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a modest proposal (was: Linux is not for consumers!)

Richard Kimber <rkimber@ntlworld.com> writes:

> Robert L. Harris <Robert.L.Harris@rdlg.net> writes:
> > [ missing attribution: Learn to quote! ]
> >
> > > No, its not for consumers. Well, at least Debian is not. Perhaps
> > > Mandrake or SuSE, where you can pay for support, is what you're
> > > looking for.
> > 
> > You're right.  Too many consumers are too dumb for for Linux,
> > especially Debian.  It requires more than a room tempature IQ and
> > the willingness to use it.

Am I the only one who takes some exception to people being called
"consumers"?  Cluetrain, anyone?

> This may be true of some; but even reasonably intelligent users with
> quite a lot of experience can come unstuck in those areas with which
> they are not familiar, simply because the documentation is often so
> poor.

I have an idea, then, for people at the level you're speaking of.
Specifically, I'm talking about people between hacker level and Aunt
Tilley, those who can use Debian but frequently struggle with the lack
of documentation.

Every single free software hacker I know gladly accepts documentation
contributions as well as code contributions.  If you have a command of
the written word [1], then volunteer some time to help translate terse
or incomplete documentation into something that, as a
power-user-but-not-hacker feel would help out.  One volunteer-hour per
week on each package would more than solve our documentation deficit.

There are quite a few people out there doing just this, and I would
argue that those people are quite a bit more valuable to the community
than those hackers out there writing yet more IRC clients.  It goes
without saying that people who troll by saying things like, "I don't
like the documentation, and programmers are arrogant, and I know it's
free but I don't care!" add no value at all.

1.  This is a very big "if", alas.  Almost every email message I get
    in the course of my day looks like it's written by a lobotomy
    patient.  Native English speakers, oddly, seem among the worst
    offenders.  Say all you want about illiterate Yanks, but I went to
    American public schools and manage to string together a coherent
    sentence occasionally.

Lucas Bergman <lucas@fivesight.com>
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