Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Proper Promotion Of Linux As An Alternative

The Linux community needs to be a lot more professional if before we can take the desktop market from MS.

Recent blog posts, news articles and comments has brought to light that we, as a community, are not properly promoting Linux. I say this because the community is not helping itself and many statements are rude and vulgar. This does not, and never will, help promote Linux. If we are ever going to bring Linux to main stream users then we need to look at how to educate people on its abilities, usage and advantages.

Usage of derogatory remarks, vulgar language, hateful attitudes and militaristic ideals will never help convert users to the Linux desktop. Instead we need to become helpful and available. We cannot keep the RTFM attitude going anymore. Its this attitude that has held Linux back from adoption in main stream usage and we are simply shooting ourselves in the foot when we use it.

There are several ways to promote Linux that are for more positive and that help convert people to using it without making them feel put off. The community overall already does this but unfortunately the majority is not as vocal as the those whom spew the damaging remarks, attitudes and statements.

Lets take a good look at what it takes to properly promote Linux to people.

Attitude Is Everything:

Negativity will repel people, while positive and helpful attitudes will make them feel welcome. Overall, the latter is the desired outcome. This means we need to be ready, willing and able to answer questions. Regardless of their simplicity, level of understanding and even if it seems like something a user should already know. Trust me when I say there is no such thing as a stupid question, but there are stupid answers.

I have worked help desk support off and on over the years and what I have learned is this, there are people whom just have no understanding of the computer in front of them. This happens in the Windows world more often. Considering that most new computer users are using Windows instead of Linux it happens a lot more often there than it does in the Linux world. However, there will still be those that don't understand the difference between a left mouse click and a right mouse click and the modifiers. Matter fact most base level Windows users don't even know that certain keyboard keys can modify the mouse click at all. This also holds true in Linux.

We have to remember, and understand, when we answer questions that just because we know the answer that they may not. A reply that makes those asking the question feel stupid or insulted is not helping and instead makes people decide Linux is not for them. When someone asks a question it means they want to learn, and its our responsibility to help them learn.

Demonstrate Linux:

Start by showing Linux and the programs available for it. This is easily done and if you know what your doing you can create a Live DVD that is loaded with all the programs, codecs and features to show that it is extremely capable. Of course this DVD should never be distributed for legal reasons, however you can have base distribution CDs and DVDs available to hand out.

If you are lucky and have a decent laptop then you have a demonstration system right there, especially if there is an Internet connection available to you at the time. Here's a fact; most people, approximately ninety percent, use their computers for three basic functions, Internet, email and word proccessing, another five percent use spreadsheets and accounting software. With OpenOffice and Firefox Linux meets these needs easily. You can demonstrate this very easily with a laptop. Play videos, music and DVDs for the interested party you are demonstrating the system to.

To properly show what linux can do educate yourself on the various different server programs, security options and features built in or installable. I say this because there will be times when the final five percent will show an interest and even if you can't demonstrate those abilities you can explain them and answer some questions. You don't need to be an expert but having a base general knowledge of the subject will allow you discuss them intelligently.

Get Involved With The Linux Community:

Writing How Tos, articles and being part of a local LUG are things anyone can do. If you can code get involved with a project. Even if you can't code you can still help a project, like I do.

Use and help at the forums as well. By plugging into the community you stay up to date with changes in Linux in general.

Also use more than one distribution. This allows you to understand the differences in how things are done in each. This way you understand the community as a whole and not just from one perspective.


Of all the things I discussed the most important is attitude. Our attitudes towards people have more impact than anything else. Knowledge and expertise alone is not enough. Proper promotion requires we be open, friendly and professional to help new Linux users.

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