Chill Pill

Many of you will know my general policy for not getting involved in flame-wars and I was not going to comment on this story, but I just wanted to share a few words.

Of course, the story is saddening: a woman bought a computer to do her classwork, it contained Ubuntu, and her expectations were not matched. Thus developed frustration and annoyance with the things that she wanted to do that she couldn’t do. That is both frustrating for her and for us. Fortunately, as we continue to work hard to improve Ubuntu, these problems will be resolved in time, but you know what…life happens…and Ubuntu doesn’t always work for everyone. We just need to learn, move on and improve in that area in the future. Problems are merely opportunities to do better next time: our OS is young, and there is plenty of time for us to rub off the rough edges. These may not be rough technical edges: in this story the problem seems to have been in the hands of setting expectations around the technology, be it in Ubuntu or with the hardware provider.

What saddens me more is the attitude of some members of our community. Some were rude, derogatory and in some cases offensive to the woman in question. Unfortunately, in some cases vitriol replaced reason in some commentators.

Our community is one built on communication. It is how we share ideas and problems and their respective implementations and solution. Communication is the river that flows inside our own community and out to our users. When we compromise our communication, we compromise our community.

There is simply no excuse to be rude and offensive, and when someone paints Ubuntu in a bad light, it doesn’t justify it This is not about “unbelievers” or “freedom haters”, it is about basic respect. Sure, it is annoying when people rag on Ubuntu, and in some cases even inaccurate. What is worse is to insult our users: irrespective of their actions. Not everyone is well versed in Ubuntu, its capabilities and what it can provide. Not everyone knows how to navigate our desktop, and people are going to make mistakes that many of us would be embarrassed to make. Irrespective of the criticism or carping, we are made of strong stuff. Lets take the criticism and instead use our efforts to fix problems and make Ubuntu better for everyone.

I am so proud of everything we are doing in our community, but these kinds of situations let the side down. We all get frustrated, but lets keep the positive energy flowing, and continue to kick arse and take names at every possible opportunity. :)

  • jaduncan

    And so it ties back into what the Ubuntu ethos is: humanity. It is not a story of a freedom hater (especially since she purchased the freedom here!), it is an unusually reported usability bug. As such, upstream, Dell and Ubuntu would do well to look at what broke for the person in question, and if we can fix it to help both her and others with the same problem.

    I think that some members of the community tend to be somewhat hyper-defensive where a friendly word would be more likely to win people over. Politeness and humanity are, aside from being more respectful in general, more likely to result in good quality feedback that helps both build a good reputation and to avoid the problems cropping up for others in the future. It’s an almost unalloyed good.

    tl;dr: Effective evangalism!=zealotry.

  • jcikey.

    Hi Jono,

    after a lot of time and effort (4+ years) that I’ve spent to teach the approach of “listen and learn” instead of “speak with your heart” (or any other part of the body where the sun does not shine) to new users, i’ve decided to take the “shut up and listen (then learn and teach)” approach with other users.

    Hell, even on a MS v/s Linux conference recently, I heard some (gargantuan) misconceptions about driver wrappers and how they work. (That fanboy had to read ndiswrapper source code to get the idea how things work).

    I always believed that communication is not what is lacking in the community to get opinions that are worth. It’s misinformation, misshaped opinions, lots of misguided people (that make more hurt than good to the movement, called “fanboys”), and some other group who take things personal instead of helping others (say “KDE/GNOME is better than GNOME/KDE because it is”, pick your poison). Those people just see their small shaped world but don’t believe that we’re all in this together. They don’t even understand the words “community” or sharing.

    There’s an excellent quote for this: “stop, collaborate and listen”. Yeah, it’s Vanilla Ice. Makes an excellent example for this.

    What makes me sad is the horde of people that bashes everything that is against Linux/Ubuntu/MS/pickpoison just because. In the floss world, everything needs improvement, and it’s the people who use it that is responsible for its quality. If not, then who?

    I’m just waiting for the right message to be delivered…

    Kind regards, and keep the AWESUM work. –j

  • Joseph James Frantz

    Uh huh. And you think this conduct is UNUSUAL in your community? How many incidents like this is it going to take to wake you people up to your own prejudices. Ubunteros pull this kind of stuff all the time. Go sit in the chat rooms, under an ASSUMED name sometime. Talk like a AVERAGE person. Blog about something CONSERVATIVE. Dare say ONE cuss word. Watch the hordes flock.

    And to top it off Ubuntu the OS is getting worse. This type of conduct was tolerable when the OS at least was good. Now you people can balk no excuse.

  • jci

    @joseph : that was exactly my point. There are a lot of examples of this same behaviour (one of them that I really make as an example was the letter from a teacher to a guy that was making “free software” and calling him names and making his work look illegal. (the guy never revealed the teacher’s name, and that’s a valuable point) : there could be a lot of zealots trying to crucify her for her words. That was ignorance in her case. And, of course, taking things heart-driven, instead of brain-driven.

    Who gets the worst publicity? FLOSS users. That should be stopped once and for all (bad promotion “thanks” to fanboys).

    Take care,y’all, –j

    (BTW : Jono, the book you’re writing, CAN I HAS SPANISH TRANSLASHUN? If there’s no translation yet, ping me. I’d be glad to help)

  • jono

    Hi Joseph,

    How many incidents like this is it going to take to wake you people up to your own prejudices. Ubunteros pull this kind of stuff all the time.

    I don’t deny that these things happen, but you seem to think they happen more. What do you feel we can do to improve the situation?

    And to top it off Ubuntu the OS is getting worse. This type of conduct was tolerable when the OS at least was good. Now you people can balk no excuse.

    Which specific things? Did you file bugs for the things that screwed up? If you did we can try and fix them. Or, is it the direction we are taking that is wrong?

