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What Are We? 12?

I've grown more and more accustomed to that phrase. Being on IRC, blogs, forums, mailing lists, and other forms of digital social gathering, it still never ceases to amaze me the responses that come out of people these days. Case in point? The tragic ending to what should have been a happy one. I'm referring to the news story that WKOW 27 in Madison, WI ran concerning a girl in college who dropped out, because Ubuntu was installed on her Dell laptop, and she couldn't install some software programs. WKOW, by the way, has run a follow up on the piece, showing the initial reaction of the Ubuntu community.

When I first read the story, I admit that I thought she was looking for a scapegoat to drop out, and Ubuntu on a laptop was the perfect excuse. Then, I started reading the comments, and I was floored by the community's reaction. Almost immediately, I found myself defending her and Ubuntu comment after comment. After letting the emotion settle for a bit, I re-read the article, this time paying attention to the smaller details:

  1. A Dell representative recommended that she stay with Ubuntu over Windows. This is a serious win for the Ubuntu community! When an OEM is recommending a Free operating system over a non-free, things are on the upswing for that OS.
  2. A Verizon representative said that they would send out a technician to get her Ubuntu install online. This is another serious win for the Ubuntu community! Verizon is willing to support Ubuntu as an operating system for their software.
  3. Lastly, the school said that Windows and Microsoft Office was not required for her courses, which means Ubuntu and OpenOffice.org would fit the bill nicely. Three out of three!

So, I ask: Why the backlash? One thing we need to understand as technical users, is the average user doesn't think to pull up Google to troubleshoot his or her problem. If something doesn't work as expected, such as putting the Verizon CD in Ubuntu, then it's broken to them. They're not going to pull up Google, and figure out how to make it work. They might call a family member if they have a computer expert in the family, but even then, the computer is still broken. Having just purchased a brand new laptop from Dell, and things not working as expected, she has every right to be upset.

Yet, everything came out positive for her, and the community responds the way it does. This story should have been a positive one for our distribution. Instead, it turned into a heated attack against her, and the news agency. Whether or not these attackers are Ubuntu users or Windows users or Mac users, it matters not. What matters to me is the maturity level of the response. Which brings me to the title of my post:

"What are we? 12?"

Look at the details of the article. Look at how three organizations were willing to handle her specific case. She looked for support, and got it! Dell, Verizon and her school should be touted as heroes! They came to her rescue, and then we respond the way we do. I found our response unfortunate, sad, and very disappointing. Linux won't succeed on the desktop if these are the cards we play.

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