a year ago | (#43167027)

Sweet, man, thanks for keeping OSS obscure for us. We hipsters need a lot of negative attention to stay so cool. (hint: no hipster would admit to being a hipster. ignore them and they go away.)

Re:Force in numbers (4, Informative)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about a year ago | (#43168113)

If your FOSS project only has a handful of users, it's nice.

If your FOSS project has thousands of users, it's good.

If your FOSS project has millions of users, it's not as good as it used to be, the devs are idiots, and I've been using [abandoned fork] for two years.

FTFY

It depends on the project (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43164177)

Obviously. An operating system, programming language, database, application framework or other infrastructure piece needs lots of users, whether paying or not.

A game or end-user oriented app at the top of the food chain needs people (advertisers, users, or service providers) willing to pay for ongoing development.

Re:It depends on the project (5, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#43164529)

The most successful FOSS projects, are infrastructure based projects.
Linux, Apache, Libraries... These general purpose tools, so a lot of people can use them to do different things.
However when you get further up and too specialized apps they will normally not do do well as FOSS because they are still complex to build however they do not have the wide use age. Thus if you need to make the product succeed you need a model where you need to pay for development.

Re:It depends on the project (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43168055)

Did anyone actually read this? It doesn't make any sense.

It works best of it has technical users (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43168101)

For example the 3D package Blender is very successful as a project. Because it has a wide user base, and the users are technically proficient, and can also start coding and scripting in the application itself.

But I would not call that an infrastructure project.

Re:It works best of it has technical users (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43172425)

Or business stuff like Sugar or Alfresco. Things that are very useful to an organization, and since they are built up mostly in PHP and whatnot are easy to modify. Joomla, Drupal, And wordpress are like this as well (and they make their money by having a marketplace of useful themes and plugins, alongside the free ones)

Give the core and everything to build what a user needs away, and charge by a combination of patronage, bounties, and charging for useful addons (but don't shoot your feet by adding some sort of foot shooting exercise like drm).

Don't be like knowledgetree, and deciding to take your ball home, become a wizbang cloud provider, and leave the community high and dry which will piss of your core clientele.

More like bait and switch (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43164237)

Lure them in with promises that Linux is ready for the desktop, then force them to help fix the sorry mess. Only report a bug if you want it to coming flying back as a boomerang for you to help debug/trace/fix/that yourself. And I'm only about half trolling.

Re:More like bait and switch (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43164397)

+1 this is totally accurate.

Re:More like bait and switch (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43164915)

No. You're so wrong. The time that convinced me forever that FOSS is fantastic was when I was stuck with a weird problem with a new motherboard, and in desperation I emailed the linux-users mailing list with a plea for advice. 20 minutes later I had a reply from Alan Cox saying "Aha, just the test case I wanted: try this", with a 4 line patch that fixed my problem.
This was at 7pm on a Sunday night.

I have had "premium" contracts from Sun, Oracle, Microsoft, whoever, and I have *never* had response like this from a commercial supplier, and this has happened multiple times to me.

The great thing is, that I feel like a freeloader, so I've contributed where I can. My contributions have been tiny, but there have been many thousands of tiny contributions to FOSS projects, and whilst the tiny contributions by themselves are in no way sufficient to ensure a projects success, they do make a difference.

The 4 line patch that fixed my problem presumably fixed the same problem for hundreds of other users (most of whom probably never encountered the issue); it also helped Alan to test that the patch was worthwhile and saved *him* some bother as well. Me coming up with the problem just as Alan Cox was looking into might seem like a million to one chance, but as Terry Pratchett says, million to one chances happen all the time.

Re:More like bait and switch (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43165951)

20 minutes later I had a reply from Anal Cox

Did you suck it? Because if sounds like you sucked it.

Alan Cox - personal help from the world's best (2)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#43166313)

That's one thing that pleasantly suprised me about Linux and OSS in general as well. I had a problem that I thought might be related to Linux RAID. After following the suggestions in "How to Ask Questions the Smart Way" I got a personal email from the RAID maintainer, with a fix. Try getting the lead dev of any major Microsoft aystem to personally assist you.
(for Windows fans, Alan Cox is the Balmer of Linux, Linus's designated successor.)

