I recently started a new podcast where people like you and me have the chance to put questions to key people in our community. While doing that I discovered some aspects of our community that I feel are often over looked in the drive to find new users.
To broaden or not broaden the GNU/Linux user base. This topic has generated a ton of discussion and emotion within the community. Whatever your particular stance, one thing is guaranteed. Change! And human beings are typically adverse to Change!
Change is maddeningly inevitable. Change may be planned, such as a wedding. Change may be unplanned, such as a job termination. Change may be hard-earned, such as a graduation. Change may be filled with energy and hope. Change may be filled with uncertainty and doubt.
Change is an integral part of our life-fabric
Answer: As dumb as necessary.
Let's rephrase: How technically sophisticated should GNU/Linux users have to be? How knowledgeable should any computer user have to be? The answer to that, of course, ranges from "very" to "not very." We need to get past the name-calling of clueless newbie and sneering elitist, and understand that there are going to be varying levels of ability in any community, including the one made up of people interested in using free software. From there, I suggest it is critically important that we expand the size of the free software community. That means dealing with more "dumb" people.
A few years back, Eric S. Raymond (or, as everyone else calls him, ESR), wrote a lengthy paper about this community. Entitled The Cathedral and the Bazaar, he wrote about how the Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) community does what it wants when it wants to.
I don't think he was entirely wrong; I just don't think he was entirely right, either.
There are really two bazaars that fire the boilers for free software: one dominated by talented amateurs who create for love; the other, by professionals who create for money. This creates a curious bi-modal nature to the free software/open source community: there's always a certain amount of tension between the schedule-driven bottom-line interest of commercial entities like Novell, Red Hat, or even Canonical and individual hobbyist developers.
In 1982, I attended computer camp.
I know, this sounds like a "One time, at band camp. . ." story, but it's not. This was computer camp. It took place at the little-known Eastern Oregon State College, and it was the first year EOSC offered computer camp.
Growing up in Thorne Bay, Alaska, I realized I was odd. In sixth grade, the school district sent out an Apple ][. While others played Star Wars or Space Invaders, I studied Applesoft Basic. While others learned how to master Aztec, I delved into the mysteries of the Sweet16 assembler. When my mom told me her college was offering a whole month of computer studies for high school geeks like me, I couldn't wait.
At the very beginning of the “commercial internet” era, around 1995, the internet was all about communities. Mailing lists and Usenets were crucial tools which allowed people with similar interests (and similar problems!) to hang out together in what was considered a fantastic virtual square.
Then, shops started showing up in this square, and... well, its inhabitants got a little distracted.
The world is a very big place. However, every sub-world, no matter how big it looks, is itself really quite tiny once you’re in it—and always made up by the same few “famous” people.
I was at the MOCA meeting in Italy last year. It was a fantastic experience, full of people who were really interested in computer security and were way beyond the script kiddie phase of their lives. I couldn’t walk very far without being stopped, and asked “Are you ‘the’ Merc? Like, the one in the book ‘Spaghetti Hacker?’”
Following on from my general introduction to guerilla marketing in the first issue of this magazine, I will now discuss some specifics of getting good press coverage. This much-neglected area of marketing is actually a relatively important issue, especially if your project is genuinely interesting, and can reap huge rewards.