I started asking myself questions about Linux the other day. I began to think about what Linux lacked that Windows had (trying to get into the head of a die hard Windows fan and persuade them to think Linux). Certainly it isn’t appearance. Windows is actually behind Linux in this area. Certainly it isn’t detectability. Linux is also ahead of Windows in this area. Driver support? Yes…big gap…but one that we as Linux programmers, developers, and users are all well aware of and one that cannot be improved drammatically unless manufacturers get behind Linux. So what is left? Wizards. Wizards? That’s right. Wizards. No, not the D&D spellcasting folk…put your twenty sided die away. I’m speaking of the nice trail of menu’s that greet you to set up a function in your operating system.
In the beginning of things, open source was about open everything. I remember joining an irc channel # on efnet back in 1993 and chatting with people who could make things happen with computers…really make things happen. Coders, managers, hackers…they were all there and a tight nit core of about 6 of us stayed in touch for about 7 years until we went our separate ways and began to use irc less and less. The thing that I remember the most is the fact that when I joined their little group, I was a complete and total n00b. Not just a n00b to Open Source…but to computers altogether. I had a Texas Instruments computer back in 1985 but only messed with that for about a year. Mice were new to me…I didn’t know ANYTHING at all. In the short time that I began chatting on irc, I was shown how to do things. When I didn’t know how to do something, I could count on one of the guys or girls in the channel helping me to solve my problem within a matter of minutes. These people stepped down off of their level of operation long enough to educate me in the ways of the open source.
I look fondly back at this time and have spoken about it before…not because I don’t think something like this exists now…just that I think it is a rarity. There was a time when this “spirit of open source” was all about educating and furthering the program/app that you were working on. Now it seems that when a new user comes in to any channel on irc or forum, they are told off with a hearty RTFM (Read the ‘Friendly’ Manual).
Where did this Elitism come from? Where and when did Linux and open source become about the mentality “you must be this knowledgeable to ride?” It pains me to see people do this to new users…distancing themselves from potential advocates of open source…zealous ones at that. It’s a real testament to some of these new users STILL wanting to plug open source and Linux, despite being squashed by elitists in forums.