I'm reminded of when my brother first switched to free software. He had a request for an improvement in Firefox. He was slightly suprised when I showed him that he could file a feature request and the devs would actually read it. He was SHOCKED 36 hours later when I sent him a link to the nightly build - with his requested feature added. Meanwhile, we're still waiting on Microsoft to fix an IE bug they've had listed for 12 years.

Re:Alan Cox - personal help from the world's best (1)

Nivag064 (904744) | about a year ago | (#43194041)

Yes, I once had an exchange of emails with the developer of mdadm. He very patiently helped me explore a problem I had got myself into, and it also resulted in him adding a line to the documentation. This was essentially a PEBKAC error, with me being the one on the chair!

I raised 4 bugs with xine, 2 trivial, 1 moderate, and one obscure - all got fixed.

Once a new kernel had a bug which prevented my system accessing a dial up modem properly, there was an updated kernel in less than 24 hours with the fix. Alan Cox himself replied to my initial bug report.

I have have had Michael Meeks, a leading LibreOffice developer, remote access my machine (with my express permission) to investigate a bug that I had raised.

Though I was a lot less successful in the bugs I raised for OpenOffice, and some other FOSS projects.

Re:More like bait and switch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43168119)

Does that have much to do with Desktop Linux? I've never had that sort of response from KDE and GNOME.

That's why I use Linux on servers not desktops. If my Linux Server stuff has problems, I might get "Alan Cox" style help.

Whereas if I have problems with Desktop Linux, I'll mostly get "WORKSFORME" responses from KDE/GNOME.

Re:More like bait and switch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43169669)

I, also, want to say that FOSS can have benefits.

Back when the 68040 was brand new and GCC was just starting to support it, I had a board that failed only for some FP instruction sequences. I posted my problem, with the invalid code sequence, on the GCC boards and had a reply/patch the next day.

There are ways that FOSS does beat the competition, and there are ways that it doesn't. GCC and Linux have their place in the world and I'm glad that they are there.

Re:More like bait and switch (1)

Aardpig (622459) | about a year ago | (#43170253)

I had a similar experience with Russell King, who was developing the very first port of Linux to the ARM architecture way back in the 1990s. I couldn't get the kernel to boot on my Archimedes A3020 (which used the newer ARM 250 chip). After a couple of emails exchanged, the next day I packed the A3020 into my backpack and caught a train to south London where Russell lived. It only took him 30 mins or so to diagnose the problem, and thence onward Linux has supported the ARM 250. Not quite on-site service, but pretty close!

Re:More like bait and switch (2)

Xest (935314) | about a year ago | (#43170629)

"I have had "premium" contracts from Sun, Oracle, Microsoft, whoever, and I have *never* had response like this from a commercial supplier, and this has happened multiple times to me."

The problem is that proprietary vendors have these layers of customer support that are intended to filter out the silly trivial requests that don't require a high level of expertise (the sorts of one's that Alan Cox would see on the mailing list and just ignore leaving for someone with more time and patience to deal with). These premium contacts are a similar thing, you're told they're premium but ultimately they're often just another level of filtering that's only slightly higher up the chain than the bog standard support desk folks.

But for what it's worth when I've had genuine issues that need need this level of support I've had the same experience you have from proprietary vendors, whether it's posting on Microsoft's forums or contact their devs directly with bugs I've found in the past, or whether it was e-mailing John Carmack about some issues I was having with the Quake 3 mod tools many years back, through to the non-technical world of e-mailing the chief exec of BT in the UK because my phone line was screwed and their usual support line was being hopeless (he responded within a few hours to my direct e-mail to him on a Saturday afternoon from his Blackberry and had an engineer out to fix it on a fricking Sunday which still amazes me to this day).

So I don't think your assertion is really fair, yes proprietary vendors have layers of crap that you're supposed to go through, but if you post in the right places, just as you did with your issue, or if you contact the devs directly, you'll get equally good help, not just in tech but in many organisations that on the face of it are seen as faceless and difficult to deal with.

Just because FOSS doesn't have layers of support lines to deal with the chaff (for obvious reasons) doesn't mean that if you go straight to the talent of those companies that do that you're going to get any better a reply than if you do the same with proprietary vendors.

As a counter example, the fact FOSS people are often working in a personal capacity can be detrimental to the responses you get to them - some of the responses I've seen from the PHP folks for example to well written, intelligent, honest and legitimate questions would result in a disciplinary at best, or sacking at worst if the same response was given by a member of staff from a commercial organisation.

