Originally Published: Saturday, 20 November 1999 Author: Jerry Hatchett
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

A Pleasant Surprise

Last week's article about "Joe" drew a flurry of comments. Some were publicly posted here on the Linux.com site, and many more showed up in my mailbox. Some were nice. Some were not. Some were brief. Some were longer than the article itself. All were read by me, and I'm pretty sure I got around to responding to each of the e-mails....

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Last week's article about "Joe" drew a flurry of comments. Some were publicly posted here on the Linux.com site, and many more showed up in my mailbox. Some were nice. Some were not. Some were brief. Some were longer than the article itself. All were read by me, and I'm pretty sure I got around to responding to each of the e-mails.

I fully expected to hear from both major camps of the Linux community, and I did. In one camp, there are those who basically agree that the goal is to take Linux to the masses. They're all for evangelizing and streamlining. They like Joe and they want to engage Joe and show Joe the path to something better. Then there's that other camp. The sign on the main tent reads "Open Source Community." And the sign right under that says CLOSED in big, bold letters. There's no need to elaborate any more right now on what defines the residents of each camp because, if you're in one or the other, you already know precisely who you are. You both weighed in, and I thank you for taking the time to write.

What really surprised me, however, was the number of people who e-mailed me from the THIRD camp. Guess what camp that was? None other than Joe himself! (Actually, there were some "Janes" in the mix, too.) Yep, I got subject lines like "Hey, I'm Joe!" and "I must be the Joe you were writing about!" and others of the same flavor. Joe was generally ecstatic to have been included in the Linux discussion. He voiced hearty approval for Camp Open Arms, but espoused no ill will toward his detractors. He admitted a lack of expertise, but most importantly he expressed a desire to learn. He asked for pros and he asked for cons. He wanted to know how Linux would benefit him, and how it would not. All in all, Joe was quite the curious fellow! (I know that goes against the impression of him as a more slothful sort, but I'm just reporting the facts.)

There's also another very salient point that should not be overlooked. You see, Joe didn't read that article on His Yahoo!. No TV personality recited it to him. It was not on the comics page in his local newspaper. Nope. There was one place and one place only where Joe could have read that article: right here. Home base. Linux.com. Joe sought us out! Now I'm sure that those in the second camp will view Joe's presence as nothing short of a hostile invasion. Hopefully they'll just glare at him from the bushes, and not outright attack him. Camp Open Arms, however, should be encouraged. Joe is already among us. He's peeking here and there, eagerly trying to learn. Roughly 20% of all responses, public and private, to last week's column were in the form of e-mails from Joe and his peers. If that many took the time to write, common sense says that many more non-techies are soaking up the pixels of wisdom without saying a word. It may not be a scientific survey, but I find hope in those numbers myself.

I'd like to shift topics for just a moment and respond specifically to one of the publicly posted comments from last week. Someone suggested, in a nutshell, that if I really wanted to help, I should be writing code instead of articles. To that person I say this: if you're writing code to help further the Linux effort, I applaud you. I also applaud the people who are writing the HTML that makes this site run. And the graphics artists who spend their time providing the eye candy for all to see. And the sponsors who make the server space and Internet connection possible. And all the folks in all the fields who are out there working day and night to make Linux viable from a business standpoint. Any effort that has swelled to the magnitude that this one now enjoys has participants in many walks making it happen. And that even includes writers of plain old text.

With that said, I'll end by standing on top of my soapbox for one paragraph more as I tout the vision. The true goal of this entire affair should be one of offering a better alternative to the PC world. It's not just about users and it's not just about developers. It's about bringing users and developers closer together. The desktop is still the most strategically important area. And it's still the hardest market to enter, by far. I think those last three sentences sum it up pretty nicely. And while I'd like to take credit for those words of wisdom, I cannot. That's what Linus said this week at Comdex. Hmmm? I wonder which camp he's in.

Jerry Hatchett, hatchett@futuresouth.com.





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