Justin Li


Characteristics of Free Software Users

2008-01-17

This article was in my RSS feed a few days ago, and while it talks about free software users (of which I definitely am one; the only non-free software on my computer right now is Acrobat Reader, Java), it also reminded me of the conversation about whether being a computer scientist changes the way I think.

Of the 9 characteristics, I found the following 4 to be the most true:

I wonder, however, if it is the usage of free software which creates these characteristics in people, or if they were here to begin with.

The first two points go together; to work the way we choose we need to have control of the system. This I find might be a consequence of using free software. Before I started using Linux, I was not as particular about the system I'm using. I did write Konfabulator widgets to make life easier, but that was the only major modification I made to the system. Compared to how I make my own Flubox themes and heavily mod Firefox, those widgets were only minor configurations. I now get easily annoyed when I have to run the command line to get the uptime of my laptop in Windows (I use conky for Linux). Picky.

For the third point, that free software people like to explore, I think that might be a personality trait before using free software. The very fact that they are users indicate that they are looking for alternatives, since no software is bundled with Windows or Macs. I've always had broad interests, and have been (and tried to be more so lately) a curious child. I think that counts as exploring.

Finally, that free software users expect to help themselves... I'm not sure. Part of helping themselves is trying new things and exploring, which is covered by the third point. Another part of it, however, might be that it is so much easier (more central, if not more common) to find help for open source software. I don't know which one caused which.

I do think all of these are good traits though.

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