This isn't to talk down people like Cox, on the contrary the fact he gave you the response he does was fantastic, but my point is more to defend the devs working at even some of the organisations Slashdot hates like Microsoft - there are some damn good people there too who are damn nice and damn helpful and despite who they work for they deserve the same recognition for the good job they do in going out their way to be equally helpful.

Most highly talented people, the best of the best are contactable and responsive. You just have to actually know where they hang out or take steps to get in touch directly.

Re:More like bait and switch (1)

Jastiv (958017) | about a year ago | (#43179679)

Of course, sometimes even the person at the top can't fix it that fast, once you have gone to the lead developer, if he or she can't fix it, then where else can you go?

Re:More like bait and switch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43166011)

Kind of reminds me of Windows

True, sort of (4, Insightful)

steevven1 (1045978) | about a year ago | (#43164285)

This is true in what it is trying to say. I started using FOSS because it was useful, not because I had any intention of contributing. Now, I regularly file bug reports and do what I can to help out and answer the questions of others. However, "freeloaders" who stay freeloaders forever are not actually necessary, except maybe that they will tell others who will end up not being freeloaders. The bottom line is: The expectation value of helpfulness for a "freeloader" is absolutely not negative.

Re:True, sort of (5, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#43164589)

I think their point is, in any population of X freeloaders, there will be Y people who will, at some point, begin to contribute, so it's never hurtful to have a large population of X.

Plus, the bigger X gets, the bigger Y gets by proportion. Hence the "More freeloaders == more developers" ideology.

Personally, I take a bit of offense to the term 'freeloader.' If you didn't want people using the software without 'paying' in some way, either through fiscal or chronological contributions, you shouldn't be giving it away for free.

Re:True, sort of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43164773)

Personally, I take a bit of offense to the term 'freeloader.' If you didn't want people using the software without 'paying' in some way, either through fiscal or chronological contributions, you shouldn't be giving it away for free.

Yeah, that's what they do in the music and publishing businesses.

Re:True, sort of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43165113)

In music they just don't offer it for sale.

Re:True, sort of (0)

bug1 (96678) | about a year ago | (#43165455)

If Y=f(x) then X arent all freeloaders by definition.

It is correct to be offended by, story is the big troll IMO.

Re:True, sort of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43166751)

If Y=f(x) then X arent all freeloaders by definition.

And what if Y=f(x)=0x?
Y would define it as Y=Kx, where 0K1

Re:True, sort of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43169241)

If you didn't want people using the software without 'paying' in some way, either through fiscal or chronological contributions, you shouldn't be giving it away for free.

Maybe you're morally opposed to copyright law, but still want to have a large portion of your users contributing in some way?

Re:True, sort of (1)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | about a year ago | (#43169597)

True.
Also you can be (and most likely are) a freeloader for a lot of projects while also being a contributor for a few.
No one can work on all projects at the same time and many will shift their attention to different projects over time.

Re:True, sort of (1)

David Gerard (12369) | about a year ago | (#43164801)

It varies. I started using Mozilla in 2000 because I felt it was important - not because it was good, 'cos it wasn't, it was shit. Though at some point it crashed less than IE, and started looking a bit useful.

Re:True, sort of (1)

Matt Skalecki (2832841) | about a year ago | (#43164885)

Freeloaders, *particularly* the annoying ones who whine for help or complain about limitations, are useful themselves if only for providing a broader sample of how the project works in the wild.

Re:True, sort of (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#43165949)

Freeloaders who don't contribute are still useful. Having lots of them makes the project more of a success (more users), and the more popular it is the more poeple want to work on it. A freeloader who does nothing and never will do anything to help the project should never be treated as a second class citizen.

Plus the whole point of open software is that it is not just for club members but for everyone. It is not shareware where you're guilt-tripped into helping out. The goal is to have usable software. Ie, Linux wasn't started as a means to get together a lot of like minded people to work on the same project, or to start a revolution or social movment, or even to be a microsoft killer, but to get a Unix like operating system on 386 class machines.

Even using the loaded term "freeloader" in this context is wrong, it sends the wrong signals and is an insult. This is too much like the broken BBS days where some operators required upload to download ratios, or even Usenet forums where the pejorative "troll" was used for people who read but didn't talk. It's very un-geek to recreate the same old High School cliques after having escapes them.

