Originally Published: Tuesday, 14 March 2000 Author: Mike Baker
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Are You a Linux Advocate?

Linux is based on an Open Source philosophy. Most programs are created for free, by individuals in their spare time, and are given to the public complete with sources detailing all the magic behind it all. Linux has grown leaps and bounds from the original Usenet announcement to where it stands today, and with its growth has attracted new users who aren't programmers.

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Linux is based on an Open Source philosophy. Most programs are created for free, by individuals in their spare time, and are given to the public complete with sources detailing all the magic behind it all. Linux has grown leaps and bounds from the original Usenet announcement to where it stands today, and with its growth has attracted new users who aren't programmers. The new users often feel it's their duty to contribute to the Open Source community by becoming a self-appointed advocate of Linux and Open Source.

Advocating is a noble gesture of support to the many Open Source programmers, yet it's important to keep in mind that advocacy is not about degrading other operating systems. Advocacy is about an accurate portrayal of Linux; it's important to acknowledge that it's not without bugs, but it does excel in many areas. Linux has no central authority for public relations, so the impression that new Linux users get from the existing members of the community is important. We want people to try Linux and decide for themselves if they like it or not -- and that means listening to their feedback and offering suggestions and support.

One way you can express your advocacy is by becoming a mentor to a new Linux user. Take them in, help them understand Linux, and explain to them how things work. It's not a question of setting up their Linux system for them but helping to explain it so they know how to do it themselves. Maybe you can help them avoid any problems you had when you first started out. Linux shouldn't be expressed as a private club where you need to dig through man pages and HOWTOs to be accepted, although that is the attitude many new users are getting because it tends to be the most outspoken attitude.

If you're reading this article and looking for a mentor, a good place to find one might be at your local Linux users group, otherwise known as a LUG. At LUGs you'll find many other Linux users -- some just starting out and others more experienced -- all willing to help out. If you're not sure where your local LUG or if you have one, check on one of the many pages that track them such as Linux.com LUGs.

Being a mentor isn't the only way to be a Linux advocate. Simply talking to others about Linux or dispelling myths about Linux is a good form of advocacy. If you have Linux books or Linux CDs you're not using, you might want to loan them out to other people curious about Linux, or you may wish to participate in Linux Demo Day. You might find it hard to believe with all the hype about Linux in the media lately, but some people have never actually seen a Linux system running or haven't been following closely enough to know about recent advances. They may be interested in seeing a Linux desktop in action.

Finally, remember that you're not trying to sell a product. Linux is robust enough to hold its own ground; it's not our goal to try and sell everyone on Linux or to put it on every desktop, but rather to inform people that there are alternatives.

Mike Baker, mbm@linux.com





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