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By Anonymous at 2006-09-27 23:25
This is a reaction you see when most new Linux users suddenly discover that Linux does have politics. Reactions generally vary from mild surprise to shock to disgust when they learn that there's a lot of politics within the Linux user and development community. In fact, it's been there right from the beginning.

For the uninitiated, this seems a terrible thing. They feel that politics is undesirable generally and they want to use a distribution that's absolutely and completely free of politics. Well, I got news for them - they probably need to create their own distribution and keep it all to themselves if they want to avoid politics.

My answer is this - I'd like them to point me to a single example of a substantial group of human beings who have come together for achieving a common purpose and have remained completely free of politics. No matter what human beings do, politics is inevitable and unavoidable. In the case of Linux, politics is even desirable to certain extent because politics was what gave the Linux and the FOSS movement direction and politics is what has sustained the efforts of hundreds of thousands of developers throughout the world and focussed them towards achieving common targets.

It's one thing to hate politics. It's another thing to try and understand the reasons behind politics. Like some great man said, it's politicians who've given politics a bad name and not the other way round.

I forsee that politics will continue dominating FOSS development because FOSS, by its very nature is community-driven and where there's a community, there's politics. Whether the end-users appreciate it or not, software developers will continue disagreeing on philosophy, development methodology, technology and other aspects till the end of time. Maybe this fear of disagreement and debate is what makes us end-users feel so vulnerable and helpless and deep down there's some kind of insecurity that provokes us to fear and hate politics.

The only way that end-users can get rid of this fear of politics is by becoming empowered with knowledge. It's not necessary to take a particular stance on any issue, but ultimately understanding the motivations and the conflicts within FOSS will help us understand why politics (when it's not destructive) is not such a bad thing after all.

by b0uncer on Fri, 2006-09-29 01:15
Yeah, even a dog **** is political if you think it for a while. So I can't imagine how somebody could think Linux isn't political.

Politics suck, though. But it seems we can't get rid of the thing..

by rkelsen on Fri, 2006-09-29 01:42
Quote:
Originally Posted by harishankar
They feel that politics is undesirable generally and they want to use a distribution that's absolutely and completely free of politics. Well, I got news for them - they probably need to create their own distribution and keep it all to themselves if they want to avoid politics.
Like it or not, Hari, politics are counter-productive and generally lead to mediocre results.

As I have said in the past, some corners of the Linux community love a huge dose of politics. You seem to be one of them, which is most probably why Debian is your distro of choice.

I've read lots of postings about people leaving Debian because of it's politics. And most of them aren't from "newbz."

Take these first two hits on Google for example:
http://archives.seul.org/seul/leader.../msg00065.html
http://mjg59.livejournal.com/66647.html

Quoting Bruce Perens:
"I'm sorry it had to be this way, but I feel that my mission to bring free software to the masses really isn't compatible with Debian any longer, and that I should be working with one of the more mainstream Linux distributions."

Shouldn't that have been a wake up call to the Debian community? Does it need to be spelt out any clearer?

Apparently, nobody in the Debian community even noticed Bruce's lamentation, because 8 years and 6 months later, we have these pearls from Matthew Garrett:
"But over the past few weeks (months? Years?) it's become clear to me that Debian doesn't really seem to know who or what it's for. Arguments erupt over whether something is a deeply held principle or an accident of phrasing on the website; whether we should release more often or less often; whether free software is more important than our users having functional hardware. And, depressingly, these debates generally seem to turn into pedantic point scoring and insults ... it's got to the point where social interaction with Debian-the-distribution makes me want to stab people"

Many other people have stopped using Debian for the exact same reasons.

No other distro is like Debian that way. I think you need to step back and look around, because it is clouding your judgment. This is most obvious in these 'Hari's corner' articles.

by vharishankar on Fri, 2006-09-29 05:34
No problem. I don't claim to be 100% politics free or unbiased nor do I want to be. My point is that you cannot avoid politics in any human endeavor.

