No One Speaks for Me
There is a vast world of ordinary people out there who are used and abused, particularly in the world of computing.
When it comes to the very fundamental questions of life, I exempt no one from the duty to find your own way. If you are content with someone else’s religion package, I hold you in contempt to the degree you are willing to swallow the whole thing. This is too important for adults to just accept what someone passes your way.
With computers, it’s not the same. Sure, there are people for whom computer use is a religion. That includes most of the serious Open Source computer users. They aren’t part of this discussion. With computers, the whole point is we are looking at a consumer commodity that people use, not what they live and die for. The folks who produce the hardware and software are catering to an audience, a vast range of folks who simply cannot take the time and effort to become their own computer expert. The majority of users will never learn to code, nor even so much as learn my paltry collection of computer fixing skills. They’ll just use what they can get.
I remain entirely angry at the propaganda from the Open Source community. They lie; the make offers and promises on which they cannot deliver. They fool themselves, so it’s not quite evil, but it is a closed minded stupidity. They say Open Source is better, that it will set you free from the abuse of commercial interests and snooping manipulative advertisers, and giving you back control over your computer. The lie is you don’t really have control over either commercial or Open Source software. You have more options with Open Source, but only in theory. If you happen to be a coder, you have all the freedom in the world. If you were a coder, you wouldn’t need to hear their false promises. If you aren’t a coder, you are still stuck with someone else’s decisions.
Sometimes it works out okay. Sometimes a major element in the Open Source system of computer software development will listen when you say something makes you unhappy. Mostly they will not, but that’s the way it goes, since you aren’t paying for it. You most certainly can, and folks often do, pay someone a small amount to code a feature you like. It’s called “bounties.” Then again, some projects are hijacked by real jack-asses, like the GNOME Project. Years ago they voiced a sort of low-level hostility to user input. These days, it’s pretty overt, and downright ugly. You can get a taste of it by reading the comments to this blog post. It’s not as if to say you are stupid if you like GNOME and the current development trends. But if you do like it, count your blessings. If you don’t like it, you are out of luck. The GNOME developers have decided they know what you want, and if you happen to forget, they will quickly remind you that you don’t know what you want.
Some say the KDE Project folks, representing the primary alternative to GNOME, are listening. By comparison, they are, but on the broader scope, they are not. They consider you some kind of software pervert if you still think the previous series was better, but they won’t try to call the software police on you. It’s a friendlier grade of arrogance.
This is showing up in a great many projects. The old line coders were cranky at times, and might provoke you with ugly words, castigating you publicly in some online forum. The new generation carries an Uzi and grenades, and come looking for you if you happen to mention there might be something less than perfect with their software ideas. (Yes, a little hyperbole is good for the soul.)
If you go with commercial software, you have someone paying the jerk coders to build what sells and makes money. In Open Source, you have jerk coders doing what they please, coding to suit themselves. The coders who don’t happen to be jerks are so few, they are remarkable. Either way, no one actually codes for you. The commercial guys will sell your information and privacy for a quick buck, and won’t hesitate to create backdoors for their own convenience. They are quick to make all your investment in software obsolete, forcing you to upgrade or go with some competitor’s equally expensive and incompatible offerings. Migrate your data? They’ll sell you an extra package at a high price for that, and it might even work. All the good ethical software companies were bought out long ago.
So the point is this: Today you are either exploited for a profit or suckered for bragging rights. You can buy something developed to please a slimy marketer, or something developed to please no one but the arrogant developers. It’s not that nobody cares what you want; everyone is hostile to what you want. The white knights are so few, so rare, they are quickly destroyed by the other two groups. You can either pay lots of money for an individualized product, or pay the price of learning to make your own, in which case you don’t really need what someone else is offering. Becoming a developer these days is so very all-consuming just to get involved, you can’t do much of it as a hobby. The barriers are quite high.
As user, you don’t have any friends when it comes to computers.