Many people choose to use Linux and find it exhilarating. The first time you recompile your kernel is even a bit mystical. You find yourself so impressed with your cool new toy that you want to share it with the world. This is called advocacy, and most Linux users are, sadly, not very good at it.

Sometimes linux converts try a little too hard to convince everybody to use linux. While it might feel good to fire off a flame-filled letter to the editor, you may be doing more harm than good. Remember the original article full of FUD, misstatements and injustice? If you use swear words, the focus is now on your bad manners. Welcome to politics 101. Bad advocacy is worse than no advocacy at all.

So what is bad advocacy? From being a regular slashdot reader, these things come to mind: These things are bad advocacy because the fence sitter ("Gee, I've sure heard a lot about this Linux lately.") will see it and think ("Gee, these linux types are a childish bunch. Maybe I can't take them very seriously."). I say this because this was me from 1996 to 1998. So what is good advocacy?

In a word, pursuasion, not intimidation:
  • Point out the benefits of Linux (e.g. "You could press those 486's back into service as...", or, "Do you know about SAMBA?", or, "Did you know that Linux comes with free C++ and Java development tools?")
  • Read the Linux Advocacy mini-HOWTO.
  • Respond with respect; you catch a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar.
  • Recognize that Linux is not for everybody. Acknowledge difficulties with it. Respect that Windows suits many people just fine.
By all means, observe the Canons of Conduct from the Advocacy Howto (reprinted here):
  • As a representative of the Linux community, participate in mailing list and newsgroup discussions in a professional manner. Refrain from name-calling and use of vulgar language. Consider yourself a member of a virtual corporation with Mr. Torvalds as your Chief Executive Officer. Your words will either enhance or degrade the image the reader has of the Linux community.
  • Avoid hyperbole and unsubstantiated claims at all costs. It's unprofessional and will result in unproductive discussions.
  • A thoughtful, well-reasoned response to a posting will not only provide insight for your readers, but will also increase their respect for your knowledge and abilities.
  • Don't bite if offered flame-bait. Too many threads degenerate into a ``My O/S is better than your O/S'' argument. Let's accurately describe the capabilities of Linux and leave it at that.
  • 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.
  • Focus on what Linux has to offer. There is no need to bash the competition. Linux is a good, solid product that stands on its own.
  • Respect the use of other operating systems. While Linux is a wonderful platform, it does not meet everyone's needs.
  • Refer to another product by its proper name. There's nothing to be gained by attempting to ridicule a company or its products by using ``creative spelling''. If we expect respect for Linux, we must respect other products.
  • Give credit where credit is due. Linux is just the kernel. Without the efforts of people involved with the GNU project, MIT, Berkeley and others too numerous to mention, the Linux kernel would not be very useful to most people.
  • Don't insist that Linux is the only answer for a particular application. Just as the Linux community cherishes the freedom that Linux provides them, Linux only solutions would deprive others of their freedom.
  • There will be cases where Linux is not the answer. Be the first to recognize this and offer another solution.
(note - I am a GNU/Linux user, and I like Unix things. I write this because bad Linux advocacy kept me away from Linux for a good two years.)

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