Maybe some of you guys also need to step back and take a good look at your own distros and see if there's any politics in it. If it's anything worthwhile and involves a community - there will be. You just don't recognize it being coloured by your own personal biases. The point is, I don't turn a blind eye to it while others prefer to have a blind faith that they are safe from politics. Many of you people seem to identify politics only when you disagree with something, which is a very narrow-minded way of looking at things.

I also see a lot of politics in other distros because the community of users choose to associate themselves with certain philosophes and design goals of distributions - e.g. simplicity, stability in Slackware - that, by itself, it a philosophy and a goal which leads to politics, which in turn biases you against other distros that contradict your goals.

No human endeavor with any significant goal in life has *ever* been free from politics.

And so, politics is not specific to Debian. The point is the entire Linux community has politics whether we choose to turn a blind eye to it or not.

To me personally, I use Debian because it's a great distro technically and it's been working perfectly since I installed it on my system. It would be a sad day if I chose my software based on the politics of it.

by truthfatal on Fri, 2006-09-29 06:07
Quote:
simplicity, stability in Slackware - that, by itself, it a philosophy and a goal which leads to politics, which in turn biases you against other distros that contradict your goals.
Can you clarify that statement please? I don't understand how aiming for stability and simplicity can alone lead to political bias. It is my understanding that these goals mean that whatever works best and easiest, regardless of the political lean of the software, is what will be used. (e.g. If Blackdown Java was a better choice than Sun Java, then Blackdown Java would be in the default installation.)

I'm sure politics vary from distro to distro, there are politics specific to Debian, and different politics specific to Slackware. Debians politics seem to arise from developer confilcts and difficulties maintaining a GNU Distribution. Slackwares politics seem to arise when an end user dissagrees with a decision that Mr. Volkerding makes.

by rkelsen on Fri, 2006-09-29 06:49
Quote:
Originally Posted by harishankar
My point is that you cannot avoid politics in any human endeavor.
Yes, that is an unfortunate truth.
Quote:
Originally Posted by harishankar
Maybe some of you guys also need to step back and take a good look at your own distros and see if there's any politics in it.
Many non-Debian users use commercial distros or distros in which they have no say. For example, nobody can control what is in Slackware but Pat himself. His decisions are mostly apolitical, and made for valid technical reasons. For proof of this, refer to his reasoning for dropping GNOME. It wasn't because GNOME's goals clashed with his, rather for practical reasons.
Quote:
Originally Posted by harishankar
I also see a lot of politics in other distros because the community of users choose to associate themselves with certain philosophes and design goals of distributions - e.g. simplicity, stability in Slackware - that, by itself, it a philosophy and a goal which leads to politics
Maybe. But the "politics" of Slackware have not chased it's founder away. And I've never seen a single post by anyone stating that they're deleting Slackware because its goals/philosophies are incompatible with theirs. That just doesn't happen. They might delete Slackware for technical reasons, but I've not heard of anyone doing so in the name of politics. OTOH, people do this with Debian. I've already proved this point in my previous post, so I won't repeat it here.
Quote:
Originally Posted by harishankar
And so, politics is not specific to Debian.
Nope. It's just that the politics in Debian are far more exaggerated than anywhere else in the Linux community.
Quote:
Originally Posted by harishankar
The point is the entire Linux community has politics whether we choose to turn a blind eye to it or not.
Yes. Just like the real world has politics. Politics exist in every country. However, there are certain countries and areas where the political tensions are much more concentrated than anywhere else in the world. For example, take the Middle East. There's always political conflict there. I suppose that Debian can be considered the "Middle East of the Linux community."
Quote:
Originally Posted by harishankar
To me personally, I use Debian because it's a great distro technically and it's been working perfectly since I installed it on my system.
Great. Those are the exact same reasons I've used Slackware since 1999.
Quote:
Originally Posted by harishankar
It would be a sad day if I chose my software based on the politics of it.
Oh, but I think you have. Your writings give you away.

by vharishankar on Fri, 2006-09-29 08:49
Quote:
Can you clarify that statement please? I don't understand how aiming for stability and simplicity can alone lead to political bias.
Because Slackware users tend to show it to other distro users in the way so many of them hate other distros so passionately. It's not escaped me how often I (and others) been vehemently attacked on this forum by Slackware users when I even mildly criticized Slackware about anything including its lack of "automated" tools. I've not seen this level of dogmatism in any community of Linux to be very frank.

And it's ironic that two Slackware users see my article and feel targetted and feel the need to counter every point of mine without even understanding the context in which it was written. Absolutely classical and I hope this makes you think.

Quote:
Oh, but I think you have. Your writings give you away.
I chose Debian far, far before I understood anything about Linux and politics. Please don't presume to know what I am based on my writings. I installed Debian a long time ago because it happened to be featured on a magazine and came with a DVD.

It's true that I am passionate about what I believe in and I have the balls to show myself for what I am rather than pretending to be above all this. I call a spade a spade when I see it and I dare say my writings grate on a lot of you because I don't sugarcoat anything and I make you guys think.

Maybe you guys have shown your bias against me too, because whenever I write anything, you have the ability to twist it out of context based on my past writings.

Maybe you should read that article again without colouring your views based on its own content rather than because you feel I have a personally agenda.
Nowhere have I ever used the word "Debian" and the way you've turned this into a Debian-bashing thread is simply genius.

I guess it's so convenient to label anything you disagree with as "political".

I don't expect everybody to agree with me or what I write about but I do think that people who comment should try and understand what the context of this article was about rather than "read" any personal agenda into it.


Quite simply all I said in this particular article was: "politics exists in Linux whether we like it or not and as Linux users, we need to be aware of this and try and understand some of the issues regardless of what sides we take"

by rkelsen on Fri, 2006-09-29 09:15
Quote:
Originally Posted by harishankar
I chose Debian far, far before I understood anything about Linux and politics. Please don't presume to know what I am based on my writings.
You are what you write, no?
Quote:
Originally Posted by harishankar
It's true that I am passionate about what I believe in and I have the balls
I don't know about that. You do whine a lot. Also, you tend to go on with the same themes all the time. And you can become rather emotional. In other words, you sound more like a woman to me.
Quote:
Originally Posted by harishankar
I call a spade a spade when I see it
But you were calling them shovels earlier...
Quote:
Originally Posted by harishankar
and I dare say my writings grate on a lot of you.
No, but it certainly is fun dissecting your articles and watching you struggle to reply.
Quote:
Originally Posted by harishankar
Maybe you guys should read that article again. Nowhere have I ever used the word "Debian".
No, but you mentioned politics. If there's one particular Linux distribution which is renowned for it's politics, have a guess which one it is? (Hint: Middle East!)

by vharishankar on Fri, 2006-09-29 09:18
You, on the other hand seem only to respond when I write about Linux politics, ignoring anything else I write about making me believe that you're deliberately targetting me and provoking me just to see my reaction.

I must ask you to please stop following me around on the forum just to take potshots at me personally. I don't mind discussing ideas, but when you resort to cheap tactics like making personal remarks, I must draw the line. It hasn't escaped me how you've personally attacked me every time I write something which you disagree with and so I have reported your behaviour to a moderator.

by rkelsen on Fri, 2006-09-29 09:28
Quote:
Originally Posted by harishankar
And it's ironic that two Slackware users see my article and feel targetted
I didn't feel targeted.

You wrote the article and posted it up for discussion in the forums TWICE today.

So, here I am discussing it. No need to "cut up rough" about it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by harishankar
You, on the other hand seem only to respond when I write about Linux politics, ignoring anything else I write about making me believe that you're deliberately targetting me and provoking me.
Hey, you're the one writing the articles and then asking for comment. If you can't take the heat you need to step out of the kitchen.

by vharishankar on Fri, 2006-09-29 09:30
I ask for comments which pertain to the article and not to discuss my personal agenda (whatever that may be). It seems I'm unable to discuss anything without dragging Debian into the fray and this article certainly wasn't written with Debian in mind.

Again, you have admitted to get a "rise" out of me by doing this kind of thing, so I must ask you to stop it as it's certainly not within forum rules to target people for your personal amusement.

I certainly don't mind heated discussions so long as you don't personally attack me (as you have done several times in the past).


  



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