  • jono

    Hi JCI,

    (BTW : Jono, the book you’re writing, CAN I HAS SPANISH TRANSLASHUN? If there’s no translation yet, ping me. I’d be glad to help)

    I would love to talk translations when it is done. :)

    Keep an eye on the Art Of Community site for more updates. :)

  • John Gill

    Note that there it wasn’t universally bad news for Ubuntu on this story, see this follow up from the author:

    Someone in the community took the time to do the right thing in all this.

  • ethana2

    That’s awesome!

    Thanks for posting that.

  • Damon Lynch

    Hi Jono,

    I strongly support your message of constructively channeling our energies into solutions. It’s wise. No less than Mahatma Gandhi said “I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world.”

    Keep up the great work.


  • Martin Pihl

    Yeah, it was sad to see the reactions of the community. And actually, because of the strong reactions, several new articles emerged writing about the reactions. It really has the opposite effect when you attack someone or something negatively.

    Actually I saw this unfortunate story as a opportunity to say to our local media, that I was pleased to see that they would bring a story every time Windows breaks down so students or other losses important documents.

    If they can bring a story about Ubuntu being at fault of something like that, medias should bring similar stories about Windows in similar situation. :-)

  • Florian

    Hi Jono,

    this message about the young woman and her Dell notebook is even in germany noted. It’s trully sad. And it’s even more sad that these women don’t get any help from the community.

    I understand what you mean when you say, people who don’t like ubuntu or can’t work with this os aren’t freedom haters. Ubuntu users should understand that we have several different operating systems. And we have, thank god, the chance to choose. If some tries ubuntu and goes back to windows, because he can’t work with ubuntu, it’s ok in my opinion. The same is with OS X, mostly people like the design of the hard- and software but can’t work with an unix bases system.

    Ubuntu, the community and all the supporters do a great job. Ubuntu is fresh, young and it’s have still a long way to go, to become an easy to use and good looking os, for everyone.

    Community is the way to have success. I love Ubuntu and wish all the best for this project!

    Maybe we read in some years about a young woman who bought a notebook with windows instead of ubuntu and she wasn’t able to use it … 😉

  • Catharina

    Well I don’t want to say that people in the Ubuntu community can not be rude – some certainly can and it needs attention – but I do have a hard time to believe this story really happened as it is told.

    First of all it is near to impossible to find an Ubuntu laptop on Dell’s page if you never heard of it. It is actually very hard if you have heard of it..

    Second: dropping out of college seems a bit extreme.Why did she not install Windows on it or try and sell the laptop and buy another one?

  • Worst case | Simpel

    […] the way, there’s is an very interesting article on Jono Bacon’s blog. It’s about the young woman who bought a Dell notebook with a […]

  • Kyran

    Great blog post! Well written and to the point.

  • Christoph Burgdorf

    Thank you for blogging this. You do such an incredible work as an community manager and I just have to say I love the way you always try to work out and resolve things. Keep it up!

  • Mackenzie

    While I agree that finding an Ubuntu laptop without knowing that the url is is nearly impossible, she was told by Dell that they’d void her warranty if she installed Windows.

  • Mackenzie

    Oh, and my thinking was “what, they don’t have libraries in your city?”

  • Mackenzie

    Sounds like what would happen if my mom got a Windows computer…

  • Ean Schuessler

    Well, at least Debianers are up front about being rude, flame-prone gear heads. I guess excellence is our excuse. Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.

  • seb


    one thing which bothered me the most after upgrading from hardy to intrepid where the regressions. Things that work and after upgrading stop working are a nuisance. (btw there are bugs for them)


  • Matthew Smith

    The problem is that the press will always pick up on the bad aspects of a story, because no news is good news and “woman can’t use her computer and someone helps her” isn’t a story. I know this from some of the demonstrations I’ve been to over recent years: some idiots doing some damage (as in Kensington a couple of weekends ago) or shouting offensive slogans get all the publicity, even if they were a small group of known troublemakers who were not part of the original demo.

    It seems that she has been misinformed all the way down the line, but I do think Dell may be partly at fault here. I’ve just looked at their US website, and you can just pick Ubuntu or FreeDOS from the product selector on the left-hand side, and the Ubuntu laptops which come up are all netbooks and are all either $30 or $50 cheaper than the equivalent Windows XP ones. (Why they allow FreeDOS is beyond me – that is an even bigger recipe for disaster if someone who doesn’t know anything other than that it costs less gets one with that on it, although I suppose it’s good for someone who wants Linux but not Ubuntu.) In the UK, the Dell Linux machines are tucked away in a corner of their site, although Linux netbooks are readily available elsewhere.

    Could someone have just gone and helped this lady get set up? Was it a case of Linux being incompatible with her hardware or her network equpiment? (That is a long-running problem, which I remember from the days of dial-up connections and “winmodems” and the old Alcatel Frog.) If you have a standard broadband connection and a router, Linux will work very well; if you have anything else, you might come unstuck.

  • Matthew Smith

    Mackenzie, Ubuntu netbooks (and a $429 Ubuntu desktop with a Pentium DC processor) are readily available, you just have to click Ubuntu on the product selector on the left-hand side of their page after you’ve selected desktop or laptop from the drop-down menu. They are also cheaper than the Windows XP models. None of that is true in the UK, where Linux models have their own section of the Dell website, which is not easy to find.

    The bit about the warranty is surprising, since in this country, Dell are one of the few companies which openly state that their warranty is not void if you install Linux (let alone Windows).

  • teb

    well said. humanity to others.

  • Joseph James Frantz


  • Sajid Iqbal

    This wasn’t a big issue but cooked by media. Response of some of the Ubuntu community members is really saddening.