"Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown. He's a clown, he's a
He's gonna get caught just you wait and see.
'Why is everybody always picking on me?'"
- The Coasters, 1959
"And I started jumpin up and down yelling, 'KILL, KILL,' and he
started jumpin up and down with me and we was both jumping up and
down yelling, 'KILL, KILL.' And the sergeant came over, pinned a
medal on me, sent me down the hall, said, 'You're our boy.'
Didn't feel too good about it."
- Arlo Guthrie, 1966
There is an interesting new trend afoot in the arena of
technology media. When I say it's interesting, I mean interesting
in the sense that one has when one looks at a funnel cloud on the
southwestern horizon and says "that's interesting." It may indeed
be just an interesting sight to see--as long as it doesn't drop
down and become a F3 tornado and plow right through your house.
I have coined a name for this trend, because it's a direct
offshoot of FUD, that acronym for fear, uncertainty, and doubt that
gets bandied about so often in the Linux community. This new
phenomenon, however, is much more proactive than mere FUD, and
certainly less subtle.
Let's see if this label fits: KLOD, which stands for Kill Linux,
Or Destroy. It is a descriptive that fits a number of recent
articles from the punditry of late: articles that predict, plan, or
otherwise endorse the utter destruction of Linux and open source
To which my initial response is: what the heck did Linux ever do
While there are several readers who will openly doubt this, most
tech writers do not base their opinion pieces on financial
renumeration from large software companies. Granted, the jury is
still out on a few of them, but the majority will base their
opinions on direct personal experience, reactions to current
events, or something they learned from someone else.
So, when I see the likes of Rob Enderle, Paul Therott, and John
Dvorak all writing tales of doom for my favorite operating system,
I have to ask myself, what is it about their personal experiences
that drives them to come out with KLOD articles?
Is it a unique perspective on IT and business in general?
Possibly, though since none of them are currently CIOs or CTOs of
enterprise- or SMB-level businesses, I wonder what it is they know
that all the company executives who have decided to migrate to
Linux and open source don't.
Is it some personal experience that leads them to the conclusion
that Linux is toast? That may be, too. I am sure that they, like
many of us, watched the signs of doom for OS/2 and Bob. Perhaps
they see the same signs in Linux.
Is it a genuine distrust of open source methodology? That's
reasonable--every one has a right to their own opinions. But then,
when does it become necessary to move from disagreement to out and
out goals of destruction?
See, here's the thing: you don't advocate the destruction of
something unless you are strongly threatened by it. We protest the
European software patent directive because we know it will
ultimately be a bad thing for Europeans and the open source
community. We decried SCO's lawsuit against IBM because, had it
been remotely truthful, it might have posed a real risk for Linux
deployment and migration.
Advocating the destruction of Linux is clearly a threat
response, but what is puzzling is why the pundits are getting all
up in arms about Linux. Sure, you would expect some, if not quite a
few, to raise serious questions about the viability of Linux as a
solution for given problems. We, as a community, should welcome
serious questions about Linux and use them to self-examine what
Linux can and can't do, with the ultimate goal of improving the
Granted, many of these questions are well-disguised FUD (or not
so well-disguised, as the case may be), and it is hard for many
Linux advocates to see the wheat for the chaff. Still, I think we
have to keep trying to self-improve, and sometimes a criticism can
be constructive, even if the delivery is not.
But what is happening lately is just plain silly. No longer are
snide comments like "Linux sucks on the desktop" enough. Now we're
getting things like: "here's how to kill Linux," or "so much for
Linux." Linux and open source technologies are being dismissed out
of hand by pundits who should know better.
I will tell you what is very likely an open secret about
journalists: we love good fights, because our readers like to read
When I was a small-town newspaper editor, it wasn't the school
board meeting that awarded Mrs. Johnson's third grade class a
special award for achievement that got the most interest--(though
God help you if you misspelled any of Mrs. Johnson's pupil's
names)--it was when the basketball coach was fired for misconduct,
or when three board members screamed at each other about next
year's budget. Those were the stories that garnered more
That's what a lot of people think is going on now: these pundits
are shooting for more hits on their Web sites. Say something crazy,
many will come. Sure, they'll berate you, call you names, but at
the end of the day, your site will have the hit count (or
circulation, if you're one of those tree-killing media outlets). I
will not dispute this, because this may very well be the
But at the end of the day, there's a big difference between
stirring up a fight and advocating the destruction of one of the
combatants. I submit that the latter is great for the short-term
notoriety, but bad for long-term stability. Suppose Microsoft could
"kill" Linux--would the pundits be content to write nothing but
Redmond's press releases at the end of the day?
Here is what I think is a more likely scenario. Journalists,
like any other human being, take their response cues from the
environment in which they are in. When people are cold, we put on a
coat. When we're hot, we head for the beach. So, when the message
is put forth from the proprietary companies that allege problems
with open source, it is fairly natural for pundits to turn around
to the open source community and say "yeah, what about that?"
The Linux community has gotten better about responding in a
clear and articulate way this FUD and FUD-by-proxy. I think that is
one reason we have seen an escalation to KLOD recently. But, as
good as the community has gotten, I think it needs to do better.
Responding to attacks means that we have let the proprietary
vendors shape the debate on their terms.
Is total cost of ownership really the biggest problem with Linux
deployment? Microsoft would sure like you to think so, and many in
the community have spent a lot of time and effort disputing that
claim, myself included. But is it the real issue, or just the one
Microsoft would like us to spin our wheels on while they quietly
adjust their pricing strategies to make themselves look more
What Linux needs now, more than ever, is to be able to start
shaping the debate on its terms. We have a number of umbrella
organizations: OSDL, OSI, and FSF just to name three, who presume
to speak for Linux, open source, and free software.
At least one, if not all, of these organizations need to deliver
a clear, concise pro-Linux message to the IT world at large that
sets the tone for the endless debates between proprietary vs.
free/open source. It is imperative that this happens, so that the
debate becomes less one-sided, and more honest. And so advocates of
Linux will spend less time on defense and more on offense.
Linux is an excellent operating system, with a lot to offer. Do
we really want it constantly defined for the general public by
Microsoft and the pundits who listen to them?
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