Friday, November 20, 2009

The Problem With The Linux Community

The following appears on the O'Reilly Community website. I don't usually crosspost between there and here but I will be writing a follow-up which will appear on this blog only. The reason: it will be decidedly controversial in a way which I don't want to bring to O'Reilly. So... in order for that post to make sense here is part 1:


I wrote a less than stellar review of openSUSE 11.2 this week for DistroWatch. Why? Well.. because this particular release really has issues: the installer choosing the wrong driver causing it to hang, serious instability in KDE on my two month old netbook in a release that touted itself for netbooks, and numerous smaller issues. It's a shame because, in general, I've always liked openSUSE. It was never my true favorite, but that was because of some personal preferences, not because of faults in the distro.

First, I must compliment the openSUSE developers. I've had great correspondence from Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier and Will Thompson, a developer in the KDE team in Nuremberg, which were truly first rate. These are Linux professionals who clearly are much more interested in solving problems and putting out a quality product than anything else. I'll be filing bug reports by tomorrow to try and help them resolve the issues that I found.

While I'm very positive about the openSUSE team I must say that I am a lot less sanguine about some in their community. Some fans (or really fanatics) came out in force ready to attack the reviewer (me), to question my skills and even my sanity, to attack Ladislav Bodnar for posting the review, to blame the hardware, anything at all but the distro code which is, according to some, "the best release ever". Fine, whatever, I'm used to it. Writing honest reviews will never win friends or make me popular in the Linux community. Some folks (way too many) only want fawning fan reviews and distro commercials.

Here are three response comments that I found especially clueful and pretty much spot on:
There is too much fanaticism in the world, people getting all exited over nothing - over stuff which is meaningless. The really important and relevant stuff is ignored.

But the reason is clear - the real issues are ignored because what is most important to me? ME.

So, forget the real issues - you better watch what you say about MY distro (religion, team, car etc., etc.) because what you are saying, you say about ME.
Remember, this is MY distro (religion, team, car etc., etc. ) I have chosen it. Therefore, if it is less than perfect then I am less than perfect......and THAT I can't bear.
--Antony, DistroWatch comments section, post #291

I love Linux, but I sometimes hate the community. I think often the community is Linux's worst enemy. Let me clarify that: I do love the development community, where the focus is on collaboration and making things better and sharing those improvements for the benefit of all. But I can't stand the "user community", at least the vocal part that have nothing better to do that going around with "mine is better than yours" nonsense.


Why can't this positive development spirit be extended to the user community? Why do some in the user community need to "defend" their distro? Why do some, as Antony brought out, take criticism to "their" distro personally?
--Patrick, DistroWatch comments section, post #295

Patrick, I agree that in many cases the Linux community is its own worst enemy. I say that with myself being a big (Linux) free software open source community fan. Unfortunately in many of the comments, from both sides in discussing the reviews in this distrowatch weekly, there have been comments which are only part of the technical, and appear to have been posted either out of ignorance, or posted only designed to hurt.
--oldcpu, DistroWatch comments section, post #297

The three comments above illustrate, that this is not a problem with just the openSUSE community. It plagues large parts of the wider Linux community. I'll have more about perhaps the worst example of this I know, and some people who just can't leave well enough alone, in my next post.


Anonymous said...

Somewhat related is the reaction to the BBC's Tech correspondent doing a half hearted review of Ubuntu 9.10 a while back. There's a record number of comments to be read here:

The difference is that he wasn't particularly trying to be constructive.

GuyNamedRob said...

Well, I've always thought your reviews have been fair, balanced, and informed by experience. I appreciate that you are out there writing about Linux, Slackware, and getting the BASH environment to work with French.