LXer Feature: Welcoming Newcomers to Linux and FOSS, or, the Least You Can Do is Not Chase Noobs Away

Posted by tadelste on Dec 31, 2005 9:53 PM
LXer Feature; By Carla Schroder

What is the future of Linux and Free Software? A rigid little cult that accept only the Right People? Or a community that truly practices "Free as in Freedom"?

The Linux/Free/Open Source world is changing, and such is the price of coming closer to "world domination." The more people turn to FOSS, the more diverse the user- and developer-base is going to be.

This, like all great grassroots movements, mixes the bitter with the sweet. It's like when the Wrong People discover your favorite great, but not well-known, band. Suddenly all of these uninformed trendwits are listening to it, clogging their shows, talking at all the wrong times, saying all the wrong things, and dancing when they should be listening reverently.

Or, it's like when the black monkeys gang up on the brown monkey- it's different! It's wrong! It's a threat! It doesn't have a geekbeard or parrot the correct buzzphrases! Beat it with sticks!

More Points of Entry = More Better

Newcomers to FOSS sometimes get beat up pretty good. They get criticized for running FOSS apps on Windows. They get criticized for using Linspire, Xandros, Crossover Office, and other Impure Linux Borkenings. They get jumped on for asking noob questions. They get jumped on for not understanding that "Free as in Freedom" means "as dictated and overseen by the Meddling Judgmental Friars of Freedom."

Get a grip, ya crabpots. The more points of entry, the better. Beginners need a lot of handholding. Remember your beginning days? Perhaps they were brutish and painful. So why make it a tradition? Unless your real goal is to keep out "The Wrong People." So start a noob out with Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice on Windows. Fix them up with a nice PC already running Linux- expecting new users to install Linux is an unnecessary hurdle, though it is easier than ever, and easier and faster than installing Windows. Help them with migrating their data- that's the biggest hurdle to Linux adoption.

Do please refrain from going all ballistic over specialized Linux User Groups. Groups created by and for women attract all the resident screaming meemies who just can't understand why us girls don't want to hang out with their unpleasant selves. There are faith-oriented LUGs, LUGs devoted to particular distributions, noob-friendly LUGs, advanced-user LUGs, coder LUGs, sysadmin LUGs- these all attract and support different users, and add to the overall strength and richness of the FOSS world.

Training wheels are good. Expecting someone who is new to Linux to instantly overhaul their entire computing infrastructure and personal philosophy is beyond unrealistic- it's delusional, not to mention counter-productive. One step at a time works very well, and is preferable to alienating new users, and possibly chasing them away forever. Bitching and preaching at people definitely does not work, and only hardens their opposition. Try something truly radical, something that is even more radical than FOSS itself- try listening to Linux noobs, and understanding what their real computing needs are. They know better than even the finest, most brainest FOSS geeks what their needs are.

Huzzah to the Good Guys

To the many fine folks who are patient and helpful with noobs, thank you, and please continue being patient and helpful. Especially with explaining the importance of Free Software, the difference a software license makes, and the importance of the underlying philosophy. Let the results speak for themselves- we don't need FUD or propaganda to make the point. Just the facts.

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
The Best Linux Distribution of them all henke54 0 923 Jan 1, 2006 11:48 PM
I hope this is a continuing feature TxtEdMacs 12 1,257 Jan 1, 2006 6:35 AM

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