Originally Published: Tuesday, 4 January 2000 Author: Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Vote Open Source

A more insidious evil lies right around the corner with the New Year and that's a full-blown presidential election year. Soon we'll be awash in the political equivalent of FUD from both sides, or from three sides should the Reform Party choose to put forward a candidate again, while millions of dollars are spent in the pursuit of a job that pays a fraction of that....

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A more insidious evil lies right around the corner with the New Year and that's a full-blown presidential election year. Soon we'll be awash in the political equivalent of FUD from both sides, or from three sides should the Reform Party choose to put forward a candidate again, while millions of dollars are spent in the pursuit of a job that pays a fraction of that.

Despite the fact that I dread the mud-slinging that is bound to ensue in the coming months, I'd like to suggest that Open Source advocates mobilize now to take advantage of this opportunity. While a vast portion of the computing industry has become familiar with Open Source, the concept has still not permeated the public consciousness. I believe that the upcoming election year gives us a golden opportunity to really bring Open Source, and Linux, to light.

In several other countries, Open Source proponents are bringing bills to their legislatures that could require their governments to only use software that is Open Source. I believe that this is a sound idea, I know I don't like the idea of my government wasting money on proprietary software that locks them in to a solitary vendor, and I don't believe that public money should be spent on something that the public cannot examine. I'm not just picking on Microsoft here, by the way. They're certainly one of the vendors, but not the only one.

What needs to happen is to make supporting Open Source an issue during the upcoming campaign. The amount of press that Linux would receive, outside of the computer trade magazines where Linux is enjoying quite a bit of press, could do wonders for Linux and Open Source. Think of Al Gore and George W. Bush debating on national television about how best to implement moving the goverment to Open Source software. (I sincerely doubt that any politician would be able to justify supporting proprietary software, especially if the question is given the proper spin when introduced.)

Getting an issue into national debate will not be an easy task, it will take a great deal of work on the part of the Open Source Community. What will need to happen is either one politician coming out in support of such legislation and making public policy statements to that effect, or for the poltical journalists to start asking candidates whether their opinions on Open Source software.

The Linux and Open Source community needs to take a cue from special interest groups and start becoming vocal about this issue. Contact your congressman, your senators, your state legislators and ask them what they think. Write letters to the editor, call in to talk shows and bring the issue up. (Extra bonus if you can call in to Larry King or any other national shows.)

The Microsoft trial will doubtless be an issue in the upcoming debates, it's already an issue in the Republican primaries. Computers are now becoming a bread and butter issue for the populace at large, this should be an important issue to people, let's make them aware of it.

Those who advocate Linux generally focus on the technological side of things. Sure, Linux is technically superior in many ways, but let's not lose sight of the fact that the GPL also offers us much more. In many ways, Linux is what democracy is all about, the freedom to choose and the freedom to truly innovate. One of my New Year's resolutions is to try to make Open Source an issue in national politics and bring at least one important issue to the impending debates. Is anyone else with me?

Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier, zonker@linuxmall.com





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