About FUD within the Linux community
I find it really despicable to see developers, maintainers and communities from competing projects create and spread FUD about Linux Mint in an effort to promote their own distribution.
At this cost, getting more users is futile. Of course, a project needs a large audience to succeed, but what matters the most is how happy your users are. If you want your project to work, make it great. If you want to promote it, highlight your own work and efforts.
At the time when Ubuntu was dominant in the Linux market, it continuously received a huge amount of FUD. It was unfair, it was stupid and frankly, it was embarrassing for the entire Linux community. It still is and it has gotten worse for us because we’re now receiving a significant chunk of that FUD, some of it coming from the very same project who already suffered so much from it.
Doubt is at its highest level when it comes from a respected figure. You can only imagine how many people fled Ubuntu when Richard Stallman himself accused Canonical of using malware to advance their own commercial agenda. I know this first hand because their first destination was Linux Mint. If you don’t think too much about it, you could interpret this as something we benefited from. There are three problems with that though…
First, from a moral standpoint, it’s disgusting to feed on vulnerability, especially when you know the attacks are unfair. Although the presence of Amazon in Ubuntu’s application menu was clumsy and generated money, there were absolutely no grounds to accuse Canonical of spying on its users or selling their personal data.When people believe these stories and join the Linux Mint community, they don’t just arrive, they arrive with these stories. Our first job is to debunk them. I don’t often speak about Jono Bacon but I’ve a huge amount of respect for him. He highlighted the importance of building a community. I really think you have to show the behavior you expect from other people. It’s not OK to spread unverified facts, accusations and FUD like that. It’s never been OK. Whether it was about Mono, Canonical and more recently about Systemd. We’re pragmatic and when something is wrong we don’t hesitate to take action, but if accusations are being spread, they need justifications. We’ve been making distributions for a while now (Mint is 10 years old, and Ubuntu is 12) and this hasn’t changed. If we want solid communities where people enjoy interacting with one another, we need strong moral values.
Second, what is there to gain from people who want something you’re not? When people leave Ubuntu because of “malware”, they don’t want Linux Mint, they want Ubuntu “without malware”. That’s a very different thing. I don’t expect everybody to be an expert, but when you read “Mint = Ubuntu + codecs”, “Mint = Ubuntu + green background”, “Mint = Ubuntu + Cinnamon”, it’s time to think about getting better news elsewhere. You don’t have to be an expert in Formula 1 to understand that Force India isn’t Mercedes with a different coat of paint. Of course you’ll find more differences in other teams, where the engine and parts are completely different, but you’re already looking at two very different teams, with different people, different policies, different philosophies and ways of working. Before you even start to compare the technical differences, you’re using the product of two very different projects. So, to go back to why it’s not a good thing for us to see people leave Ubuntu because of FUD and join Linux Mint as a result of it.. it’s quite simple really, we want to attract people who love Mint. We want people to love Mint for what it is, not for what it’s not. We don’t succeed because Ubuntu sucks, and we’re not “Ubuntu done right”. We succeed because there’s nobody better than us at making Linux Mint, and part of why Linux Mint is so great, is because one its main components Ubuntu, is great too.
To smart people, FUD looks amateurish and people who spread it or believe it look extremely stupid. In a heated discussion where accusations fly, 3rd parties immediately feel uncomfortable and it only takes one false point to cause a negative reaction. How do you think it looks to Windows and Mac users when leading Linux distributions are the target of FUD campaigns? It looks petty. I destroys all the enthusiasm one could have about venturing into that wonderful thing that is Linux and joining Free Software communities. It really makes us sound like a bunch of idiots whose distributions are of questionable quality. “Their biggest distro”, Ubuntu, is unstable, and full of malware, “even Linux” people agree. If you think that’s benefiting anyone in the Linux community, think again.
What kind of people are you?
When it comes to projects, we’re talking about the work of groups of developers. That work is possible thanks to the passion and enjoyment these developers and their users have for it.
There’s no reason to harm that. What kind of people are you when you do?
I’d like to welcome everyone, and particularly within our own community, into thinking more about their role within FUD campaigns. Criticism is the fuel for innovations and improvements, it’s extremely valuable to us. FUD on the other hand is extremely destructive. When you read criticism, please confront its key arguments, please question it, please verify it. Is it precise? Is it unbiased? Is it justified? Does it pinpoint something that can be improved? Is it hear-say or the result of thorough analysis? Basically, is it criticism or FUD? Is it valuable or detrimental to us? Is it here to help or to harm? Is it something that should get all the way to our development team as feedback they can exploit to improve Linux Mint? Or is it not?
Everything is free, everything is shared. Not only software, but help and welcome. Joining Linux can and should be an amazing adventure for anyone who hasn’t already done so. I remember my first experience with Linux. It wasn’t just about the OS, it was about the people. Sharing with passionate people who loved it as a hobby; that was really exciting. We’re constantly working on new things, improving this and that, coming up with new ideas. Criticism can be very constructive and very positive and when it is, it makes that whole experience even better, because we’re not just developers with ideas, we also implement and fix what you highlight to us.
When criticism isn’t constructive but accusatory it destroys all that.
