Linux has come a long way. I am sitting here writing this on a netbook tricked out with the Alpha Release of Ubuntu Karmic Koala. It’s amazing. Ubuntu One is included by default, giving users an immediate opportunity to backup and sync all of their computers without batting an eye. Empathy has finally replaced Pidgin as the default IM client, reducing the memory load drastically. The interface has been tweaked and is much cleaner than previous versions. And like little kids in the back seat of the family station wagon, we can finally start asking “Are we there yet?” and get the response “Almost”.
What still needs to happen? How do we get this thing off the ground? In my opinion, the answer is a lot simpler than most believe: Start using it, in public, with the lights on, in front of our families, without wincing when we explain it to people. I am going to share some of my ideas of how to attain the mainstream below.
- Ditch the cost discussion. Let this be a bonus for using Linux, not the determining factor. Linux users have diverse political views and this is not about rainbows and flowers from a technical perspective. This is about techs no longer having vague errors, spyware, and viruses to deal with.
- Do not explain that the cd-rom for their printer/scanner/toaster with all the fancy software that lets them burn designs in their toast isn’t necessary in a way that makes them feel stupid for buying the multifunction device. Tell them in a way that explains the advantages and disadvantages of said device.
- Treat them like a business partner, not a student. Show them that we aren’t going to loom over them, keep them from playing with scissors or running in the hall. They now have the freedom to explore the computer without messing things up.
- Don’t talk trash about the competition unless they start it. It was hard to believe how many applications and OS’s I bought over the years. Some people are going to exhibit grief over the money they have wasted prior to this development model. Empathize with them, sharing your own frustrations as you see fit, but don’t over do it.
- The “Try it for a month and you’ll never go back.” method does work, especially if the colleague is frustrated with their current computer situation. Give them options, offer to help with the backup and install.
Linux needs ambassadors more than ever. Long-winded speeches about freedom and TCO are not going to push as hard as a grassroots, tech savy group of people sharing the joys of being an everyday Linux user.