Opinion: Why Some Linux News Sites Aren’t Succeeding

I always hate it when a Linux “news” website publishes things that aren’t news. It would be like having a hosting website that doesn’t do hosting…what’s the point really? IF you can call a news article the gathering together of various other news sources, threading them together in one incoherent and blabbering “news” article and then ending the entire article on a point that the headline doesn’t even address…nor the first paragraph for that matter…then I guess LinuxInsider has got a dollop of fecal inspired “journalism” for you right on their front page. A retarded baboon could thread a bunch of stories together and draw a conclusion that doesn’t have anything to do with any other part by smacking a brick on a typewriter. I suggest LinuxInsider employ a retarded baboon as opposed to the author of this horrible piece.

What’s going on with many Linux news websites today? It used to be about the proliferation of Linux and Linux IN THE NEWS. Nowadays it’s about who can be the most creative with their Linux aphorisms and who can draw the most conclusions about nothing all while ensuring that as many advertisements as possible barrage their readers. This is why I only go to 2 websites for general Linux NEWS…Lxer.com and LWN.net. Newsforge is a good place to go as well…but the rest seem to do nothing but dance around the idea that they can widen out and cover all business news, report a little bit on Linux, and become a ‘catch all’ for savvy “geeks” while being sure to saturate themselves with ads. Sites should understand more about their target audience…and that just isn’t happening now.

I think it comes down to a faulty business model. Target audiences are changing faster than the technology that is released daily. Larger news websites whether Linux based or not are counting on “clickthroughs” and ad “impressions” to tell them what their readers want. They’re counting on their names to carry them and they’re wrong in accepting this matter. In the past, Linux has been somewhat geeks only…or at least rumored to be. That has changed. Most news sites haven’t.

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The Digital Divide in D Major

What constitutes private property? Is it a piece of land that no one has access to? Do you post a sign up that keeps people at bay? Or is it intangible as well…perhaps private intellectual property; some algorithm written on one line in a multi-million code line piece of software. Many have ideas on what constitutes a privacy and private property. For instance, social security numbers or credit card numbers are always considered private…they’re not given out to people or organizations without the consent of the holder of said numbers/cards. However, don’t be so sure that your information is safe.

As companies increase their business with technology, their information collection engine revs up and begins to go into overdrive. What sites do our visitors go to? What product would they be more likely to buy? What have been their last 10 purchases and would they like to see a product similar to it? This information collected is only on the outskirts of the real information such as SSN or Credit Card numbers but just the same it is information about you and about your habits.

Imagine this alternative look at information collection for a second. You get up one morning and open up your blinds…it’s a beautiful day. You slap on some clothes and begin to get ready for whatever it is you might do that day. You lay out a backpack and begin to get your things together…perhaps an ipod goes in with some ear buds…a pair of comfortable shoes in case you decide to go walking…a water bottle in case you get thirsty. Whatever you might need for a day out at a shopping mall or just plain out. Now picture a guy standing at your window where you drew your blinds snapping pictures of what you’re putting into your bag and writing down notes.

That would freak me out right away…but that is exactly what is happening to us online. We’re being studied and recorded every digital step we take. To me, this is definitely wrong…but to others, it is just normal. Odd how things can become normal after only a few years. Just the same, would you want someone standing over your every move in a certain area…recording everything you looked at, everything you touched or walked by…everything you might have expressed interest in? Probably not. This is the outskirts of the third digital divide.

The first digital divide was purely social-economic. It happened when countries that could afford the new fangled technology of the internet were spurring their economies with online purchases and online business. Countries that couldn’t afford to jump the bandwagon ended up eating its dust. This new digital divide though is political. This could be the third digital divideit could be the fifth…it just depends on who you talk to.

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What’s in a Name?

With Knoppix at least they named the distros differently. With KDE and Gnome, taking the first letter of the names was good enough. But Ubuntu and those using it have developed a silly idea and are trying desperately to make it ‘cool’. Unfortunately, most people seem to agree with them that this naming convention is just that…cool. My stomach turns…

I disagree with this notion of ‘cool’. I think it is silly and unprofessional. For those that have no idea what I’m speaking of, please take special note of the names of the following distros:

  1. Edubuntu
  2. Kubuntu
  3. Ubuntu
  4. What next?

Perhaps some of you may think I’m being harsh. I don’t think so. Adding oddly named distros of Linux that are so similar in name have a chance of confusing the general public. Is there anything to stop these projects from popping up? Will there be derrivatives such as Gamebuntu or other such oddities as GovBuntu or Serverbuntu/Mailbuntu in months and years to come? Not if good taste comes into play. I defeatedly will wait for Pornbuntu to come out sometime in the next few years (ok…perhaps I’m stretching, but you should get the picture). Why didn’t Canonical just name it Ubuntu – Education Edition, Ubuntu – KDE Edition, or something along those lines. Why try to make it ‘cool’ to have Ubuntu inside that new name for the new project? Why Why Why?

