I have been speaking to some non-technical-at-all people recently about Ubuntu and its philosophy (and about the Linux and open source philosophy in general).
And I'm amazed at how enthusiastic they get about it!. They are really interested in the completely different approach that Linux takes; and instead of focusing in its technical merits (which is where discussions about Linux normally end up), they want to know more about who did it, why did they decide to give it for free, how can it have reached as far as Africa, what does
Ubuntu mean, and if they are protected against code thieves.
Even more, they are truly surprised that Microsoft has allowed Linux to become what it is nowadays. And it's somehow shocking to see how what normally is a fuck micro$oft! attitude, becomes a fear of the uncertain terror attitude in non techie people. It looks as if they believe that we should ask for permission before doing anything in our computers or with our data!
I guess that's the ground which makes dead easy for our governments to sign up for exclusive contracts with Microsoft - if they are the owners of IT, what else are we to do?.
So if you want to promote Linux, do not focus only on how technically bad is Windows and how good is Linux, but give some clear background and speak about its philosophy in terms that everybody can understand - it makes a big difference.
There's no use in speaking about freedom of use and freedom of this and that (like the typical
free as in beer vs free as in free speech comparison) - I personally didn't get the idea of debian until a few years ago, after having been bombarded by debianits about debian's philosophy for years too. I always thought they were bored and had chosen debian as their dissertation topic, a little bit like speakers at London's Speakers' Corner.
It's better to explain that linux lowers the entry barrier to computers, enabling people with limited resources to access the computing world, get a good knowledge about it and even contribute back if they can. And it is a nice story, which is not something that we are used to hear usually. They will get hooked by the sense of community which permeates the whole thing, because there are names and faces: Linus did this, Richard did that, that and that, then Amaya did something else, etc. We are not talking about a big ghostly corporation taking control of your hardware, but about the work of thousands of people helping you because they want.
After that, you can focus on technical differences, like better use of resources, stability, security, etc, but that's really secondary for them, because they normally don't appreciate performance differences and don't solve their IT problems either; in fact, it is you which has to deal with windows, windows virus, windows not wanting to update, windows having to be defragmented, windows complaining about authenticity, non valid operations and programs which close themselves, etc, etc.
OK, but did it really work? (with an skepticism tone)
Yes! I'll write about it later on, or maybe next year! :-)
Happy 2008 and don't drink too much!