I receive a lot of email. And, barring the rare inbox disaster (I actually had one last week so don’t feel bad if I didn’t write you back!), I usually manage to reply within a few minutes to a few days, depending upon the overall hecticness of that particular point in time.
My replies, though, often contain questions. Which is to be expected from someone as curious as myself. Curiosity compels me to collect massive amounts of data in order to correlate it into a personalized Grand Unified Theory of Geekdom. It also expresses itself in any of the dozens of projects I always seem to have on the go.
As serendipity would have it, my questions are now starting to focus on the “soft” side of open source computing. And, I’m starting to believe that the answers address the larger question of “what is the future of open source?”.
My experiences with open source have, for the most part, been positive so it’s not surprising that I’ve burrowed a little niche for myself in the FreeBSD community. Would my niche instead have been in closed source operating systems (or not even in computing at all) if my over-all experience had been negative? After all, computing was not my first career. And Unix was not my first operating system–I had already been immersed in the Novell and Microsoft worlds for a few years by the time I discovered FreeBSD.
As I review my own experience, my main obstacle was isolation, partially due to my geographic region. Any tech conversation attempt was guaranteed to evoke a glassy stare. Occasionally I’d stumble upon someone who had heard of Linux, but even they hadn’t heard of BSD. A year after moving to a larger center, I’m still amazed at all of the people and companies who have not only heard of BSD and open source but who actively promote it! I can also appreciate the giant steps taken in documentation and user group support since I’ve joined the open source scene.
As I’ve spoken to other people, I’ve heard a mix of good and bad. Sometimes the bad is geographic or cultural; there are still countries in this world where geeks of any nature aren’t exactly socially acceptable. Sometimes the bad is due to the rudeness and arrogance found on some projects’ mailing lists. Sometimes the bad results from having an obviously feminine name–apparently some people still view asking a technical question in a public forum as a request for dating candidates.
I’ve also seen first-hand the positive steps average users are taking to promote open source in their little neck of the woods. These are the unsung heroes whose efforts often go unseen or underappreciated. I’m talking about those who take the time to pen polite and helpful emails. Those who drive across town to help someone install or troubleshoot a system. Those who donate time and expertise to create open source labs at their local school, volunteer agency, or seniors home. In short, those who provide a welcoming presence for open source.
So, my questions to you are:
-what positive and negative experiences have you had with open source?
-what actions or comments in particular turned you on or off to open source?
-from your experience, how does the future look for open source?
I’d love to hear back from you. Also, if you’d like other readers to see your experience, post a comment to this blog.
I’d like to end this blog with a short example of the positive impact of networking. In the past year, I’ve heard many a comment regarding the Mac community and how many of its “goods” contrast with many of the “bads” people have experienced in other computing communities. This morning, Robert Pritchett of maccompanion emailed me to let me know his review of BSD Hacks was included in the September edition of the ezine.
Now, BSD Hacks only contains one overtly MAC OS X hack (#88). But Robert understood the spirit of the book which is hacking, or using the tool at hand to solve a problem. The actual tool (FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, MAC OS X, a Linux distro, Solaris, etc.) isn't important. For that matter, neither is the proposed solution! I've rehacked many of my hacks since writing them. Hacks are merely a bit of logic meant to kickstart the readers own imagination, to look at solutions to problems they perhaps up to that point didn't know even existed.
Robert gives an example of transcending one community and embracing another (one of those goods that doesn't always happen in open source). Take some time to look at his site. Click on Info and check out "About Us!". Check out "Companions" and see what types of resources are available to the Mac community.
What positive and negative experiences have you had with open source?