Originally Published: Friday, 25 June 1999 Author: Michael J. Wise
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Std View]

Advocating Linux: A Primer

This article discusses the right ways to promote Linux as a viable alternative to other technologies. This article is not exhaustingly complete by any means and should not be looked upon as a sole source for advocacy advice....

This article discusses the right ways to promote Linux as a viable alternative to other technologies. This article is not exhaustingly complete by any means and should not be looked upon as a sole source for advocacy advice. However, this article is a good place to start.

Advocating to All

One of the many things to remember when first introducing anyone to Linux and trying to convince that person or company to switch is to NOT demonize their current operating system. Do not downplay the current operating system just to promote the use of Linux. Remember, whether you like it or not, every operating system has its uses.

Also, while you're promoting Linux, don't forget to mention that Linux, like all things in this world, has limits on what it can and cannot do. I'm sure that a person cannot have only good experiences with Linux. Share your trying times with Linux and your good times. Linux is not the be all and end all of operating systems. Other more suitable operating systems may exist today.

Probably one of the most important points to remember is NOT to act like a fanatic when promoting Linux. History tells us that fanaticism tends to scare people off rather than attract them to a new operating system. The Linux community must be especially vigilant in this area, since one fanatic can pull the image of the entire Linux community down.

Show people Linux! Show to people that Linux is not some CLI-ridden operating system. Always have a demonstration machine on hand where you can show interested parties the wide variety of text-based and graphical applications that are available for Linux. The old cliche, "a picture is worth a thousand words," is apt in this case.

Don't forget to show enthusiasm for Linux. Make it known that there is a supporting community for new Linux users. While over-enthusiasm is not desirable, who will be interested in Linux if you don't present it with any enthusiasm at all?

Advocating to a Company

When you are working on a project at your job and feel that Linux or another free alternative would work better than what is being used now, don't stand up and shout "Let's use Linux!" The most important point to remember about companies is that they often have deep-running ties to traditional commercial vendors. Misplaced enthusiasm for Linux at your job could cause undesirable consequences.

A good starting place often is in gradual increased Linux usage at the workplace. Don't suggest you shelve all of your company's current servers with Linux-based ones. However, if you see a hole where a server is needed (for example, a web server, ftp server, or a shell server), don't be afraid to suggest that Linux might be more cost-effective and perform better than a traditional vendor's offerings might be. Continued gradual implementation of Linux servers at the workplace is probably the most appropriate method.

Advocating to an Individual

"Be a friend" is the best advice I can offer here. Offer your own liberal help to a friend if he or she feels that Linux might be right for him or her. Offering to install Linux, loaning manuals, and answering questions are all great methods recruiting another happy Linux user into the community.

Another good idea is to let a person decide for him or herself when he or she is ready to make the switch. Forcing Linux down a user's throat when they're completely content with what they have does not lead to new Linux users. First, you must convince a person that making the change to Linux would offer something they need before installing it for them.

Also, don't make a person feel like an idiot for using another operating system to begin with. This sort of thinking leads to elitism, which should be avoided wherever and whenever possible. We are trying to include people into the Linux community, not exclude them.


Hopefully, this document has armed you with some basic knowledge of proper advocacy and will lead you down the path of the conversion of many of your friends and perhaps even your family. And, if we do our job right, complete world domination will be within our reach! :-)

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