“FOSS fan boy”. That term is really scary. It says in a single breath that the person described by that term is nothing but attitude.
“FOSS fanboys will never understand that, because they need to believe that they’re freedom fighters in a revolutionary war, like characters in their favourite animes”
This is what provoked me to write this post. Trying to draw an analogy, during my college life, I have seen a lot of students getting involved in politics. I have always wondered what got them so interested and dedicated to the cause. I used to find it absurd that they spend time on useless discussions, strikes and fights. I even have discouraged many of them from going after politics and “ruining” the time they had at college. As far as my analogy goes, the belief that something great or superior is there to be achieved by our little actions, is what drives the people, and I believe that there is something free software is destined to achieve.
I’m not sure so as to how this belief is instilled in the young minds. I don’t exactly know how even I got into that mindset. But somewhere along the way, I did.
People always like to make themselves believe that they are important. They do that by mingling with the ones who make them feel that they are important. Once they realize which group of people makes them feel important, they will start actively working for it.
I believe that is the truth to getting followers. In some aspects it is easy to provide the motivation because the actions of the group are easy to be imitated. That is the case with political parties as it is easy to be one in a crowd and shout. You can always get attention and feel important without doing much. You just have to make some noise and be somewhere by the side of the mob.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way implying that politics is bad. On the other hand, what I’m talking about is the “Fan” attitude. A more meaningful (and unparliamentary) way of putting it would be “All fart and no shit”.
Another observable example are the “fans” of celebrities. It is one thing liking a certain superstar and it is completely another treating them as God, spending time on putting banners and posters of them everywhere and picking fights with anyone who says he sucks. Most of the youth these days, sadly, involuntarily falls into this trap. The seriousness with which they “fight” to support the celebrity is rather… admirable?
There are still many examples like football fans and cricket fans where all they do is talk without ever having kicked a ball or having held a bat.
Now coming to FOSS. I entirely agree that the ‘fan’ culture is there for that too. Basically, it means that you keep on talking about philosophy without an ounce of technical knowledge. The “keeping on talking” would be fine if you would only spend a little time on it. However, with fan boys that is not the case. They keep at it day and night.
You see certain ‘free software enthusiasts’ commenting about Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman saying that they are not right. These ‘fans’ would not have even cloned the kernel source code yet and they say “Torvalds was wrong to do that, he was wrong to say this” and stuff. I mean, the Linux kernel is such a huge project being maintained by one guy collaborating thousand of developers from across the whole world! You have no clue what that management is like nor any idea regarding its implementation. All you have done is to sit comfortably at your home, open your laptop, read some stuff from here and there and there you go! Somehow you are man enough to advice others. XKCD depicts this wonderfully. Take a look below.
As far as I can see, that attitude is not something to feel proud about regarding FOSS. Let me mention a few people who love FOSS and have done much for it and yet are humble.
The first one would be my brother, Noufal Ibrahim K V. He neither talks philosophy nor tries to correct the “wrong person” on the internet. He lived his college life by tinkering with the internals of the Linux OS and thus learning much about how a computer works. He says that it was the Free Software Movement that brought about the freedom for this kind a thing to happen and thus he respects its existence. He works for the internet archive which is a non-profit NGO dedicated to archiving the whole of internet (as crazy as that sounds!) and yet he does not simply criticize others.
The next would be Ershad. He is just so enthusiastic about computers that he would give his life in exchange for it (Just kidding!). He gets to voice his opinion because he has done much for the society due to his love for FOSS. Not only has he a really good technical knowledge but he has contributed much with it. Both through programming as well as teaching. Personally speaking, he was the main reason for the small light of hope that was lit at our college,
Then comes Praveen ettan whom I have gotten to know over the past few months. Nothing more need be said about him other than that he is a Debian developer! Which means that he spends his time and effort, without any return whatsoever, for maintaining packages for the Debian Operating System. That, my friends, is how you contribute to society. He has strong philosophical beliefs which he puts forward and there is nothing wrong with that because he is one person who tries heart and soul to keep the spirit of Free Software alive not only through words but also through actions.
Now coming to the essence of the post. Am I a fan boy? To an extent I am for my contributions are questionable. Also, since I have been a great ‘fan’ of comic book superheroes like Batman and Wolverine, I’m pretty easy to get excited about “fighting for the goodness of the world”. So the comment at the the beginning of this post applies in my case.
Thanks Sharat for opening my eye. I am not going to be simply “one among the crowd” and shout. Till now all that I have done is to make chances for a few people to come together and learn a little but I see that is not enough. I will try to better myself and one day, I shall speak.