Wednesday, 25 January 2012 12:36

Linux Australia: preaching to the converted isn't enough

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Last year, in its annual budget, Linux Australia allocated a sum of $5000 for media training. The entire amount was unspent.


The allocation (PDF) provides an interesting comment on an organisation which, though sorely aware of the need to raise both its own profile and that of free and open source software in general, still fights shy of doing anything concrete towards these goals.

Last year, Linux Australia released the raw data from a survey which has been set in train by James Turnbull, who held the position of president for the first half of 2010 before he stepped down to take up a job in the US.

There was no effort made by Linux Australia to analyse the data and release it to the public in a readable form; iTWire was the only organisation that looked at the raw data and gave it some publicity. One overwhelming conclusion from the data was that the organisation needed to make itself better-known.

Since the current president, John Ferlito, took over, Linux Australia has expanded its activities. It used to sponsor just the one conference, the Australian national Linux conference, every year; now it sponsors conferences catering to users of the Drupal CMS, the Python programming language, and two that cater to users of the popular WordPress application.

In addition, this year, Linux Australia provided backing for AdaCamp, the first camp organised by the women's advocacy group, the Ada Initiative.

But all of this activity might as well not be undertaken. There are hardly any efforts to publicise the camps, and what does take place is pitifully inadequate.

Yet Linux Australia continues to drag its feet - it redesigned its website last year but there is yet no page detailing the activities of a media sub-committee as was present on the old site. And with good reason too; no such sub-committee exists.

Ferlito says: "There currently isn't a media sub-committee. We haven't had enough interest from the community in wanting to be a part of one. For the time being, the council is managing this function itself."


There are a considerable number among the membership who owe their employment, either directly or indirectly, to free and open source software; the organisation itself would be irrelevant were it not for the existence of this genre of software.


Given this, it is amazing that there appears to be little or no realisation that any increase in the profile of FOSS would only be to the advantage of both the organisation and its membership. Equally, there appears to be ignorance that, whether one likes it or now, the public generally get their (often incomplete) knowledge about FOSS from the media.

Not that this attitude is restricted to Linux Australia; there appears to be an insular and inward-looking mentality among organisations that concern themselves with FOSS worldwide. Whether this stems from arrogance or ignorance is debatable.

Ferlito says that with regard to media training, there is a move to liaise with the organisers of the 2013 annual Linux conference and conduct some training, probably in February.

Recently, open source luminary Bruce Perens observed that people in the FOSS sphere needed to indulge in self-promotion; the way he put it was "unfortunately, most of the publicity goes to companies who spend a lot of money on promotion. The actual open source projects are under-reported." He could not have spoken a truer word.

Linux Australia would do well to pay heed to Perens. Preaching to the converted is all very good but the organisation needs to look much further if it is planning to settle down for the long haul.

 

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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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