Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce LCA 2010: Using a public platform for personal attacks

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When Red Hat employee Matthew Garrett stood up to deliver a talk at the recent Australian national Linux conference on "The Linux community: what is it and how to be a part of it", he wasn't prepared for at least one of the questions that followed.

The appearance of the man who asked the question was nondescript but the question he asked was insightful. At the end of a rambling treatise on peace and harmony in the Linux community, this man had the good sense to ask: was it just possible that what was classified as disruptive behaviour in the community came about, at times, because of cultural differences? He had an excellent example to substantiate his point: the way women were expected to treat men as superiors in Iran.

The reaction was surprising. Some of the women in the audience booed. Why exactly, one is unaware; the man wasn't condoning any kind of sexist behaviour, he was merely stating the reality. But that didn't seem to percolate down to the intelligentsia among the booers.

Garrett's answer gave one some insight into his way of thinking: he replied that as, in his opinion, the Linux community was largely a Western, English-speaking one, those who participated in it necessarily had to adapt to the norms of this group.

To put it mildly, such thinking is woefully narrow-minded and insular in the extreme. It is also disingenuous – few, if any, of the ructions in the community have been caused by people outside the West.

That there is a fairly large Linux community in China was a fact that Garrett failed to recognise. There are a few who can count themselves among the same community among the billion-plus in India too. And in Japan, Brazil, and Malaysia... but I guess the point is obvious.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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