When someone presses me about the state of Linux on the desktop, I usually respond with a tightened brow and pursed lip and start talking about the current commercial push to move beyond the desktop platform and into mobile.
And while that's a valid observation, I also have to pause and recognize the strength of the Linux community, remembering that this collective voice has huge potential in shaping the direction of Linux and open source projects.
My latest reminder of this phenomenon was last weekend's Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) 10X, a regional Linux event that has grown steadily every year of its 10-year existence. Nearly 2,000 attendees showed up for events that catered to developers and beginners alike, and representatives of companies like HP, Eucalyptus, Oracle gave talks and had a strong presence at the show.
It was, if you'll pardon the pun, better than a scaled-down version of the former LinuxWorld shows, because even with the vendor presence, the sense of community excitement and engagement was palpable. This is not something that should be discounted as mere community euphoria, either. With every event like this, the knowledge of the community is increased and with it the engine of collaboration is fueled.
That it is the real power of the community.
When a community is interested and inspired, they can re-engage and commit to projects. A lot of project managers will hear about this and salivate with the possibility of more participation, but they should also be aware that sometimes that means the community will take the project in direction that you weren't expecting. Certainly Oracle learned that to their surprise when LibreOffice forked itself into existence.
But not all change means "fork." Sometimes it means simply changing direction through consensus. Or apathy, as one group drops a project and another picks it up. Whatever the reason, it's this kind of collaboration and innovation that makes me hesitate to definitively make statements like "this desktop is dead."
It's not just events like SCALE, though these have become important in the grand collaborative scheme of things. It's also community participation opportunities like the LinuxQuestions Members Choice Awards, where until February 9th you can sign up to vote for categories such as Database of the Year, Text Editor of the Year, and, yes, Desktop Distribution of the Year. LinuxQuestions represents a broad and diverse community itself, and its voice makes a big impact on the Linux community.
Then there are the other events like SCALE, which you should make a point to visit if you are nearby anytime this year:
- Northeast LinuxFest, Worcester, MA; March 17, 2012
- Indiana LinuxFest; Indianapolis, IN; April 13-15, 2012
- LinuxFest Northwest, Bellingham, WA; April 28-29, 2012
- Texas LinuxFest, Austin, TX; May 2012 (Date to be determined)
- SouthEast LinuxFest; Charlotte, NC; June 8-10, 2012
- Ohio LinuxFest, Columbus, OH; September 28-30, 2012
Regardless of which event you can attend, or what kind of ways you choose to participate in community, the fact that our community is so strong means that nothing about the fate of Linux, free software, and open source is written in stone. Communities are organic and will grow or shrink at their own pace--and so will the technologies they support.
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