Preaching Linux

Courtesy of Yvette The Monkey

What does using Linux mean to you? Do you simply use it because it works best for you? While at its heart Linux itself, is nothing more than a software kernel, to many people it is much more. It is a mission, a mission to show the big industry players just what the common user can do without their help. On Ubuntu’s Launchpad Bugs page, bug #1 to them has long been that “Microsoft has majority market share”.

And who wouldn’t love to see the likes of Microsoft toppled by seemingly ‘amateur’ competition? Just like a street team for a band, or this very blog, or any other kind of promoter, as Linux fans we’re often keen to do our very best to get Linux out to the masses. But as with most things, there are good ways and bad ways to go about it.

One of the more pronounced problems I’ve noticed among the Linux community is that of over-enthusiasm, and in some cases, zealousness. I’m sure we’ve all had to deal with this kind of thing before – when a person mentions something that’s new to you, it’ll pique your interest, but if they’re shoving it down your throat at every available opportunity, it’s more likely to kill it instead.

Preaching Doesn’t Really Work

Let me ask, how often do you welcome an impromptu call from telemarketers, or a visit from door-to-door salesmen? While I’m sure everyone has their own ways of dealing with them, a prevailing response seems to be to hang up or close the door respectively, with an optional dose of enthusiastic profanity layered generously on top.

One of my more profound experiences of this kind of thing was my casual interest in astrology; for most of my life I’ve been very much skeptical of the whole thing, and the community-at-large’s penchant for promoting it in a very cheesy, pseudo-science, pseudo-magical light, was doing more to repulse me than attract me. For a long time, I’ve considered it nothing more than a silly hobby for lonely single women, and it wasn’t until one day I’d decided to look into it a bit more that I realized there may actually be some merit to it.

Long story short, the lesson seems to be that waving something in someone’s face is more likely to come off as rude and nagging, instead of capturing their interest as you hope to do. While trying to spread the perks of Linux is a totally legitimate and an encouraged pursuit, one can’t expect to have too much luck with it by decking passers-by in the street with LiveCDs and harassing colleagues with stories of how perfect **Linux** is and pouncing to point out Vista’s flaws every time they encounter UAC asking for their permission to do something.

How You Can Really Help

The best way to promote, is to go about it in a manner that will raise awareness without getting in the way. Remember, no distro of Linux is without its flaws, no operating system ever will be. Linux is not perfect by any means, but it may be just what some people want but aren’t yet aware of.

If you work in an office, try coming in one day with a LiveCD or LiveUSB of your favorite distribution and see if you can get the day’s work done with it. If someone asks what that is you’re using, tell them, in an objective manner.

Wrong- “What do you mean? Can’t you see, it’s Ubuntu! It’s a Linux distro! They should put this on all the computers in this office, why they keep XP in here is beyond me, that hackneyed pile of fail! Look! This doesn’t get viruses and it’s free!”

Right- “It’s called Ubuntu, it’s what I use at home. I can burn you a CD if you want to try it, it’s free to redistribute.”

If they’re interested enough to ask you more about it, go ahead and tell them. But keep in mind that your goal is not to convert them, but to simply inform.

Let Linux Speak For Itself

The best way of promotion, is to not talk Linux up into seemingly more than it is, but simply let it do the talking. If you’re a graphic or web designer, why not add some kind of ‘Made with Linux’ watermark? Macintosh encourages this kind of thing themselves with their ‘Made On A Mac’ initiative, there’s certainly no reason we couldn’t do that. Linux-oriented badges and stickers can be great to display on your laptop in the place of the ‘Built for Windows’ ones we see on computer store shelves.

There’s also the classic methods of promotion; If you’re serious about it, print yourself a Linux shirt, promote it in your forum signature or avatar, print out flyers and put them up in your neighborhood. Be active! It’s all about raising awareness, not necessarily trying to convert people. That part, they must do themselves.

When Linux has the chance to show off what it’s capable of, that’s when heads start turning.

PS: Almost a year ago, Rami shared with us his experience on this subject in a tongue-in-cheek article titled Howto Convert A Friend To Linux.