Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Winning by Not Competing at all

When I was very young, I used to fight with my younger brother. Well, from my point of view, he used to fight with me.  I probably egged him on in some way that I don't remember now. I do remember being really frustrated because he would not leave me alone!

The point is that at some point he would get so riled up that he would dive bomb me, we wrestle to the ground and I'd proceed to pin him down till he gave up. I was two years older, and even as adults I was always taller and weighed more. of course he became a Marine, but fortunately we didn't fight anymore by then :)

One day, after being made to give in, he went to my mother and complained about the fact that I had been in a fight with him, and mom told him that if he didn't want to fight, he didn't have to. He could just walk away. After he said that he couldn't and that she just didn't understand, and he left the room, she also told me the same thing. That I was older and stronger and that while he was the one picking the fights, I did not have to fight back. 

I then proceeded to drive my brother nuts, because I realized she was right. I did not care about the things he cared about, and I did not want to fight. I always felt a little sick about the fights. Even though I won, I did not enjoy it. Part of it was knowing that they were not fair of course, and kids have a built in fairness meter. But I did not enjoy the violence of them. I know some folks get into that kind of thing, but it is "not my bag, baby". My daughter has been watching Austin Powers again....

How I drove my brother nuts was that I did exactly what my mom said. I quit competing. I started working on my inner geek, while he was off trying to figure out why I didn't engage anymore. 

This is why Linux makes MS nuts.

Linux / Open Source et al does not compete with MS. They don't care about the issues MS cares about. Sure there are certain corners of the Linux world... even entire distros that try to compete with MS, but at the end of the day Linux/OpenSource (L/OS) is about whatever they are interested in. 

Where MS is in part about things like Digital Rights Management and piracy of their code and the like, L/OS could collectively not care less. The very beginning of Linux is a microcosm of the whole thing: Linus Torvalds needed an OS for something at school, and so he wrote one.

People that take their own precious time and talent and create open source are also a breed apart. For many, it is about the code, and the act of creation, and the filling of a need, not about being contract programmers writing code they could care less about.

Linux and Open Source end up getting better and better, and doing more and more because they are not competing with anyone. Only themselves.

I watch few competitive sports. Really, I do not understand why I should care if the green team or the blue team put the ball/widget/thingie in a special place more often than the other team did.

The sports I do watch are things like snow skiing at the Winter Olympics. I ski... I used to anyway, and all skiing for me was about getting a little better at it every time I went. I knew I would never be great (I started at age 29...) but I always felt great after a day on the mountain where I had learned a new thing. I watch the Olympics in admiration of these people that are just so good at this. I don't really care who wins. I just like to watch.

Linux and Open Source will always be better because at the end of the day, it is not trying to be anything other than the best it can be. 

Just like Mom said.


Anonymous said...

So true. I expect that MS will always exist... but I hope that it becomes irrelevant to me.

I prefer to use, recommend and support open source apps whenever possible.

mangouste06 said...

The no-offensive fight is also the core theme of lots of east asian compbat sports, beginning with kungfu, obviously.

I really like this analyse.

Anonymous said...


I watch few competitive sports. Really, I do not understand why I should care if the green team [or] the blue team put the ball/widget/thingie in a special place more often than the other team did.

Anonymous said...

Hi there!

Your story remind me one of Bruce Lee's movies, "Enter The Dragon", if my memory serves me.

The exchange went something like this:

Trouble-seeker: What's your style?
Bruce Lee: My style?
Trouble-seeker: Yeah, your style.
Bruce Lee: It's called "The Art of Fighting Without Fighting"


Linus himself had said that he has no interest in winning or fighting over Microsoft. That has never been his goal.

So Linux will continue to be recognized world wide as a very usable platform for developments of great products and services in the next decade and beyond.

Considering the rising cost of both hardware and software requirements to run Microsoft products and the not so *WoW* release of Windows Vista, it's just a matter of time before Linux become the familiar name in a store near you.

I predict it will be 5 years from now. Maybe sooner! :)

Steve Carl said...

Thanks: Fixed the typo!

Re: MS always existing: Yes, I am not predicting their demise, now or in the foreseeable future. I am not even really concerned about whether or not they do. MS is not a factor in my personal life.

What may be more interesting in that regard is that I used to be an MS user and proponent. A number of my family got MS Windows systems because they knew I would support it. Now... not so much. I just fixed a couple this weekend for my wife's parents, so it is hardly an absolute rule that I wil not work on MS Windows anymore. It is just not my preference, or even in the top two or three OS's I would choose anymore.

Re: the no-offense fight: Interesting. I did not really have that in mind when I wrote it, but that is appropriate as a way to look at it. I used a fighting analogy, but in another way of looking at it, it is not a fight at all. I kind of had a mental image of Gandhi though.

Linux is just better because it has no agenda other than being the best OS it knows how to be. With no agenda, it is not playing by the rules of the competitive marketplace. Sure, it is used in the selfsame marketplace, and as a way to compete against MS, but that is done by individuals or companies with an agenda, and who are using Linux / Open Source to meet their ends.

Because of the way open source works, that competitive energy and contribution is funneled back into the greater whole if it is worth anything. It is left out if it is not, or perhaps duplicates something already there.

Beating anyone at anything is not the global goal of Linux / Open Source. And that is why they/it will ultimately win.

Parameshwara said...

a good read.

Always in the back of my mind I have felt the way of Linux/OSS represents some of the greatest social and philosophical beliefs.Only thing is,it is not expressed in those terms.

To give an example,socialism at it's core is,'give what you can and take what is available'-a comunity free of ownership.Linux/OSS is a living testimony of this,but not enforced by a cruel communist authority.

Parameshwara Bhat