Re:True, sort of (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about a year ago | (#43167547)

Another thing that I haven't seen mentioned here: motivation for the developers. Having a great number of users for your project will definitely motivate you to go on. And I think it may also attract relatively more users that want to become contributors.

False, sort of (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#43168057)

This is true in what it is trying to say. I started using FOSS because it was useful, not because I had any intention of contributing. Now, I regularly file bug reports and do what I can to help out and answer the questions of others. However, "freeloaders" who stay freeloaders forever are not actually necessary, except maybe that they will tell others who will end up not being freeloaders. The bottom line is: The expectation value of helpfulness for a "freeloader" is absolutely not negative.

Question is - how typical would be your experience?

Most people who are freeloaders do not contribute code, do not write documentation or file bug reports - the latter 2 of which do NOT require programming skills. And people who are freeloaders are often easy to sway w/ the newest and coolest free stuff. This is not to say that having a large user base ain't useful, but the value of that, as in this article, is way overrated.

The biggest issue about freeloaders in software is that done early enough, it breaks the revenue stream that a company needs to be profitable, or even break even. When a company writes software, there are costs incurred in doing that, and its estimates on the optimal sale point where those costs can be recovered is how it determines the per license price. But once people start redistributing it, the company would no longer see a revenue stream from potential customers. Yeah, yeah, many of them would not be customers if they could not get that stuff for free, but it's perfectly legit for any company to want its only users to be its paying customers.

The whole deal about Linux is that there are the distros, none of which can be charged for in the practical sense, since nobody would then buy it, given the $0.00 price tag of all other distros. So anybody who makes a distro is left scouring for ways in which to earn revenue. Most often, it's the tin cup model, which sounds fine & dandy, except that few really contribute. On the flip side, the uncertainties about whether Linux would work OOTB or not is another reason people would balk at spending money buying a distro.

So unless and until something can be done to convert those numbers of freeloaders into something tangible, that expanded user base is worthless as far as determining the success of a platform goes.

Re:True, sort of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43168265)

Don't forget the people who used to contribute, but who no longer do so. Some people get tired of filing bugs only to have the majority of them languish for almost 15 years.

I hearby volunteer ... (4, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#43164391)

... my services along with 30 years of experience as a freeloader.

Re:I hearby volunteer ... (1)

bryonak (836632) | about a year ago | (#43169367)

Splendid! Your offer is graciously accepted!
Please download all of these [launchpad.net] and then... well... I guess... just have them?

Definitions (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43164483)

See? This is why FOSS sometimes has such a bad reputation.

Most commercially based or otherwise proprietary projects don't consider the users of their fruits "Freeloaders." They call them things like "Customers" and "Users" (and "Potential sources of income," but that's later :). It's a lot easier to obtain backing and developer suppport when you can point out that several thousand people regularly use the thing rather than just the opinion that you think it's really neat except for all those useless freeloaders that just don't +contribute+....

  It's all in the language.

Re:Definitions (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about a year ago | (#43169011)

FOSS has the reputation that it sometimes has due to activists like the FSF who scream foul if any attempts are made to secure the income streams that result from writing FOSS. Particularly, the FSF crowd, which loves to nitpick over what's exactly 'free' and what ain't. It's their efforts that have given the term 'free' a negative aura in the industry.

interesting parallel (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43164609)

In the UK there's a big push to get scientists, particularly young ones, to engage with the public at large and in schools. Paul Nurse [wikipedia.org] recently noted a major benefit of this beyond educating the public, is the scientists themselves found it makes better researchers. They thought they understood what they were doing, but having to rephrase for direct back'n'forth brought more focus and clarity to their work. Result being they were very keen to keep talking to people as a regular and re-energizing task.

I _do_ understand why 'devs' want separation from 'users'. Nobody wants to get bogged down in a tech support nightmare, or get entangled with the worst of humans in forums and blog comments. Maybe we should look to doing more face-to-face forms like lectures, and even slashdot style moderated 'ask anything' question sessions.

