"BSD Advocacy in a Linux-centric Environment" by Lou Rinaldi 27 May 1999
Nate Smith and I created The Connecticut Free Unix Group in late 1996. At the
time, there were no unix users' groups in the area, much less any dedicated to the free
unix variants. Thinking up the name was one of the most interesting parts of creating the
group. Both Nate and myself were decidedly against calling it a LUG (Linux Users'
Group) because we knew doing so would alienate BSD folk, and that was the absolute last
thing we wanted to do, both being avid BSD fans ourselves. Nate has since moved to
the west coast, but I am still flying the BSD flag whenever possible. Despite my
best efforts, there is a constant and nagging slide in the group's focus... toward
Linux. My goal with this article is to share a few methods that have worked for me
(and some that haven't), in hopes of helping other users' group leaders maintain a
Ridicule the uninitiated. Just because someone hasn't yet had exposure to BSD
doesn't mean they're necessarily against the prospect. Looking down your nose at
them will only deter their progress towards experimentation.
Encourage them! Relate your own introduction to BSD, and mention any difficulties you
had. Ease them into it, don't rush them. Point them to some informational
resources where they can go at their own pace.
Say "Linux" when what you're saying applies to any version of unix.
Semantics can be an ally, or your worst enemy.
Speak generically. Newbies often ask "How can I do [whatever] in Linux?"
Phrase your reply in a manner that indicates your answer applies to BSD as well.
You'd be surprised how such a subtle tactic can get the wheels turning.
Restrict the focus of advocacy-related activities to Linux.
Hold "equal opportunity events." If your group holds an Installfest, or a
similar event, make sure that the BSD's are represented just as prominently as
Linux. Sure, most new folks wanting an install are going to ask for Redhat. But by
lining Linux and BSD up side-by-side, you're showing that Linux isn't the only path to
choose. Make it clear to the attendees that they have a choice, and be ready to
answer questions such as "Why should I pick this? I've never heard of it. But
Redhat is all over the news." Having a plush daemon around doesn't hurt,
Perform presentations and/or demonstrations exclusively on Linux boxes.
Mix it up whenever you can. In fact, having two machines (one Linux, one BSD) and
doing the same demo on both, simultaneously, is a great idea. This way, people will
see that there's really not that big of a learning curve when taking the plunge into
BSD-land from a Linux background, which seems to be a very common misconception.