Originally Published: Tuesday, 1 August 2000 Author: Jessica Sheffield
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Breaking Free of the Hive

People who have been inside enemy lines, Microsoft's Redmond facility, say the walls are plastered with "company lines" to motivate the employees. We immediately rush to the offensive with "Microsoft is Borg!", "What a bunch of mindless drones - saying what other people brainwash them with!", and other such... community lines. Is it brainwashing, or buying into the mentality? Is it as evil as it sounds?

   Page 1 of 1  

People who have been inside enemy lines, Microsoft's Redmond facility, say the walls are plastered with "company lines" to motivate the employees. We immediately rush to the offensive with "Microsoft is Borg!", "What a bunch of mindless drones - saying what other people brainwash them with!", and other such... community lines. Is it brainwashing, or buying into the mentality? Is it as evil as it sounds?

At this moment, I am gazing at my computer case, which is covered in stickers, most of them ones I've picked up at various Linux shows. Phrases like "Linux inside!", "Support for the revolution", and "Sick of crashing?" jump out at me. The oval-shaped LNX sticker has a place of prominence, as does the exclamation-point Linux.com sticker. I wonder... when was the last time anyone saw a Windows sticker (not counting the "Designed for Windows!" ones on the computers we avoid at Best Buy)? Or sported a "Geek by nature; Windows by choice" t-shirt? Certainly people at Redmond don't have caution tape surrounding their work area proclaiming it a "Linux-Free Zone"... do they?

Where do we draw the line between community involvement and commune-like brainwashing? If a Linux company gives away shirts that say, "There's nothing wrong with Windows 2000... that Linux can't fix", we scramble to sport them proudly at our local Barnes and Noble just to see the look on other people's faces. We wear our hearts on our sleeves, quite literally in some cases. We are the minority, the proud, the elite who know where it's really at and are wondering when the rest of the world will catch up. In the meantime, we'll wear our Linux shirts and our Linux hats and drive our cars with Linux stickers on them and wrap our desks with "Windows-Free Zone" caution tape (yes, I am guilty of all of these, and more), enjoying our status as the elite group who is riding the wave of the future, just you wait and see.

What if fans of Windows tried this? The sad truth is, we'd look upon them with scorn and pity. "Poor fools. They just don't know." What if we saw someone in a Microsoft shirt that they picked up at a networking conference and just happened to pull out of the clean-clothes pile that morning? Would we stop to consider such extenuating circumstances, or just consign them to the category of "just another mindless drone?"

There's a fine line between involvement in the community and propaganda, just as there is one between advocacy and fanaticism. When Kuro5hin was DDoS'ed, community members banded together with support for the volunteer-run website. That's involvement. Microsoft probably wouldn't have that kind of support if their websites went down. Situations like this show the community at its best, it's members willingness to help one another in the face of adversity. Actions speak louder than words - or t-shirts.

Wearing Linux shirts or hats or stickers or temporary tattoos isn't bad. The attitude that can surround such paraphenalia can be. Spouting the "community lines" can only get you so far. If the Linux community turns into "mindless drones" spouting the same old lines, how are we different from Them? As a community, we should find a way for these "geek symbols" to mean that we are a part of something special, not just wearing a shirt because it was free.

Consider this. For every Linux hat, t-shirt, or sticker you pick up at a LUG meeting or a Linux trade show, donate an hour or two to a free software project. Or send some money to the Free Software Foundation or the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Or write an article for Linux.com, osOpinion, or LinuxNewbie/org. Write a doc for the LDP. Demonstrate Linux to a high school computer science class. There are literally hundreds of ways you can give back to the community that donated that shirt to your collection. I do believe that even Red Hat's, VA Linux's, Caldera's, and other companies' marketing items owe their existence to the community, because without a strong community making open source possible, these companies wouldn't exist.

Involvement in the community means more than wearing got root? shirts and plastering our cars with Linux stickers following the community lines. It requires dedication, ingenuity, and the will to give to something greater, all the qualities that have gotten us this far. Are you ready to get involved?

Prove it.

Jessica Sheffield is a wondergeek. Her opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of anyone with sanity.





   Page 1 of 1