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The Toxicity Of Open Source

My most recent experiences though really saddened me and exposed a certain toxicity in the OSS community that I really wish wasn't so prevalent.

I've been posting on and off on but I never introduced myself so let me preface this post with a bit about me to give some context.

I've been using open source and Linux on and off since the early 2000s. My first linux distro was Caldera 2.4 an old RPM based that was cool in its hayday and then turned towards the dark side with various different lawsuits against Linux that never went anywhere.

I've been involved in more Linux Users Groups, mailing lists and conferences then I can count. I helped start a Linux conference that's been running for a good while after I graduated educating and teaching people about the benefits of Linux and Open Source.

Though the pandemic climate makes it difficult to have the same experience. Planning a conference exposed me to open source and open culture in a way that going to LUGs never had. I had the opportunity to get a true grasp of what the Free Software Foundation (FSF) truly stands for and talk and meet with some of the key figures of Linux/OSS movement.

I've always appreciated Open Source because it provides me as a user with (first off an alternative to commercial programs) and the freedom to run, edit, contribute and share (the 4 FSF freedoms). I've always appreciated the freedom of choice that Linux has. Nobody needs 15 editors, but I really do love that there are 15 different ways to add 'hello world' to a text document.

We've built up a community that is all about the freedom of expression, freedom of choice, freedom to use code and software in anyway you desire with the appropriate permissive license. So it's always sad when you hear and see people bashing other users because they don't agree with their choices. Yes we have our mini flame wars of vim vs emacs vs nano. Some people take it a bit too seriously but at the end of the day most respect other's people choice to use whatever they like and move on. (I would like to think at least)

I volunteered to help with an Open Source conference and they rallied last minute to try and figure out what they could do this year since everyone is quarantined still. They spent their time and researched the best tools they could find given the time, resources, and skillset available to them and ended up choosing Zoom. I know, not my favorite tool either but at the end of the day, it's a well tested tool that works. They ran an entire 3 day event on zoom that had the founder of redhat, the fsf and so many more incredible speakers sharing their knowledge and expertise. Yet, somehow all of that was eclipsed by the rants about the platform they chose.

There were so many tweets and messages I ran across of that were complaining about the tooling. Yes, we know that Zoom isn't open source, but if we're using zoom to show a video from key figures in OSS speaking about relevant topics that is important to them and zoom is allowing us to share that content with a wider audience. Does it matter that much that it's closed source? If we value a user's ability to choose, shouldn't we actually let the people choose.

You can't scream from the mountain tops about how amazing Linux is, and how you appreciate the freedom of choice, then look condescendingly at the poor plebeian who chose to use Windows.

Sure, not my favorite operating system. I do find it limiting to my day to day tasks, but that's my experience. There might be a legitimate reason that an individual may NEED to use windows, or hell maybe they just like it. They honestly don't even need to justify their choice. They DO deserve to be able to say they are using windows, mac, photoshop, office or honestly any piece of software and any technology without being put on the defensive about it. There is nothing I can imagine that would hurt the Linux community more than this false sense to elitism that makes people dismiss others because their values or choices don't align with theirs.

I've gotten into so many conversation with people in the community about this. If you value the freedom of choice, then you can't be upset that the person's choice doesn't line with your views.

Am I completely off base here or am I missing something in the OSS community?

The year of the "Linux Desktop" will never come if every time someone is curious about our community we respond with antagonism, judgement, and all around toxicity. I'm naturally speaking about a vocal minority of the community but I do want to bring it to attention. Those few individuals no matter how brilliant and capable they might be are doing, in my opinion, more harm than good.

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