August 10, 2001

Web review: Open Source software educational society

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -
Sometimes you can consume an entire Web site in just a few minutes. Then there are sites like Softpanorama.org. You could camp there for days and still not get the whole picture. Ever heard of the skeptical approach to programming?The authors of Softpanorama create their own jargon and aren't afraid to shove it in the face of readers time and time again. And when pieced together jargon doesn't quite work, cliches fill the bill nicely. You'll see them make reference to the KISS principle many times as you peruse the page hierarchy.

No Open Source software icon is safe from the swipes of the opinionated content: RMS, ESR, Linus; and Softpanorama has no mercy for professional journalists, who are referred to as "a special kind of prostitute."

So where's the useful stuff? Presumably, it's located in the sections with boring titles like "security," "Perl," "stackless Python," and "open source software development problems." But I ran out of time before I could get to those sections. I was too busy reading stuff like the "Bad Linux Advocacy FAQ." There, you'll learn that some of the frequently asked questions include:

"Is 'Vulgar Marxism' a legitimate scientific term?"
"Why can competition with Microsoft be unhealthy for the OSS movement?"
"Why is the success of Linux mainly a manifestation of Unix Renaissance that could happen with or without Linux?"

Sorry, but these sound like questions you'd hear from the press corp at a George W. Bush state of the union address, not interested potential members of the Open Source software community. But it's a good read, especially if you're short on chuckles for the week.

Before you leave Softpanorama, click on the link to the Linux Advocacy Guidelines page (which is an offsite link to a page in the Linux Gazette). It's 27 steps to spreading the good news about Linux, with contributions from none other than Jon 'maddog' Hall himself. I like the one that urges us to pretend we are members of a corporation whose CEO is Linus Torvalds. Accordingly, we are expected to refer to "other products" by their proper names, and respect the use of other operating systems.

Oh, and, "Always remember that if you insult or are disrespectful to someone, their negative experience may be shared with many others. If you do offend someone, please try to make amends." I think some people forgot to read that one.

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