The other day I was trying to give my views to a friend why some Linux companies have been willing to work with Microsoft, and why some others were violently against it. I guess having worked with Linux people my opinion was better than your average news paper (Why I have no clue – people tend to see you at a keyboard and immediately assume your a well of knowledge on all things computer related when all you really want to do is get to the next level in your MMO).
While trying to explain the advantages I had to explain there was not one brand Linux out there but several. And to make things more confusing – not one flavor of "open source" out there but several. And by the time I got that far – I could see the eyes of my audience were in full techno-zombie-glaze. Total DOTH moment going there – "Deer-On-The-Highway" for those who are not informed. Another 30 seconds trying to explain why Open Source came about and I’d need Katherine Heigl a blue cart and 10 cc’s of Epinephrine to bring them out of it.
And for those who doubt that’s an issue – it IS that bad for those normal people (in the old days we called these people "customers" … ) who are caught in this ridiculous struggle that’s going on out there.
Here’s the bottom line – building reliable software isn’t good enough. The battle field of software development is littered with the bodies of dead software, tools and OS’s that were perfectly reliable. "Good" software isn’t good enough (see same battlefield mentioned above – just flip over the corpses to find the even more deeply buried dead). Your software has to be accessible to people and even with Ubutnu it isn’t there. And I’ll make this prediction… it won’t be. Ever.
Not until those who code the software wrap around their heads what the user really wants and needs. Those coding the software in the Open Source world write software for one group – themselves. They review the requirements they set the milestones and they drive the process. "They" "They" "they"… Open Source does it this way because "they" are the customer. And in this method – the customer always gets what it wants, which is good – for them. But Ms. McCluskey in Terrahaute, who just got her computer from Compu-Ware-Sale-Co just wants to be able to click and open her email and see her pictures from her sister, and Mr. John Q. Financeguy only wants to open his bosses Office documents so he can fix the errors before tomorrow morning.
The needs and wants of the Gods of the Open Source project committees which determine what needs to be done on their products … are more often than not the needs and wants of Ms. McCluskey and John Financeguy. Because they’re not the customers – they’re not the users of the software. It’s the IBMs and corporations who rely on it for their server farms – who are the Open Source customer. Webfarm admins are customers. Tons of people are Linux and Open Source customers. But not the general public. Their voice isn’t heard in the development process, or if it is – it is heard through the voice of the user/developer. The guys who write it because there isn’t an open source version and they feel that software should be free.
So they code up a free version – that is "Almost as good", without actually polling John Q. User – until after they’ve copied the key features from something else. Once again, it wasn’t written for the user – it was written so the user wouldn’t have or need to use the program the user already knew and used. (We will not debate the insanity of that – but please note for the record I can’t wrap my head around the logic of it, and neither can a lot of people.)
The little people out there, the common people are the ones that no one actually sat down and wrote software for because they aren’t the customer. When Open Source embraces these cold hard world realities, and codes for the sake of creating something new, instead of trying to replace things freely that people already had and they paid money for … Then and only then will the story of Open Source and Linux become easy to explain, simple enough to people on the street so they will understand it and hopefully, will not be ended with the words, "We’ve Got A Drifter! Patient Is NonResponsive!!! Everyone CLEAR!!".