In the nearly six years I’ve been using Linux, there’s one thing I’ve learned that stands out above everything else: many of its users are wholly convinced they’ve found something that is utterly and unequivocally superior to anything that spawns from the realm of the evil Microsoft and Apple megacorps.
They’re convinced that one day, surely the world will wake up and realize how low their standards are, and be freed by the magic of Linux. So convinced, that calling things “cancer” is plenty of argument for why their technology of preference is clearly better. Or that, despite any clear usability issues to users with expectations to focus on their work, it’s flawless simply because it’s “less bloated” or [insert any reason that changes nothing here].
Turns out, they’re wrong.
Wild, isn’t it? That somehow “that’s cancer” isn’t actually a valid reason for people to change their ways? That trashing another project doesn’t actually make yours better? Welcome to the real world, where users need tools to do the job, and sometimes that means accepting some flaws in those tools as well.
This blatantly out-of-touch toxicity demonstrates nothing other than blindness towards the reality of users’ needs.
That every argument hinges on the notion that one thing is trash, and therefore it makes something else better. Because after all, why would anyone want to use Windows, when Linux is far more advanced than NT? It’s obviously the only important factor in how I get my work done.
I’m in no way representative of the “average user” (if there even is such a thing), but I do pride myself on making an effort to separate my technical proficiency from the expectations I have of other users. I understand what it means to be an end-user, and not a hacker or a tinkerer or a developer. My interest in filesystems, and my ability to set up complicated RAID arrays does not somehow mean every other user should reflect the same capacity. Even more so, I understand that it does not mean they should even care.
Unfortunately, this kind of logic does not seem to translate well to those who are convinced that their findings are beyond the possibility of disagreement.
“You may not have a valid criticism of my operating system when yours is undeniably terrible.”
But for all the tireless whining about how awful Windows is, there’s still plenty of people getting their work done, playing their games, making videos, and just using their computers like normal people do. For all the complaints about the tragedy of NTFS and what an incompetent pile of crap it might be, users store their precious memories, memes, and documents there without hesitation. Not because they’re ignorant, either. But because they’re using their computers like any other user would, and expecting it to just do the job, which is usually exactly what it does.
This of course, is not isolated to just Linux. Though this is where I have experienced it most. It applies to everything from web browsers to chat software to programming languages. It’s an inescapable hole in logic that stems from an internal well of insecurity and an unrelenting need to convince oneself that they’ve made the right choice. It’s pitiful at best. Watching users come to people for help with an application they need or want, only to be shot down by an army of degrading asshats telling them they should use something else because what they want is crap.
What becomes interesting to me, is how defensive these same people are when they get called out for being openly hostile and irrational. They immediately cling to their tower of technical cleanliness, which in their minds justifies their social incompetence. They express the validity in shooting people down simply because their own standards aren’t met by the software of another use which has absolutely nothing to do with their own experiences. It’s frustrating to watch, and even more frustrating to so often be the only defense for users who get frozen out this way.
Now, it is obvious to me that there are so many wonderful people using Linux. Wonderfully talented, nice, and just awesome people. It’s obvious to me because I’ve spent a lot of time with the better parts of these communities, and have had the opportunity to see them in action.
The same can not be said for users whose first experience asking for help is an immediate carpet-bombing of arrogant attacks on them because they want to use something they’re used to using. It’s frustrating and it’s incredibly degrading. It pushes people out, and it gives the impression that they’re unwelcome simply because they have different preferences or needs than others.
Seeing users even mention that they use a Snap in many groups results in an instinctive “ew” comment from some dipwad who has nothing better to do than try and break people down for using something they don’t like. It’s an instinctive display of aggression that exists only to make themselves somehow feel more righteous in their own decisions. It’s simply a blatant lack of respect for others and their work, and it’s these interactions that set the stereotype. It’s these interactions that result in our abhorrently toxic reputation.
As much as some of us would love to believe that users will bend to our wills on the merit of some developer expressing how terrible the alternatives are and that they offer the only good solution, it just isn’t the reality. Users have needs far beyond the spec sheet. Users have apps they need to get things done, whether it be something simple like a PDF reader, or things more complex like audio workstations and video editing software. Telling someone they shouldn’t use proprietary crap when they need it is not going to change anything. It just exposes to the world what a dick you are. It shows that you’re unwilling to accept users who are making an effort to try new things, but have requirements of their own.
We can do better than that.
I’ve seen so many do better than that.
Yet I’ve seen so many others dejected and made a mockery of for such simple and insignificant things. It’s not just enough to say nothing. It requires an effort to encourage others to be respectful as well. It requires people to speak up for those who are so relentlessly harassed for things they deserve no harassment for. While my optimism may be faded, I still believe it can be done.
We just need to care enough to make it happen.