Monday, September 28, 2009

Being A Responsable Community Member

Ok, so you read my post a while back and now you are thinking "Hey, I've tryed to be involved and you freetards are jerks!" or "I want to try this thing out what should I know?" Very good questions. So let's dive in shall we.

First, all communitys have a culture and if you are starting as an outsider it can be a bit of a learning curve. One of the main things I see people do is have the attitude "Dude, it's just software!" To many people in this neck of the woods it isn't "just software." It's a way of life. A large amount of the work that is done in free software is done out of passion not out of economics. People pour their heart and soul into this stuff. It represents an ideal more than a tool. Respect peoples passion when talking to them.

Asking for help is the first hurdle I see people stuggling to get over. If you are used to dealing with "traditional" software support then you might come across in a way you don't intend. If you jump in an IRC channel or post on a forum, remember most of the help in free software is volunteer and be respectful of that. Many projects offer many ways of getting help. However, some of those tools rarely get used. Some projects prefer IRC, some mailing lists, some forums and some wiki's. If you are asking for help in the wrong place and not getting an answer try to find out the projects communication process.

The second sticking point, as I see it, is the approach to that question. The motivation to help is quickly sapped when you ask in a disrespectful way. Remember, very few projects are trying to create a direct replacement for a proprietary Windows or Mac app. The apps might have similar goals, but asking why feature X in software Y isn't in their program can sound insulting. Especially when you follow there response with something like "Well, your program is never going to be as good as Y if you don't put that feature in!" If you are lacking a feature it's ok to ask if you are just missing it and if it doesn't exist ask if it's planned for a future release. If it is of severe importance to you offer to pay a developer to implement it or if you have the skills do it yourself. Hey, it's Open Source, right?

Lastly, if you find that people are still pretty harsh ask yourself "Am I asking about things I should be reading about?" A lot of projects have pretty good documentation. Read it. It frustrating to have some one ask you basic questions that are all ready covered in the FAQ on their website. Asking for help should be a last resort or for those who just don't know better. Don't be lazy.

I'm sure if you are respectful and take your time you will find a home in the community just like everyone else.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

OSM Live

So, recent events that have come out of the community around my podcast have lead to the creation of a media experiment for us. See, we set up a streaming server so we could put up a live stream of the podcast as we recorded it. This isn't unique as quite a few of our podcasting friends do this all ready. However, having a server setup means that you could use it to stream anything anytime! That led my co-host to think that he could do a some live performances. Then the though comes to us "Hey we are all musicians, why couldn't we setup some live shows?"

After some experiments I discovered that it's brain dead simple to stream using my Zoom H4 and my Asus eeePC using the program BUTT. Another friend of the show, who is an amazing bass player and an owner of an H4 and EEEpc setup, streamed a rehearsal and a couple of his bands shows live. So right now we have about 3 musicians that are streaming live music.

This has given birth to a fun project called OSMLive. It's a chance for musicians in the Free Culture community to share their art. The concept is simple, we handle the scheduling of great artists and you tune in. Simple, right? The streams are all using the free ogg vorbis format that can be played in the latest Firefox or using the very popular and cross platform VLC media player.

More information on how and when to tune in as well as schedualing your own show can be found at There is a calendar and an rss feed for the shows. You can contact us about the show at live at

Friday, September 11, 2009

Why I chose Linux!

Another podcaster in the linux community has been doing a series of shows called "How I found Linux" that contains user contributed audio clips of people telling the story of how they found their way into the free software community. It's very likely when I get the time I will record my story and submit it and I hope you do the same.

Thinking about this it led me down the path of thinking not just about how but about why.

I have a firm belief that one of the strongest human emotions is the need to feel like you belong to something that is greater than yourself. I think that this need is more intense for some than others and is a driving force for good and evil. It could even explain some of the darker times in human history. But, that's a discussion for another post, or maybe not.

For me, I've always had deep need to feel like I belong and am accepted. I can think back on many periods of my life where this has had a profound effect on the trajectory of my life. I think it's the human need to be a part of the community that draws most people into the Linux/free culture. Not the geekyness of it or the software itself. Computers are cool but I don't think that is why free software is successful. Further more, I don't think the thing that will win people over to Linux will be more or better apps. I think it will be the draw that everyone has a place in the community and everyone is important to its success.

What people don't use as an argument for free software enough is:

  1. No matter what your interest there is a sub-community that is dying to have you as a member.
  2. No matter how insignificant your contribution to free software might seem, it's the rich tapestry of different abilities that make Linux great. We will always need wide diversity in the community.
  3. Free software people are not just friendly, they take great pleasure in helping you find a place in community. We love it when some one new finds that feeling of acceptance that we do.
  4. Black, white, skinny, fat, pretty, ugly, rich, poor, genius, average, cool, geek, religious, agnostic, political or not? No one gives a crap. I've never heard anyone not getting accepted because of their background.

So, If you feel like you need to find some where that people not only accept you but need you. Where you can find people just as exited about your interests as you are. We would love to have you as one of our own. We want you! We need you! Jump in, the water is just fine. What are you waiting for?