Let’s take Systemd as an example. I know people eased up a bit on Mono lately and Systemd seems to be the main target within our own Linux Mint community. If you have an opinion on Systemd, that’s great, I’m not asking you not to have one. If that opinion is negative, then please try to ask yourself “why”. Is it because your heard negative things about it? Is it because a person you admire or whose title/label/occupation you respect said negative things about it? If you think about it in your own words and based on your own experience, are you looking at doubt, uncertainty… or areas of improvements? See, that’s the difference between FUD and constructive criticism.
I have my own uncertainty about aspects of Systemd. You don’t hear them though, because that’s all they are, uncertainties (in case you’re wondering, and you shouldn’t be, these are minor). I also have my own personal experience, using it, developing around it, and I think it’s great.
If a user comes to me and asks if we could stop using Systemd in Linux Mint, it triggers curiosity in me, because he might have found something we can improve in Systemd, or a better alternative to Systemd. Either way, he might have put his finger on something valuable to us and which we can use to make Linux Mint better. So far that happened a lot though, we’ve received many complaints about Systemd and unfortunately they didn’t help at all.
We should respect the work of other people and do our best to support it. In the case of Systemd, not only it’s unfair to see how much FUD is being spread on it, but it’s also worth noting that you’re looking at one of the components of our operating system. Just like Ubuntu, Linux Mint is also great because and thanks to Systemd. Will it continue? I don’t know. Are all the accusations unfair? I don’t know, but I’m yet to hear a fair one.
I’m not really sure how to address the content of FUD itself. In an ideal world everyone would be smart enough to detect it and people who spread it would be ridiculed to the point where their only option is silence. Sadly, that’s not how the Internet works though.
I could make a long list of all the ridiculous things I hear and detract them with quick simple facts. I’m not sure whether to restrict that to FUD targeting Mint or also to expand it to FUD targeting other projects (Ubuntu, Mono and Systemd come primarily to mind here). Maybe we can do this like we’ve always done… you simply tell us and we use your feedback. Let me say this though, this post is about stopping that FUD, not reviving it. So please make sure to be constructive in your comments, ask questions, mention facts, go easy on opinions.
On our own Linux Mint Wikipedia page (which we do not write and which is full of similar mistakes), one can read: “In June 2015, Wikimedia Traffic Analysis Report shows 6.4 million hits for Linux Mint while the highest-placed Linux distribution, Ubuntu, had 1.2 billion hits”. It’s quite common for Wikimedia stats to be mentioned and when people do, it’s hard to argue with them, right?
Wrong. All you have to do is to look at your user agent. If you run Linux Mint, what does it tell you? That’s right, you’re counted as “Ubuntu”.
This has been the case since the days of Firefox 4, so the number of “Linux Mint” users you’re seeing there on Wikimedia, isn’t the number of “Linux Mint” users, but the number of “people running Linux Mint 10 or older”.
This is a perfect case of FUD. The argument looks justified, it’s technical by nature and backed by important names in the industry (ZDNet, Ars Technica). It looks very professional until you actually check it.
You would think journalists would check their sources? Well, most of the time they do. That doesn’t mean they’re useless news source and you should remove them from your bookmarks immediately. It means you should read everything with a pinch of salt and not blindly trust information just because it comes from so-called “experts” or “journalists”.
This fake truth is relayed by people on Wikipedia and forums all the over the web right now, and it’s backed by the big names I mentioned above.
I’ve seen Distrowatch statistics used both as a way to promote and deny the idea that Linux Mint is popular. Let me shine in here.
The main ranking on Distrowatch is a “page hit ranking”. It has nothing to do with how many users a distribution has, but how many unique visitors click on a given distribution page. As such, the fact that Linux Mint topped the Distrowatch ranking for years doesn’t mean it’s the most widely used. It means it’s the one people are the most interested in when they visit Distrowatch.
We do no encourage people to go and click on Mint in Distrowatch, we never did and we never will. I can’t imagine who would be sad enough to go and do that on a daily basis, and I really hope nobody does. If you do, it goes without saying, please stop.
Distrowatch also maintains traffic stats. Of course you don’t see “Linux Mint” there (I’m not sure whether that’s because people who browse Distrowatch are less likely than people who browse Wikipedia to run an obsolete version such as Mint 10 or older, or whether the DW team merged the Mint and Ubuntu stats together there). Just as Wikimedia stats, we’re unable to get “Linux Mint” stats, because our user-agent is the same as Ubuntu.
In 2011, when our user agent was unique, we were able to use these stats to assess that, within the people who visited Distrowatch, there were four times more Ubuntu users than Linux Mint users, and four time more Linux Mint users than users of the third most popular distribution (which was Fedora at the time if I remember well). What happened since? We can only guess but we can’t measure.
More to come
We’ll address more misconceptions and post them here for everyone to see. As you can imagine it’s not very pleasant for us to have to do that and it takes time to word things clearly, with justification and without losing our cool. If you would like us to cover a particular point, please mention it in the comments below.
There’s nothing better than reading how much you enjoyed something we developed, how much you look forward to something we previewed. It is the best job in the world, and it’s done with wonderful people and amazing teams. I love working with them, every single day is a treat, and that unfortunately gets in the way. I can’t think of any reason why you shouldn’t use Linux Mint, I know you can certainly hear some on the Internet, we’ve nothing to hide, and we’re happy to talk.
I hope that will help some of you clear doubts you might have and I can’t wait for us to move on to more exciting topics. Thank you to all of you and don’t let the FUD bugs bite.