General advice on dealing with critical press
To: email@example.com Subject: General advice on dealing with critical press From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Bruce Perens) Date: Sun, 27 Apr 97 17:15 PDT Approved: email@example.com Reply-to: firstname.lastname@example.org Linux is going to come in for a lot of criticism from the press. I'd like to give some general advice on how to deal with it. We will be attacked because: 1. There is a general social trend in English-speaking countries (and most likely elsewhere) to treat technically-educated people as the social inferiors of non-technically educated people. This is a terrible ill affecting our society - I'm not apologizing for it. The media takes advantage of it: for example, notice the anti-nerd motif in the advertising campaigns of Sprint and IBM. Unfortunately, Linux is being identified as "nerdware" in the press. 2. Many people who make a good living writing about computers (even though they aren't technically knowledgable) see us as an immediate threat to their livelyhood, because they don't know enough about Linux to write about it intelligently. Their response will be to try to sweep us away with criticism on an emotional, rather than a technical level. They will also print inaccurate technical information because of their lack of understanding. 3. Vendors of Windows software, Windows programmers, and information-systems departments see us as a threat because they haven't learned how to program or administer Linux systems. When these people talk to the press, they'll bad-mouth us. 4. Linux isn't quite ready for the naive user yet, it shows, and anyone who wants to attack us will latch onto this. First, let's talk about dealing with a press that eschews "nerds". A key to this is to not sound shrill, because the shrill voice is neither believed or respected, and shrillness is expected of a nerd. Unfortunately, replying to an unjust and distorted article is almost guaranteed to make you sound shrill. The letter you write will sound that way because you are already "hurt" by the bad press. The publication has control over the way your response will be presented, and has a vested interest in not losing face from your criticism. They will edit you to look stupid if they can. The point is that it will not be a fair fight, and you _will_ lose. A recent article did its best to bait us into shrill responses, even going to the length of personally insulting Linus Torvalds about having a messy bedroom! Do not play into these people's hands. Another problem with responding to bad press is that if they publish your reply, it gives a second hearing to their slander. It's also sending the very publication that slandered you free material. So, what to do instead of replying? Get us _positive_ publicity. Write an article that is favorable about Linux, and get it published elsewhere. Run a Linux seminar at your company, your school, or your public library. Help the local grade school that can't afford fancy equipment to set up a Linux file-server or net router, and then write a press-release about it. Write a program that replaces something that you can only get on Windows today, and GPL it. To deal with a press that doesn't understand Linux, you can try to do end-runs around them. For example, an article about designing electronic circuits with Linux software might be received better by an electronics publication than an article on the Linux operating system would be received by a rag that only runs stories about Windows software. While you explain your application, you'll be able to say a good deal about Linux. The press is very watchful of what other publications are saying, because of the competitive atmosphere. You are more likely to get respect from them if the editors are already reading favorable things about you. About the best thing you can do about programmers and information systems departments that don't like Linux is to evangelize individuals. At the movie studio where I work, I've been able to place a few company-purchased Linux systems in the homes of key engineers. This is the first step to getting them to buy into Linux at work. Regarding the problem of Linux being inaccessable to naive users, this is something we must deal with at least as well as Microsoft has if we are to compete with Microsoft in the same market. First, one might ask if we really want to do that. If we do, there has to be a lot more work on hardware auto-configuration and GUI tools. If we don't want to do this work, we might as well live with criticism on that issue. I guess what I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't answer negative press with more negative energy. It helps Linux more if you do positive things for it, and let the negative press go by. Thanks Bruce Perens Debian Project Leader -- Bruce Perens K6BP Bruce@Pixar.com 510-215-3502 Finger bruce@master.Debian.org for PGP public key. PGP fingerprint = 88 6A 15 D0 65 D4 A3 A6 1F 89 6A 76 95 24 87 B3 -- TO UNSUBSCRIBE FROM THIS MAILING LIST: e-mail the word "unsubscribe" to email@example.com . Trouble? e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .