I’m Not a Fan

Fandom is something that has never made sense to me. If a sport such as football interested me then I would play it. Being good at something is not a requirement for participation, in fact my observation is that amateurs who kick a ball around for fun (without even keeping score) appear to enjoy it more than professional players. Also there are a huge number of support roles, anyone who really wants to support a professional sports team can apply for work – a sports team is a medium size corporation and they have all manner of jobs available.

I have had a few people try to convince me that I am somehow missing out on an important experience by not attending sporting events. But the fact is that there is more than enough fandom in and around the computer industry, so if I was interested in fandom then I could get it without going anywhere near a stadium.

One of the advantages of the free software community is the minimal amount of fandom. There are many opposing opinions which get some degree of fan attention (EG GPL vs BSD license, Linux vs FreeBSD vs OpenBSD, and GNOME vs KDE). But this is smaller than it might be due to the fact that free software development and support are activities that tend to drag in everyone who has interest and skill. When you have been involved in software development or support it becomes difficult to sustain the level of prejudice that is required to be a real fan.

This is not to say that there is a lack of strong advocacy. When a project has received contributions from hundreds of people and support from thousands of others there will be a huge number of people who feel that they have some degree of ownership of the project and therefore react strongly when it is criticised. But I think that there is a vast difference between someone who defends a project that they have worked on and someone who merely barracks for a team that doesn’t include them.

I am continually disappointed by Microsoft fans. Anyone who really wants to support Microsoft knows where they can send their CV. I can’t understand why someone would want to barrack for a team that rejects them – such as people who are unable to get employed by MS but who are still fans.

In the free software community every person who contributes is a member of the team. That includes all contributions, a large portion of which do not include patches to source code.

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