Back on the first of September I wrote an article about Android, in which I pointed out that Google’s mobile operating system seems to be primarily designed to help sell things. This eventually led to a discussion thread on a subreddit devoted to Android. Needless to say, the fanbois and fangrrls over on Reddit didn’t cotton to my criticism and they devoted a lot of space complaining about how the article was poorly written.
They had me there; admittedly it wasn’t one of my better efforts.
The one comment that caught my attention, however, wasn’t complaining about me or my obviously misguided opinion. This commenter said something about how my article came from a FOSS site and made some snarky remark about how as open as Android is, it would never be open enough for those whiny FOSS people. This is the kind of remark we see all the time from tech people, user and developer alike, who think OSS is as free as it gets and don’t understand the distinction between open source and free and open source.
In other words, sometimes it’s the people who’re the closest to us in opinion who become our biggest ideological detractors.
I paid the thread and the comment little mind; I just found it curious that fans of an open source project can so easily take umbrage at those of us who have one foot firmly planted in their camp. I’m always surprised by how much OSS supporters hold us FOSSers in contempt.
However, that’s better than others who don’t even know enough about FOSS to have developed any misconceptions — other than the big misunderstanding that FOSS is just like any other software.
A few weeks back, probably at about the same time I wrote the article on Android, I received an email from Samantha, an “Affiliates Relations Manager,” wanting to interest FOSS Force in becoming an affiliate for an e-commerce site which sells discounted proprietary software. As I didn’t figure that many people who regularly visit a site with FOSS in the name would be in the market for proprietary code, discounted or no, I ignored the email.
About a week later I got another email with the subject, “Did you receive my previous email?” It was Samantha again; she really, really thought that FOSS Force and her software selling partner would be a perfect fit. I remained unconvinced and again ignored the email, figuring that would be the last I’d hear from her. Most affiliate marketing companies don’t try to interest me more than twice for a particular client. After the second go, they’d usually rather wait until they have another client to use as bait on the hook.
Not Samatha. On Friday I received a third email. She was still wondering if I’d received her previous messages. She still thought FOSS Force would be a perfect fit for her client. “We sell retail, OEM and discounted versions of software titles from Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, Corel, Intuit, McAfee, Symantec and many more,” she gushed.
Obviously she doesn’t understand FOSS or those of us who advocate its use. She’d probably seen the site, noticed a lot of writing about computers and software and jumped to the conclusion that we’d be great for her software hawking client. I wouldn’t doubt that she’d Googled the term “FOSS,” but got no further than the word “software” when reading the definition.
This time I broke down and sent a reply, thanking her for her interest in our site. Unfortunately, I explained, almost all of our visitors use Linux and most of your client’s software won’t even run on Linux. Besides, I went on, our site advocates the use of free and open source software and a large percentage of our visitors would take exception if we were to offer software by the likes of Microsoft or Apple, even if it would run on their machines. As for McAfee and Symantec, I explained, our visitors rarely need antivirus products.
I have no idea how much of what I wrote she understood, although I would’ve liked to have been a fly on the wall when she read the email.
If you ever gets a client that might be a better fit, I ended, please get in touch with me.
I can’t wait to see what she’ll suggest we try selling our readers next. How about discounted iPhones and iPads? I can see her email now: “I notice from an article you wrote that you don’t like Android, so I though you might be interested in offering your readers a discount on Apple mobile products…
If that happens, I won’t try to educate her again.