Originally Published: Monday, 13 March 2000 Author: Tom Dominico
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

It's the Community, Stupid!

One of the most incredible things about the Linux operating system can't be found in the kernel or any of the GNU tools. You won't find it bundled with any of the distributions, either. It's what Linux users know as "the community" -- a very broad term that represents all the Linux/Open Source software users across the globe.

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One of the most incredible things about the Linux operating system can't be found in the kernel or any of the GNU tools. You won't find it bundled with any of the distributions, either. It's what Linux users know as "the community" -- a very broad term that represents all the Linux/Open Source software users across the globe. The community is an intangible benefit that you receive, free of charge, when you join the revolution and put Linux on your box.

Coming from a long history of Windows usage, I was accustomed to having nowhere to turn when I had a problem or needed help. Attempting to get support from Microsoft proved futile; once, their advice was to reinstall Windows in order to fix a problem with Internet Explorer! The PC manufacturer generally wasn't much help, either:

Technical Support: "Did you scan and defragment your drive?"
Me: "Yes."
Technical Support: "And that didn't fix it? Hmmm, it's out of our hands. Must be a software problem. Call Microsoft."

I've never found Windows newsgroups very helpful, either. I never got the sense that the people who frequented them were very interested in helping others, and most of my posts languished on the server, dying slow deaths.

Last fall, I decided to take the plunge and put Linux on my primary workstation. Naturally, as a newbie, I soon found myself scouring the Internet for information on proper configuration and such. I was overwhelmed by the vast quantity of information revealed by my searches. What really made an impression on me was that most of it had been compiled by volunteers.

It was obvious that great time and effort had been put into providing help for all those who might require it. I visited places such as linuxdoc.org, linuxnewbie.org, and of course our own Linux.com. It was there that I was introduced to the Open Projects network on IRC. That was the icing on the cake; not only was there an abundance of documentation, written by volunteers, but these same people devoted their free time to helping others on IRC.

It was at that point that I started to realize what community is all about. It's about giving for the benefit of others. It's what motivates some of the best hackers in the world to give away their work, just so that you and I can enjoy the benefits of an incredibly powerful and stable operating systems. It's about freedom, and it's about time!

Be warned, though; the sense of community is infectious. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would fall in love with an operating system, at its heart nothing but ones and zeroes. However, what I really fell in love with is the spirit that created it, and the concept that everyone deserves a better operating system. The community has embraced me, and I intend to return the favor.

I encourage you to do the same by getting involved. You don't have to be a kernel hacker -- what Linux needs right now are bug hunters, writers, and most importantly, advocates. Don't be afraid to get involved! Take a front-line position in the revolution. The battle is far from over, and Linux needs your help to win the next wave of converts. The best way you can show your gratitude for the gift of an incredibly stable, free operating system is by telling others about it, and helping them to learn about it.

There is absolutely nothing else that compares to the Linux community. It's a great feeling to know that you're a part of something much larger -- a movement that is literally changing the world, one computer at a time, and carrying with it a philosophy of freedom. The community is your one-stop shop for help, advice, or just a little friendship. We owe the community a debt of thanks for all it provides, and I urge you to repay that debt with your time, your support, and your advocacy.

Tom Dominico is a programmer, database administrator, and recent Linux convert. Cursed with insomnia, he spends his sleepless nights chatting on IRC, tweaking his Linux workstation, and reading everything he can get his hands on.





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