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Friday, 15 October 2010 10:34

Linux Foundation sets record for stating bleeding obvious


Until this morning, I was convinced that the late Benjamin Disraeli had it down pat when he said that there are three forms of deception - lies, damn lies and statistics.

Now I think he should have added "and Linux Foundation surveys" as well.

The Foundation, the body that allegedly works to promote the take-up of GNU/Linux, has published the results of a survey which is, no doubt, designed to provide a boost to the take-up of the operating system.

But the one word that fits when one tries to describe the figures therein is rubbery. For one, the Foundation has teamed up with a one-year-old company called Yeoman Technologies to carry out the survey. What does Yeoman do? "We focus technologies impact on your sales and operations models, especially as it relates to online sales." Yeah, whatever that means.

Secondly, the survey itself says: "This invitation-only survey pool was comprised of The Linux Foundation End User Council as well as other companies, organizations (sic) and government agencies selected by The Linux Foundation and Yeoman."

That seems to somewhat contradict this open invitation by Yeoman Technologies to a web survey. But, never mind, as the Americans say, it's time to move on.

The survey, if one takes the trouble to download and read it - and boy, does the Foundation make one jump through hoops to obtain a survey about free and open source software - makes it plain that responses from 387 individuals were the focus of the survey. This, despite there being 1948 Linux users who were reportedly invited to submit data.

There is an element of confusion here. At the start of the survey, it says: "The Linux Foundation, in partnership with Yeoman Technology Group, recently conducted a survey of 1948 Linux users. This invitation-only survey pool was comprised of The Linux Foundation End User Council as well as other companies, organizations (sic) and government agencies selected by The Linux Foundation and Yeoman. This paper reports on the findings of that survey, with a focus on the 387 respondents who represent the largest enterprise companies and government agencies, identified as organizations (sic) with $500 million or more a year in revenues or greater than 500 employees.

But at the end of the survey, it says: "The results of this survey were based on responses from 387 IT professionals from organizations (sic) with $500m or more a year in revenues or 500+ employees."

So what is it - a focus on 387 or a focus on only 387? There is a difference, you know.


The break-up of the 387 survey participants is 46.5 percent from the US and Canada, 28.7 percent from Europe and 11.6 percent from Asia. No mention of South America.

The findings of the survey are the bleeding obvious: Linux is poised for growth in coming years (no shit, Sherlock!), drivers for Linux use are shifting, Linux workloads are changing. Perhaps the only new finding is that there are increasing migrations from Windows to Linux rather than from Unix to Linux. But even that has been hinted at over the last couple of years on various occasions.

But, remember this is a pool of the converted. It is something like one going into a fundamentalist Christian community in the American midwest and asking them if Dubya had divine sanction to invade Iraq. One would no doubt hear a loud aye, followed by numerous amens.

A query to Jim Zemlin, the czar of the Foundation: mate, why do I have to give my name, my title, my phone number, and my organisation, and then enter a number into a web form in order to download this shonky data? What's more on the web form, there is an appeal to the person who has gone through this merry-go-round not to send the link to others but rather to ask them to register at a certain page - and the link to that page is broken.

Why don't you make it open and free to everyone? Just let that link from your front page directly lead to the 12-page PDF, with an indication that it does so. And do you really need to send me three emails after I provide all this data, giving me the download link all over again? What kind of software are you using? Can't be FOSS stuff, it doesn't malfunction this way.

The Foundation has this bit of text on page 3 of the survey which says it all: "Admittedly, The Linux Foundation End User Council and other enterprise end users who are motivated to complete a survey from The Linux Foundation are not an unbiased lot. But the organizations' (sic) size, buying power and technical backgrounds - as filtered by The Linux Foundation and Yeoman - certainly make this data worth noting, both for Linux vendors and developers, as well as for their competitors."

Yeah, sure. Had this insight been offered at the start of the survey, it would have saved me and many others a load of time.


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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