Cartoon people carrying a load together

There are two kinds of people.

The first kind know a lot but don't seem capable to put much of their great knowledge to good use.

The other kind may not know an awful lot, but whatever little they know they are quick to put to concrete use.

 Try if you can to belong to this second category, you will usually put useful things together quite rapidly, even if a bit rough on the edge, and sooner or later there will always be someone to give you plenty of free advice which, after sorting out, will help perfect your project in the end.

 The great thing about the FOSS movement is the immense opportunity for contributions at all level of expertise.

If GNU/Linux aficionados sometimes have the bad reputation of being short tempered with 'newbies', it should be noted that their impatience is usually directed at obnoxious individuals who expect the sort of personal attention and spoon-feeding that accompanies dearly paid commercial grade support for a product --let's not forget-- that they merely got for 'free' (as in 'free beer'). Being a newcomer in FOSS is not necessarily a stigma, but being a demanding free rider will certainly be frown upon.

In fact a newcomer that tries to contribute back to the best of his ability, for example through helpful posting on a support forum (there is always newer than you), or through translation, donation, or whatever he is capable of, will always be treated with respect and will quickly be accepted into the 'club'.

To me, that was by far the most attractive facet of GNU/Linux, the whole underlying concept that it is built on free-will sharing and contributions. Here we are in the 21th century, in a modern civilization where many would contend that the evil of individualism and selfishness has reached its paroxysm. Yet, in the domain of computer science which pervades all areas of our lives today and is undoubtedly at the pinnacle of man's achievement, some folks are passionately cooperating in a fashion which is not without utopic reminiscence of the late 60's.

Maybe there is hope after all.

In a world which witnessed the demise of communism and is now suffering from what may (hopefully) be the last convulsions of capitalism, it is quite fascinating to see that GNU/Linux succeeds in combining what seems to be the opposite prime attributes of both systems.

One of the most powerful motor behind the new projects that constantly bubble to the surface of FOSS brewing pot is the 'Scratch Your Own Itch' syndrome, in other words a lone individual develops in his little corner a particular solution for a specific problem that he faces. At this point , there is not much altruism in that initial process. There is nothing particularly altruist either when he publishes his solution on the Web in a playful boasting "Hey guys.... look what I did!" manner. What is unselfish however is to choose to do so under the GPL license and allow others to also play with his 'toy' if they so wish.

If such an initiative happens to fill a gap and actually does answer a real need faced by a greater audience, a community will usually form around to help it mature into a perennial project. Everyone will contribute mainly for the great fun and personal satisfaction it feels to create something 'important' together in the most altruist way.

Passion is certainly a big part of the equation and helps explain why GNU/Linux is also sometimes the theater of heated debate among some of its key actors. Passion also accounts for the evangelistic zealots who will try to convince you to embrace 'their distro' with a quasi religious fervor. This topic is vast and will probably warrant another article on its own. Let's just say that it can be quite bewildering at first.

So if you just recently discovered the amazing, creative, vibrant, contradictory and very human world of GNU/Linux and you wish to bring your own stone to the edifice, you are most welcome. Even if you feel that you don't know very much yet, don't hesitate. So long as you truly want to help, whatever you do with what you know will be useful to someone else. There will always be room for your contributions.


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