Animal Farm (4, Interesting)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#43164657)

Orwell had a good analogy in Animal Farm. He was writing about the evolutionary process of socialism. Note, the "problem" was never the cat. It was always the pigs. The cat never caused a problem. Never harmed anyone. And didn't get in the way or drag anyone down. For whatever reason, the "freeloader" is always the enemy. But in reality, the freeloader doesn't create a load, and doesn't harm anyone. They are used by the pigs as a scapegoat, but don't themselves do any harm to anyone.

Re:Animal Farm (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,29 days | (#43201485)

Erm... the cat may have been the scapegoat, but he was still a scapegoat that was used by the real freeloaders, the pigs... who are symbols of the valueless vampiric wretches who sit atop any labour draining hierarchy be it labeled "capitalist" or "communist" or "dupethemarkist" or any other new name.

I think free-loader is an um... loaded term to refer to the non-developer co-user base of a FOSS project. And actually, real freeloading is always draining on someone.

Most of us 7%ers are guilty of vampiric freeloading, loafing on the back of someone else's uncompensated labour (enjoying your iphone??) on multiple levels, so truly eradicating ones own life of such habits entirely is difficult for any individual of reasonably comfortable means.

In your case though, to move out of your mom's basement and stop claiming those disability cheques for a leg injury you don't is an easy and obvious place to start!

Re:Animal Farm (1)

AK Marc (707885) | 1 year,29 days | (#43205951)

The 47% number was silly to begin with. I lived with my mother when she moved back in after retirement. I was in the top 10% of wage earners, but listed as a freeloader because my mother was over 65 (and thus on medicare). When anyone with a retired family member is a freeloader, then it's not surprising when 47% are freeloaders.

loafing on the back of someone else's uncompensated labour (enjoying your iphone??)

Foxconn pays well above average for the same job. What's your complaint? People in "worse" areas don't get paid as much as those in Manhattan?

PROPER TERM IS FREETARDS !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43164717)

Freetards !! Say it !! Free-Tards !!

Freeloaders are the ecosystem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43164809)

People tend to forget that their FOSS project is meaningless if people don't use it. Calling them "freeloaders" in general does a disservice to the users. I have a feeling it derives from the fact that the only interaction that developers have with their users is as a number next to the download counter and some extra megabytes added to the bandwidth bill. If they actually got involved in the community suddenly there is a name to attach to that number. It's difficult to define what "involved in the community" means without invoking development work, though.

The funny thing to me is that you see this same contempt for the end user in surprising places. The crackers who make piracy possible, for instance, absolutely hate the people they serve.

Depends (1)

fa2k (881632) | about a year ago | (#43165181)

Depends on how you define "success". If you define it as being popular (i.e. has many users), the thesis in the article is basically tautological.

I thought that this was obvious. (4, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | about a year ago | (#43165647)

For any amount of freeloaders, you will get people who want to fix things. This is my biggest complaint at people who dislike Ubuntu and other distros that make Linux "easy." Ubuntu and the other easy distros get fresh-meat, and eventually some of that fresh meat becomes part of the coding community.

Without fresh-meat, Linux would regress to less than a hobbyist operating system, and one pointed and laughed at as a waste of time.

The "elitists" are the ones who would eventually kill Linux.

--
BMO

Re:I thought that this was obvious. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43166091)

Oh Jesus, that reminds me of my 1337 days. Quit leechin warez from my 0 day BBS, I'm going to put you on an UL/DL ratio.

Then the internet blew that all away.

Re:I thought that this was obvious. (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about a year ago | (#43168305)

This is my biggest complaint at people who dislike Ubuntu and other distros that make Linux "easy."

People don't hate Ubuntu for making Linux "easy", they hate it for making Linux hard. By starting with Debian, which already twists SoP, then adding its own non-standard way of doing things, it actually makes things harder for the Linux ecosystem. Specifically, it "Window-ises" Linux, creates that two-level usage where doing something is either blindly stupidly easy or else buried in obscurity that requires special training. It removes the natural progression of difficulty that got those geeks into Linux in the first place. (And, as you say, without that new generation of explorers, there is no coding community.) Instead, the learning curve is a right angle. Hence the irony-quotes around "easy". It's a pretend easy. It's "easy" by burying the hard stuff, rather than making the hard stuff more natural.

[The solution, IMO, is to treat Ubuntu as being a OS/UI "based on Linux", not as a Linux distro. So it's not something you offer someone to "introduce them to Linux", it's a stand-alone free/free n00bs-friendly Windows replacement.]

