Something that is really counterproductive in many Open Source communities are people who are so rabidly fanatical about one line of thinking that they try to pressure everyone into their line of thinking. One long standing example of this is the whole FLOSS vs. FOSS concept. Some outspoken individuals try to lash out at all people who don’t take their view on Free and Libre Open Source Software…that is, software that is Open Source, Free, and Libre (aka without proprietary parts included). It’s really sad because this shouldn’t be an issue in Open Source and Linux communities but it often is.
There are two labels that can be applied to these stances…promotion or activism. A majority of the people who love and support Open Source software are promoters. They’re the ones that always put in a plug for their distro during tech conversations or tell their co-workers excitedly why they don’t have viruses. The others are activists who lobby congress (like lobby4linux.com), sue for GPL violations, and take an active role in the proliferation of Open Source. Both of these stances and labels are needed in Open Source and to proliferate Open Source. But just like the old saying, “too much of a good thing can kill you” so can too much activism or promotion inside Open Source.
It’s my experience that there are more of the promotionists than the activists. Of course, activists are needed with Open Source as well. They’re the informed individuals that debate the GPLv2 and v3 until they’re blue in the face…they’re the ones that force GPL compliance on those not observing that license. They ARE needed. It’s the extreme fringes of both promotionists and activists that we don’t need. When someone goes over the top and over-promotes something…their promotion becomes counterproductive because of over saturation. The same is true for activism…no one wants to hear about how wrong they are for using X or not installing X.
So which group would be worse? It’s really up in the air. Over saturation means that (when people hear about Linux after a promotionist has filled their ears to the brim with how great it is) a person will more than likely ignore something with Linux or not consider it when it would be worthwhile to them. On the contrary, activists may distract new advocates and new users by focusing them not on promotion of using Open Source but rather, debating on Libre vs. Non-Libre or whatever their argument might be (as Libre vs. Non-Libre is not the only area that has activists vs. promotionists). Remember, we’re speaking of the rabidly fanatical end aka fringes of the spectrum…not generalizing here. People can be rabid on the promotion side of things too…it’s important to note that when you’re on the extreme side of either, you’re counterproductive to the proliferation of open source software.