The Particular Finest

Presented by aurynn shaw

On Being Awesome

So it turns out, Dell can ship a nice Ubuntu laptop, where everything just works.

I though this was an impressive achievement, as even though boutique outlets like ZaReason have been able to ship Just Works Linux kit for some time, having a first-order supplier offer Linux kit could help drive adoption.

I want a great support experience, I want my machines to work when I take them out of the box and turn them on. I don’t want the vagaries of systems administration to drive me to frustration, or sap my limited free time.

Many of the comments slanted in another prevalent direction; remarking on how they were able to get Just Works” Linux onto machines from other vendors. Some were subtle, others explicit, always questioning why anyone would want to buy this machine, instead of installing themselves.

I’ve seen this attitude hundreds of times before; I’ve opined it myself. It’s a staple of If you’d just learn, it’s easy!”

I wanted to dismiss those comments, ignore their points. Not dissecting the narrative doesn’t answer questions; it doesn’t tell me why they are right.

They are right, of course - It would be easy, and I’d get to feel absolutely awesome if I just did it their way. It’s a great narrative, if you choose to follow.

So why don’t I?

Awesome Cost

We often undervalue the cost of acquiring skills. We joke about the 10,000 hour problem, the number so vast that understanding often escapes us. We forget that wanting others to feel our awesomeness as we do, is to tell them they should have spend their time differently.

That they were wrong, putting that person immediately on the defensive. It’s hard to catch ourselves being dismissive of other peoples’ choices. We’ve forgotten the difficulty of acquiring the skills we have, even that we have skills.

It’s equally hard to catch ourselves getting defensive at being told we’re wrong; hard to hear that people speaking about their experiences are just as right. I’ve lashed out defensively, as have we all, when my choices are called into question. It’s not just questioning a tool I use, after all; it’s questioning how much of my life I’ve dedicated to mastery of that tool. What if I’ve gotten it wrong? What if their idea, their opinion really is the right one, and I’ve been a fool for years?

Bearing the daily weight of impostor syndrome, this is a difficult question to ask myself. Answering it requires a security that I don’t often have, challenged as I am on my very right to be a part of the tech community.

Better Answers

People just want to feel awesome; if they think Linux will help them feel awesome, that’s great. If they think that being able to call tech support will help them feel awesome, that’s even better. Adminning your own machine for the first time is scary, after all. What if you break something? How do you get back to a safe place? Do you know someone who knows Linux? Are you okay spending thousands of dollars on hardware you fear you might permanently wreck through your inexperience?

Instead of criticising the decision not to hand-install, support the decision to try Linux. It’s a scary step, after all! Offer help. Make sure they know that the community is awesome and amazing. You were in their shoes, once. You wrecked machines, had to reinstall from scratch. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’d rendered my machine unbootable with bad LILO configs, or feared I’d lost data with sloppy fdisk calls.

This is the first step to their being awesome. Lets make the next steps easy and friendly, not critical and dismissive. Let’s remember that they are right for what they do, and dismissing that will just drive them away.