Re:I thought that this was obvious. (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43168829)

shuttleworth wants his own lindows.

it's pretty apparent from his recent "I'm not doing this for stinky nerds" speeches.

and from grasping at straws at possibilities to get some money injected into the company(the mobile stuff.. tablets.. infamouse "ubuntu on android" etc are aimed at that).

Re:I thought that this was obvious. (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year ago | (#43169221)

[The solution, IMO, is to treat Ubuntu as being a OS/UI "based on Linux", not as a Linux distro. So it's not something you offer someone to "introduce them to Linux", it's a stand-alone free/free n00bs-friendly Windows replacement.]

I posted something like this on a blog comment recently. In the past I've handed people Ubuntu CDs as a way to introduce them to linux. Now it is a way to introduce them to Ubuntu, and about as useful otherwise as handing them an Android phone or Tivo for introducing them to Linux (well, they're not quite that far along, but they're going in that direction). Whatever, if they want to do their own thing they can. I might still install it on Aunt Tilly's desktop, but I wouldn't give it to a young aspiring computer scientist.

Sure, Ubuntu might result in lots of people using Linux (though many of them already use Linux in that sense - on their phones/etc), but it will probably lose most of the people who already use Linux in the process.

Re:I thought that this was obvious. (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about a year ago | (#43170477)

[The solution, IMO, is to treat Ubuntu as being a OS/UI "based on Linux", not as a Linux distro. So it's not something you offer someone to "introduce them to Linux", it's a stand-alone free/free n00bs-friendly Windows replacement.]

I posted something like this on a blog comment recently. In the past I've handed people Ubuntu CDs as a way to introduce them to linux. Now it is a way to introduce them to Ubuntu, and about as useful otherwise as handing them an Android phone or Tivo for introducing them to Linux (well, they're not quite that far along, but they're going in that direction). Whatever, if they want to do their own thing they can. I might still install it on Aunt Tilly's desktop, but I wouldn't give it to a young aspiring computer scientist.

Sure, Ubuntu might result in lots of people using Linux (though many of them already use Linux in that sense - on their phones/etc), but it will probably lose most of the people who already use Linux in the process.

I really don't understand this perspective. I've been using Ubuntu as my primary Linux for a long time, but I don't really get how any other distro would change things in the slightest. Between distros you just have different ways of distributing packages - or, if you don't have packages then you just have compiling from source.

Outside of that it's all just which daemon is being used by what for where. What is so fundamentally different about Ubuntu/Debian that breaks some supposed natural order of progression in learning? Especially seeing as how even technical people will be focused on a few aspects of Linux and not the entire OS platform.

Re:I thought that this was obvious. (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year ago | (#43174925)

Outside of that it's all just which daemon is being used by what for where.

I'm not sure this is really the direction Ubuntu is going - they're not just concerned about what daemon is used by what for where. They're moving towards having an app store model (think Ubuntu-specific APIs, GUI models, etc), their own display server, and they have essentially their own desktop environment and sysvinit system now. Right now you can still run xubuntu/kubuntu/etc and still get a more vanilla experience, but I'm not sure that will be sustainable as things progress.

They haven't gotten there yet, so there isn't necessarily a reason to abandon ship except to one of the sister distros (kubuntu/etc) if you really hate unity. However, I think that is the direction they're moving in.

Ubuntu doesn't really scratch my itch in any case, so I've never been a user beyond for the odd VM for some focused purpose. So, their success/failure doesn't impact me all that much.

Re:I thought that this was obvious. (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year ago | (#43169203)

The "elitists" are the ones who would eventually kill Linux.

I doubt any "elitists" actually exist - that is a bit of a straw man.

Most of what some call elitists are really just people who want Linux to work for them. What good is it having a million people contributing to a distro, if they're making it into a distro you don't actually want to use? There is room in the world for more than one Linux distro - if there wasn't we'd all be running Android, Tivo, or whatever powers your car entertainment system on the desktop.

Re:I thought that this was obvious. (1)

bmo (77928) | about a year ago | (#43178051)

>I doubt any "elitists" actually exist - that is a bit of a straw man.

You gotta be kidding me. I've run into them since the days of when people would criticize Caldera for having an easy installer.

--
BMO

Re:I thought that this was obvious. (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about a year ago | (#43181985)

Ok, they exist. However, it is easy to just point at anybody who disagrees with the direction your project is moving in and call them an elitist.

