05 November 2009

FOSS, FUD and Freeloaders

The open source community is, in my experience, a fairly friendly place for the most part. Seriously. Only rarely do I run into serious jerks in the FOSS crowd. When I do, though, the circumstances usually follow a pattern.

For a long time I walked in religious circles, thinking, talking and writing mostly about Christian theology. In particular I focused on the Stone-Campbell Movement. What I found time and again was that any time I expressed disappointment with the state of affairs among Churches of Christ, I was attacked. My status as a Christian was questioned more times that I can count (why do people always run to that so quickly?) and the last straws were being excluded from a forum because of who I linked to on my blog and separately being told by someone I should stop preaching because I was a hypocrite. Is it any wonder I'm no longer trying to deal with this crap?

The funny thing is that people are people, not matter the area of interest. Not long ago I wrote about what hinders GNU/Linux desktop adoption. One comment received on that post accused me of spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and implied I was a "freeloader." Per my long-standing and recently-explained blog comment policy, that comment was deleted.

FUD is what curmudgeonly, anti-social geeks squeal any time any criticisms of FOSS or GNU/Linux are raised. Even if one is a Linux enthusiast, as I am, the accusation can be leveled. So, my friendly criticisms of GNU/Linux make me as much a FUD-spreader in some people's eyes as my disillusionment with Churches of Christ made me "unfaithful" in the view of others.

But wait! How am I a "freeloader"? This is another epithet spat by geeks who program in their underwear from their mother's basement. Usage varies, but typically it is applied to what I would call the "average user." You know, Joe and Jill Internet, the normal, non-geek person who just wants to browse the web, send e-mail, maybe do homework, sync music to an mp3 player and possibly edit and upload photos. Apple and Microsoft see these folks as customers. A small but occasionally vocal minority in the FOSS and GNU/Linux communities call such regular, rank-and-file folks "freeloaders" because they neither contribute to the code nor help with bug reporting or design, and because they ask questions expecting help, rather than being told to "read the manual".

There is nothing wrong with people downloading Ubuntu, for example, using it and providing feedback. That's contributing. There is also absolutely nothing wrong with a person doing everything I said except provide feedback. If someone is perfectly happy using Ubuntu or any other Linux distro and has nothing to say about it, great!  If someone has questions and doesn't want to become a computer programmer to get the answer, real help should be provided.

To my critics in the Churches of Christ I say this: I am no hypocrite, but you are Pharisees. To those glassy-eyed geeks who call people like me FUD-spreading freeloaders, you are jackasses. See how easy and fun name-calling can be? Go out, get some sun and get a life.