When I first heard about Free Software in 1998 I was mesmerized by it’s potential. Sure, back then the software was complex and some would argue ugly, but underneath the rough edges was a thing of beauty — the opportunity for people to come together to make new things, and anyone with the inclination and energy could take part. Back then our community was small and intimate. Most people seemed to know each other, and there was a tremendous sense of family within Free Software.
Things are quite different today: while the ethos has remained unchanged, Free Software and Open Source are popular concepts and terms, we have many comprehensive Free Software platforms, and our small community has now become a huge, sprawling, global community that has diversified; inspiring everyone to bring their gifts and their talents to the community.
So, why am I talking about this? I think these days it is easy for us to purely focus on the ones and zeros, the bugs and patches, the squabbles, the emails, and the challenges that face Free Software. While these things are part and parcel of our community, I worry sometimes that we forget the very human reasons why many of us got involved.
I was reminded of this last week. I was having a pretty shitty day, I had spent most of the day on the phone, I had oodles of email and TODO items to get though, and I was just feeling a bit tired and worn out. As my day came to end I saw a tweet show up on my desktop from someone who had just used Linux for the first time and was expressing how excited they were at exploring their new system. When I read it it took me right back to 1998 when I felt exactly the same way.
My take away from that day was that I think it is healthy for us to remind each other why we got involved in Free Software and Open Source, and I wanted to ask you all what attracted you, and what still attracts you to our community. To be frank — I don’t care which community you are in, whether it is Ubuntu, Red Hat, Solaris, GNOME, KDE, X, OpenStreetMap, whatever — I am more interested in the ethos which transcends the borders if these different communities.
So, why are you passionate about Free Software and Open Source?