Do I want my OS to be easy to use? Sure, but for me. Do I mind if it is also easy to use for somebody else, not at all, unless it makes it harder for me to use. That's the gripe so many have with Unity/etc - people feel it makes it hard for them to work the way they want to work.

Re:I thought that this was obvious. (1)

bmo (77928) | about a year ago | (#43186369)

>That's the gripe so many have with Unity/etc - people feel it makes it hard for them to work the way they want to work.

So what? I've used Unity and it's not bad and it's actually great for a laptop. The criticism is way out of proportion. Add to this that the people most vocal about Unity are also the ones most capable of completely ignoring it and installing another DE/WM. Listening to the critics, you'd think that Ubuntu removed all other options, which they didn't, and they're still there in the repositories.

I've done my time pounding on the bare metal back last century. The last fucking thing on my mind is having to edit xorg.conf to get the video settings right, which, as a singular example, I've done more than I can recall. Ubuntu does a pretty good job of getting drivers right, and I can dump all of Unity for KDE in a couple of minutes. It's not difficult. Which brings me to my other gripe: If you can't figure out how to change the default desktop, but rather migrate to an entire different distribution because of the default desktop, you're doing it completely wrong and should re-evaluate why you're using anything other than Windows or OSX.

--
BMO

Re:I thought that this was obvious. (1)

Rich0 (548339) | 1 year,30 days | (#43200421)

I think people are concerned that those other options might not be well-maintained for long with the direction things are moving. I agree that for now the options still exist.

Oh, as far as Xorg configs go, Xorg themselves have gotten a lot better about this. I haven't had to write modelines in the last decade, and these days you can usually get away with not having an xorg.conf at all. Usually I end up with a highly abbreviated one just to set a few non-default settings but nothing really essential for desktop use. Not sure how much Ubuntu had to do with that, but you don't really need to use Ubuntu to get a fairly plug-and-play X11. Kernel modesetting has also gotten way better on some cards - unless you play games the FOSS drivers work well out-of-the-box. On nvidia the proprietary ones are pretty trivial to get working as well. I've always found ATI to be more painful, but their FOSS drivers are pretty good so I haven't messed with them.

On something like a laptop I suspect that Ubuntu would still offer some advantages. Those tend to have non-working chipsets far more often than desktops. I don't run Linux (other than ChromeOS) on any laptops, so I can't really vouch for how well other distros perform.

I hope GiMP developers are reading this (4, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#43165797)

There has been a lot of flack about changes made in the 2.8.x GIMP. The developers insist "this is how it is and how it will be, no more discussion" despite the wrongness of it all. Many users wish to support the developers out of gratitude. I understand it, but I don't agree with it. People who speak out are slapped down and it doesn't matter if they have a good point or not. They just don't want to listen to their users and have said "if you're not a developer, you are not contributing, so shut up."

It's just wrong... and bad...

Re:I hope GiMP developers are reading this (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43168831)

gimps been a lot better lately. on windows they even have one window mode which makes it actually usable in workflow(for a developer of other apps).

Re:I hope GiMP developers are reading this (1)

21mhz (443080) | about a year ago | (#43168885)

Well, the article says good things about freeloaders, not self-entitled whiners who think the developer community owes them the exact implementation of their wishes, all else be damned.

Re:I hope GiMP developers are reading this (1)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#43168975)

Well said and way to show contempt.

That's the thing. These are people who care enough about it to want to offer their user perspective. The issue (in this case) is that Save/Save As removed the ability to save as the format it was opened as. Users now have to "export." It's clumsy, unintuitive and is difficult to get used to in light of the fact that the original behavior is more normal across GUI applications. (The whole point of a GUI is that apps work the same so that learning and user comfort is maximized.)

Anyway, just because the users think, feel and respond does not make them self-entitled whiners.

Re:I hope GiMP developers are reading this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43169103)

fork off !

Re:I hope GiMP developers are reading this (1)

Nivag064 (904744) | about a year ago | (#43194075)

GNOME 3 was a triumph of Fashion over Function, I was more or less happy with GNOME 2 with a few niggles about some minor losses of functionality. So I fled to 'xfce', and now I'm moving to 'mate' - 'xfce' is more mature and reliable, but 'mate' has some features I was missing ('mate' restored some of the minor, but very useful features in gedit & nautilus, that got dropped in later versions of GNOME 2).

