The shallow pool (was Re: Software in schools, again)

Evan Leibovitch evan at
Wed Dec 20 16:17:22 UTC 2006

Anthony Yarusso wrote:

> Re: "Too bad Ubuntu folks that go no further than this forum are out
> of touch with what the rest of the community is doing.", Ubuntu is
> what got me into any of this, preceded only by Firefox and
> Thunderbird.
But what is Ubuntu? A distribution, a package, comprised mainly of the 
works of others who have nothing to do with Ubuntu. (Of course, to 
others it's a "brand", but that's basically an exercise in amateur 

How much of an Ubuntu distribution is original, that is, was created by 
the Ubuntu community and/or Canonical and does not exist in other 
distributions? Let's be extremely generous and say 10% -- that still 
means that 90% of Ubuntu was created, and is being supported and 
promoted by others who may have nothing to do with Ubuntu.

Where is the best chance to get expert support on your 
Firefox/Thunderbird questions?
- From the Mozilla development/support community?
- From your local community user group that includes people who use 
Firefox and Thunderbird on every distribution?
- From the Ubuntu-Canada group?

> I may not have been following open-source activities since "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", but that doesn't mean I'm purposely ignoring efforts external to Ubuntu - it's just that this is the segment of the community I connected with, and what I currently have time for.
So the only part of Linux that interests you is the 10% (likely less) 
that is unique to Ubuntu? That's certainly possible, but unlikely for 
most newcomers.

> I use lists like this to find out about the other goings-on, so please try to approach this as me making connections, rather than trying to stay cubbyholed within solely Ubuntu...
Hmm. Usually when one's goal is to make connections, you seek out the 
widest possible talent pool rather than one that is arbitrarily narrow.

Case in point: I recently asked a question to this list about Kubuntu's 
"adept" program, wondering why it presents me a list of bugs for each 
downloaded package before installation. The best answer I got on this 
list was "well, GNOME and Synaptic work for me, you might want to dump 
KDE". While well-meaning, it was an appalling answer, especially on a 
list intended for newcomers. (Answering a question of "XYZ doesn't work" 
with "stop using XYZ" is the worst possible answer if "XYZ" is something 
you're trying to advocate.)

The same question asked on the TLUG list brought forward two people 
offering accurate answers that had NOTHING to do with KDE (the problem 
was in the existence of a package called "apt-listbugs").

The people who answered used non-Ubuntu Debian, so they might never have 
been found here. But they had the right answer, because "apt-listbugs" 
is not something unique to Ubuntu. Neither, for that matter, is KDE.

The smaller the pool, the shallower the expertise, and the less likely 
you are to get what you need whether asking questions or making connections.

I'm not arguing against having an Ubuntu-specific group, but it should 
be constituted as subgroups of more general Linux groups. Issues of 
support and advocacy that are not Ubuntu-specific should, as a matter of 
course, be referred to the larger generalized talent pool. Likewise, if 
people in TLUG/OCLUG/VanLUG/etc have active Ubuntu subgroups, then that 
makes one specific kind of Linux support/advocacy that much easier for 
the whole community to address.

- Evan

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