Saturday, 17 February, 2001

Open Source Community's Disdain for the Common User

Something else I haven't been able to figure out is the Open Source and Free Software movements' collective disdain for the great unwashed masses.  If a user is unwilling or unable to download, compile, and install a new kernel from the sources, then that user is somehow unfit to use the software.  Yet at the same time, users are encouraged to move to free environments from proprietary operating systems like Mac OS and Windows.  It's akin to insisting that a person demonstrate the ability to rebuild an engine before being granted a driver's license.  These "advocates" are doing their movements much more harm than good.

I don't understand the overwhelming resistance to making Open Source software (Linux in particular) accessible to mere mortals.  The majority of comments I see on newsgroups and in other areas take this form:  "If we make it easy enough for anybody to use, then it just won't be fun anymore."  In their minds, it's a one-or-the-other situation:  either it's easy to use or it's fun to work on.  I don't get it.  Making a real desktop Linux distribution doesn't have to mean locking it down and stifling innovation.  Nothing will prevent people from continuing to enhance and extend the system.  On the contrary:  if the system is widely used by a more diverse group of users, then there will be more people contributing ideas and code.

It's funny in a way.  Every user is a potential contributor.  Those who resist moving towards a more user-friendly Linux for fear of stifling innovation are actually stifling innovation themselves by restricting the number of contributors to the project.