Originally Published: Sunday, 9 July 2000 Author: Frank Wiles
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Community Forum: Beware, The Web Has Ears!

It's not often that I write letters to the editor, but when I saw this article on Linux.com, I felt I had no choice but to send in my thoughts. The article was an editorial suggestion to the eventual forking of Linux as an open source project.

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It's not often that I write letters to the editor, but when I saw this article on Linux.com, I felt I had no choice but to send in my thoughts. The article was an editorial suggestion to the eventual forking of Linux as an open source project. My brain forked instead, leaving two paths:

  1. That's wrong.
  2. Oh my, when the suits see this they are going to flip.

The first path was the same one I've often traveled where authors are rewarded for stretching the imagination. But forking Linux? No way. The second path had deeper repercussions. Linux.com is a popular site acting as a Linux portal for people that don't understand what Linux truly is.

After some interesting e-mail conversations with the author, I found that his points were valid. I truly believe that he's a Linux enthusiast, and wants the best for our community. His ideas about producing a mainstream Linux distribution are good ones. The opportunity to write for a fixed platform is something that programmers, who have already adopted Linux as a development platform, are interested in as well. To a certain degree, the argument is purely semantic. Maybe "fork" wasn't the best word to use.

The biggest problem I had with this article was the fact that I quickly realized how your average business executive or CTO (henceforth affectionately called "suits") would read this. I could just imagine the conversations taking place the next day:

Suit #1: "You hear they are going to fork Linux?"
Suit #2: "Oh yeah?"
Suit #1: "Yeah, I read it on Linux.com."
Suit #2: "That's a shame, isn't that what destroyed commercial Unix?"
Suit #1: "Yup, and we were just about to deploy a bunch of Linux servers, good thing I read about it in time."

Most of you are probably saying that I am blowing this article and the use of the word fork completely out of proportion, and honestly, I probably am. Fear not, though. This leads to my larger point. The Web has ears. Sites such as Slashdot and Linux.com are now being read by suits as well as geeks. We need to pay more attention to what we say, and how we say it. On the Web as in life, misinterpretation could have serious repercussions.

I realize Linux.com was founded as a site for the community and by the community, but like it or not, it is read by people outside of our community. These people are our future IT managers and Linux customers. We need to take it upon ourselves as a community to communicate clearly and indicate precisely what we mean not only to ourselves, but to people on the outside looking in as well.

Frank Wiles (frank@wiles.org) would like to thank Emmett Plant for helping him to collect ideas for this article.

Please send your editorials for consideration in the Community Forum to editor@linux.com.





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