November 2, 2000

Trick or treat: Open Source is Halloween for geeks

Author: JT Smith

By Emmett Plant
NewsForge Columnist

Speaking of GNU/Linux

Happy Halloween! Oh, alright, it probably will have already been
Halloween
by the time you get this, but you're still hip-deep in candy. Isn't
Halloween great? You run around the neighborhood dressed like a maniac,
and you grab candy from willing donors. It's fantastic. They want to
give
you candy, you want to take candy. You want to hoard, they want to let
you
do it. If you don't hoard the candy, you're thought of as
strange. What a great business model!

Open Source is like Halloween for geeks. The only strange dynamic is
that
the kids grabbing the candy and the adults distributing the candy are
the
same group of people, and you're expected to let anyone eat from your
bottomless pillowcase of candy. No problem, right? It's wonderful! It's
fantastic! It's giving! It's freedom!

Until you realize that sometime, somewhere, someone's got to pay for
the
candy. Oh, we've advanced beyond the concept of spending cash for a bag
of
"fun size" Snickers bars. It's all about time and interest. Time
actually
isn't the hard part. Sure, a lot of developers are super-busy, but
you'll
find that getting a program written takes more than just time. It's got
to
be interesting.

That's right, it's got to be interesting. Want to know why there's no
fantastic small-business financial management tools for Linux? Because
small-business financial management software is only slightly more
interesting than watching a full evening of "The Brady Brides"
reruns. It's boring! It's stupid! It's painful! They need something
more
to get them involved. Here are some tips to getting your application
written.

On Halloween, the silliest thing you could do is to be one of those
people
that just leaves a basket full of candy on the doorstep with a little
sign
that says "please take one." Are you mad? The first kid that comes to
that
door is gonna bolt up there, dump the basket into his or her bag, turn
around and say, "It's empty!" Duh. Want kids to share? Supervise. What
does this mean for Open Source developers? Get involved. Help them. Make them feel wanted and stay
on board so you can get what you really want.

Want the kids to come to your house again and again and again? Be the guy
who
gives out entire, regular-sized candy bars. Oh, yes. They will flock to your house.
They
will come by your house many times, sometimes in different costumes. I
know this because I did this when I was a kid. The kids need something to come back for. Give them a
huge
Snickers bar. I'm not saying the king size, but certainly bigger than
the standard Halloween fun size. Get the big candy bars.

What does
this
mean in terms of Open Source developers? Support them! It's not enough just to be around. You've got to
give
them the good stuff. Definitely time, maybe some money, maybe some
equipment. Anything you can spare, but make sure you're giving the best
you can.

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