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Community: Be a Good Linux Neighbor

Jan 21, 2004, 19:00 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Steve Mallett)

[ Thanks to Steve for this link. ]

With the inevitable barrage of PR that's about to come out of LinuxWorld I'd like to remind everyone that there is no one vendor that can attract and retain Linux users. Just like SCO can't scare normal everyday people off of using Linux... the Red Hats, SUSEs, Mandrakes, Debians, et al. can't retain users simply by providing Linux to them. Linux's second greatest asset is the people around it.

One good reason that Windows is so insanely popular (among many bad reasons) is that everyone knows someone, a neighbor, who can help them with problems. We need and require the same kind of folks who use Linux. Once someone installs Linux there are inevitably questions upon questions that they will either want or need answered. They need a place to come and get those questions answered.

One thing that I've tried doing with OSDir.com is to provide some feedback on applications so new users can determine which might be best suited to what they need and help get them up to speed using open source applications as painlessly as possible.

Up until now this has been fine, but info and data are only a first step. The next is inevitable. Being that neighbor who can help out in a pinch. We all have pinching moments. Even the best of us, among which I won't count myself.

Visitors to OSDir are often coming from a Windows world. First they might ask me which applications do such and such, and predictably the next question is for help with it. Often I don't actually use the app and try to find help for them.

As much as we might like to think that Google and HowTos can handle this, forget it. Only a good neighbor will really keep a lot of new Linux users happy. And really, isn't this our next best asset? A community.

This is the second stage for OSDir.com. The site started out as a horribly ugly homemade job pumping out of my little DSL line three years ago. We got slashdotted when we had 70 or so apps and was built on top of the code that was running sourceforge at the time. I've killed the site and restarted from scratch a couple of times to try to give people what they thought was helpful knowing that you don't really know what will work to get people excited until you try something new.

OSDir.com is now published by O'Reilly, but I still want to try new things to give people a head start in our community. And so here we go...

I'm looking to recruit some folks who naturally enjoy helping others with problems and inquiries people will have with Linux on our new bulletin board. I've contacted some folks to help out already who I thought would be interested, but I certainly don't know a 100th of you all.

Let me be straight. The gathering crowd mulling about at LinuxWorld are soon to be a rampaging mob. You can't beat the press Linux is getting and people are only starting to become interested. Even SCO with its antics probably sends more people to Linux than if it didn't exist. The neighborhood is about to start expanding and the newbies are gonna want to know the direction of the parks, when they can mow the lawn, where the movie theater is, and what the best schools are. Some of them are going to be rash, some nice, some impatient, some good drinking buddies. It's important for us to be here for them and to be good neighbors if we expect people to at least give Linux the good try we've been encouraging people to give it.

I wish there were a more magical answer, but being helpful is simply it.

Right now the forum is in beta so you can get comfortable first and to give the forum a bit of a chance to gather some helpful neighbors. There are only a basic amount of topics right now as I'd like the forums to grow organically with demand. So, please move in. The land is cheap, but the landscape is fine.

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