The Inconsequentiality of Open Source

By Timothy R. Butler | Posted at 12:02 AM
Reading the title of the piece, I am sure you are wondering if I am out of my mind. With Open for Business being a site for those interested in adopting Free Software/Open Source in the enterprise, you would not expect me to claim that this sector is inconsequential. Unlike the way it sounds however, this piece is not written to argue against Open Source. Instead, this piece is meant to consider something much more critical. One year ago today, we were reminded how short life can be. In essence, we were reminded how unimportant Free Software - or any software, for that matter - truly is. Suddenly whether Red Hat Linux was better then SuSE Linux became a small detail compared to the loss of life that had just occurred. As thousands of people from around the world perished that fateful day, something much more important was fixed in our consciousness as a community and a world.

A year later, things have pretty much returned to normal; the tone in the GNU/Linux community is again focused on issues such as the distributions, patents, and Microsoft. Clearly these are all very important things, and they should not be ignored, yet I wonder if we might take them a bit too seriously. Are these issues really as big as we make them out to be?

Does it really matter whether GNOME or KDE is more popular? Looking into the future, in twenty years that issue will probably be all but forgotten. Yet right now, many people spend countless hours defending the "honor" of their desktop, or distribution, or whatever else it may be. I'll admit that yours truly is as guilty of this as anyone else.

Reflecting on it however, I wonder why anyone - why I - waste time on such trivial things. Who cares if I get the last word on why I think one distribution is better than another one? If I knew I was going to collide into a Pennsylvania plain tomorrow, would I spend my time doing that still? Most likely not.

At the cost of waxing philosophical, I think we should take this opportunity to look at ourselves as a community and consider this point. I am not suggesting that we spend our days wondering when something bad might happen to us, no just the opposite! Next time there is a flamewar raging on, perhaps we should stop and just realize we are fortunate to be here and able to discuss and debate. Perhaps it is time we carpe diem - seize the day - that God has given us.

In closing, we at Open for Business would like to say our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and friends of the victims from last year's attack. Further more, we thank the many brave and heroic firefighters, police officers, and other people who lost their lives last September trying to help others. We will not forget you.

UPDATE (2002/9/11 23:16 EDT): Some have questioned this article over the last day, suggesting that I thought there was nothing beyond software and computers before last year. This was not what I was trying to suggest, nor what I thought. Rather I was suggesting that I, like others, simply get wrapped up in the community at times. That was the point I was aiming at - just a small reminder of what pretty much everyone already knows, but sometimes forgets.

Timothy R. Butler is Editor-in-Chief of Open for Business. You can reach him at tbutler@uninetsolutions. com.