"Converting" People Is Not Increasing Adoption

Jan. 15, 2023 [technology]

If you are “helping” somebody, perhaps a friend or family member, by setting them up with Gnu/Linux or some free software tool and leaving them to swim on their own, you may be doing more harm than good. I think of the proverb “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”. The recipient needs to first comprehend the value of liberated software. Otherwise, you can await the inevitable “Why isn’t my Netflix working? Gawd, this loonix thing sucks…”.

I have seen it happen several times. Sometimes with people that I thought I was assisting, and also as an onlooker to the same folly. A computer novice is struggling with some program, and a resident Linux geek swoops in and offers to set up a superior tool. At first, things look great. The user is happy to have a functioning solution and the techie feels a sense of accomplishment, having marched the world one person closer to the glorious year of the Linux desktop!

And on and on and on...

All of that hard effort gets undone the moment the tech newbie encounters any kind of hiccup. They can’t install their favorite program. Or they can’t play their favorite game in the same way. Their peers harangue them with comments about “that weird computer thing they use”. Or documents or the layout look too different. It can be any little thing. Suddenly, that new tooling is the enemy and they feel they have been wronged.

So then what have you accomplished? You took somebody who formely had no opinion either way about Gnu/Linux and software freedom and turned them into somebody who avidly despises it. Or at best, they’re now aware of it but forever have a bad taste in their mouth from the experience.

My advice is to avoid doing any software installation for anybody and give only guidance if they express very genuine interest in trying out Linux, BSD or free programs. And don’t do it for them! Just show them how to install an operating system. If the journey isn’t taken of their own volition, it will fail. Share with them why having digital sovereignty is important. Share the things it enables you to do.

And lastly, is adoption really important? Does it change anything fundamentally about the operating system you use? Do you really want a tsunami of normies flooding into the free operating system world (more than they already have)? Market share is a term of corporate cocksuckers who want only to monopolize. Since we, in the hackersphere, have little to no stake to be had in monopolization, it seems that chasing the eternal dragon of market share is an exercise in futile egoism.