I just hope the GIMP developers do not follow the lead of the GNOME developers!

Re:I hope GiMP developers are reading this (1)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#43194243)

Developers are pretty self-important. And when it comes to who is steering a project, I used to think "let the engineers, do what they do!" Then I met up against a company driven by engineers instead of sales and marketing and found out what happens when my ideal is realized -- an unexpected kind of hell. In the case of this company, I will say that it is huge and Japanese. They cannot deliver on customer needs and government compliance requirements because they do things "their way" (sounds a bit lile Apple come to think of it) Consequently, it is costing jobs and their very existence in the US market. (Back in Japan, this company tells the government what is acceptable... in the US, it doesn't work that way.)

But this same problem exists in other areas too. And in the case of GiMP, GNOME and all those, they aren't being driven by any particular market demand. They appear to be trying to "lead" the market... to get ahead of the demand, as if they are some sort of fortune tellers who know what the next great thing is. When it comes to great change, you simply can't force it. Even great ideas are rejected when it's forced onto people. It's not the ideas or the quality. It's the presentation.

JMRI as example (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43166547)

Look at JMRI as an example.
Focused audience, great functionality, new things being added, users contribute all the time, etc.
If you do not run model trains with DCC, you might say 'what?'.
If you do, this is an essential tool.

Just try and be this good! :)

(And even a successful whopping of a troll to boot!)

nope (1)

noshellswill (598066) | about a year ago | (#43167213)

Fails to evaluate **easy**; what the casual lusr sees  beneath candy-coated  function is unspeakable, repulsive  babble.   Truly ... just too damm hard for anyone, but a professional expert to make FOSS  software contributions.

Terminology is Part of the Problem (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#43167745)

I think the label "freeloader" is a major part of the problem - it is only appropriate for talking about economies of scarcity. Where a freeloader actually consumes resources that other more "deserving" people would otherwise get.

For an economy of plenty - like free software - we need a more appropriate, more positive term to better describe what happens and to denote the positive values. The first thing that comes to my mind is "cheerleader" but there are probably better names - any suggestions?

Re:Terminology is Part of the Problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43167983)

"User"

Re:Terminology is Part of the Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43168017)

I agree with the sibling, "user" is just fine. The key is that none of these people are actually freeloaders: most projects rely on word-of-mouth for advertising, and pretty much all users provide some word-of-mouth advertising. It's misleading to think that has no value.

Re:Terminology is Part of the Problem (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about a year ago | (#43168339)

I think the label "freeloader" is a major part of the problem - it is only appropriate for talking about economies of scarcity.

The "scarce resource" is the developers. So users who try to monopolise dev-hours are perceived by those devs as freeloading.

Re:Terminology is Part of the Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43168393)

That is bizzare stretch. First off, it assumes that regular users attempt to "monopolise" the time of developers. It also assumes that the bug reports from regular users are less helpful to the project than reports from who? other developers?

Frankly, you seem really twisted.

It's obvious, and for similar reasons as.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43168991)

Why Pirates Are Essential To Commerical Product Success

Linux users are part of the 47 percent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43169633)

of the population that never pay for their software.

I'll never convince these people to help fund development. My job will be to take care of the 53 percent.

Why contribute when you can start a project? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43169747)

The only people who matter in open source are the people who start projects. They get all the attention and respect - and job offers. Grunts who write documentation and fix bugs get nothing. So why would any rational actor contribute to an existing project, when starting a project is the way to get ahead? The people who started Python, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, Spring, and so on are the ones whose names are known and who are working for major companies now. Name one person who writes open-source documentation. If there was some path for me to write documentation or fix bugs and get a job, I'd be all for it.

Re:Why contribute when you can start a project? (1)

Jastiv (958017) | about a year ago | (#43179739)

Starting a project does not make you all glamorous and awesome. Try it and see. If your project is like 90% of projects, it won't get anywhere and will have next to zero users. Even if you still manage to continue working on it with out users, you will get poked fun on on internet forums as having a dead project, despite the continuous contributions. If you insist on being a free loader, there are plenty of projects you can attempt to use, most of them just won't compile and run. A game to try www.wograld.org good luck following the long README directions and getting it to run, email if you have any questions.
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