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Linux-Blog: Gartner needs to get a clue ASAP

Gartner: Linux ‘five years away from mainstream use’ I read that little gem above and laughed aloud. Mainly because if you’ve been living under a rock for the past year you might agree with that. However, with Novell entering the community with SuSe, Red Hat’s Fedora, and Mandriva’s 2005/6 editions I don’t think we’ll have to wait 5 years for things to happen. It’s obvious that Microsoft doesn’t think so either…otherwise, why are they advertising on television and launching a major ad campaign? Don’t you usually do this when sales are slow or interest is abysmal? By the way, who is it that they are competing against in the desktop area again? Oh that’s right, 90% of all desktops use Windows already. So in this case, they are either A) beating a long dead horse, B) slightly worried, or C) all of the above. When in doubt, choose C. So Microsoft might be slightly worried by Linux/Mac/BSD intruding into the desktop arena…and subsequently mainstream. But Gartner doesn’t seem to think that it is an issue until 2010. If you’d have caught me in about 2002 or previous years I might have agreed with them. However, there are some things that are making Linux into a force to be reckoned with. These are small programs that have begun to make desktop Linux exciting. These programs are often referred to in group by the label “Project Utopia.” Basically, what they do is work with each other to automatically add any device you plug in to your computer.

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mv elitism /dev/null

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.

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Why Open Source Isn’t Succeeding

“It’s not the big that beats the small; it’s the fast that beats the slow.” Niklas Zennstrom

There was a time early in the dawn of computers where .edu’s and .orgs co-mingled ideas and thoughts via IRC and newsgroups in a conducive and non-proprietary way. The great ideas that were born from this still thrive today in the form of RFC’s, Internet Standards, Protocols, and other surges of genius that sprung from these beginnings.

Lately however, certain things have begun to become apparent. Proprietary software vendors have locked the advancement of technology. This is to be expected. The open source movement is in full swing to counteract that. The only problem with the open source movement is in trying to counteract this huge pendulum and swing it from closed source proprietary toward a multi-source, multi-national technological advancement (for the gain of mankind and not company kind). Instead, open source has begun to push the stone uphill on it’s own without assistance from the VERY companies that take from it.

The bottom line is that companies will take from open source without any inhibitions at all. But when it comes to defending that which they take, they shrivel into the shadows and hope no one notices them. Companies are not in symbiosis with open source…oh sure, some of them might be sympathetic to open source. As we’ve seen with the Linux Core Consortium, companies will pledge their favor but not their resources. But until ALL companies that take from open source give back through REAL support (financial or otherwise)…they’ll continue to be identified as an entity that takes from another without providing anything in return. The word for that is PARASITE.

Companies that take from open source without giving back are a parasite to open source; they are killing it from within. The bad part about this is that we are helping this parasite…even applauding what it is doing. Many of us cheer when company X converts 250 computers to Novell or RedHat…but that isn’t open source anymore! They’re companies who happen to use Linux…they’re just not pure open source no matter what their beginnings are or were. The support and recognition go to Novell and Redhat…the financial gain goes to those companies and not back into open source. Sure, they provide some packages and free-for-home-use downloads and other niceties to try and counteract things…but open source still loses. It loses because there are more takers than givers.

Open source advocates shouldn’t be cheering when company X converts 250 computers it has to Novell or Redhat because they’re just cheering for the company. Even when Linux becomes THE accepted alternative for business and enterprise applications we should refrain from cheering companies such as Redhat and Novell because the money they earn doens’t go back into open source…and the name they make for themselves…does nothing for open source. No matter how hard they try, they’ll always take more than they give.

Some of you might be saying, “But the simple fact is that when Company X converts to Linux, they are embracing Linux in general…not just the company that sells it. This means that they’ll open up more to open source programs such as OpenOffice and Firefox”. Perhaps. But I’d be more willing to believe that company X won’t do ANYTHING that the vendor who provided them with Linux advised against…especially if warranty and license prevent it. So if said Linux vendor who provided them with 250 Linux desktops decided they didn’t want Company X to use OpenOffice…that company wouldn’t use it. The power of choice has been removed.

Until companies aren’t afraid to offer FULL and unadulterated support for Linux (LSB 2.0 standard or the Linux Core Consortium) and free open source software, the open source movement will not succeed.