From the Publisher - Ten Years of <citetitle>Linux Journal</citetitle>

They said he was crazy when he asked about device driver support. But look at Linux now.
What We Did Right (and Wrong)

When Irene Pasternack and I started SSC about 20 years ago, we knew we would be doing computer-related documentation and training, but we needed to focus better than that. After discussing this, we decided the important thing that would make us different from everyone else was we would create only products we wanted for ourselves.

We weren't perfect, and every now and then we would get a brilliant idea and forget to check it against this criteria. For example, we did three MS-DOS Reference Cards. Bottom line: we sold about 5,000 of them, while we sold more like 500,000 vi Reference Cards.

Starting LJ was one of those things we wanted for ourselves. We had been running UNIX, but it looked like Linux was what we needed. We started the magazine and made the switch pretty much at the same time and have never looked back. We still do layout using Quark XPress on a non-Linux system, but Scribus is looking pretty good now, so we could be an all-Linux shop in the near future.

Once we started doing LJ, things have fallen into place a lot better than ever before. Here are a few of those magic happenings:

  • I knew Doc Searls' wife before they were married, in fact, before he knew her. Doc became part of LJ because Joyce convinced him that I seemed to be on to something.

  • Right after Doc wrote the Cluetrain Manifesto, he got e-mail from Dawn Smith. She told him she really liked the book and if he was ever in Costa Rica....He wrote back telling her that his publisher at LJ had just been to Costa Rica. Dawn told him that her husband recently had been working with Linux. Today, Willy Smith, Dawn's husband, works for us.

  • Back when I was starting SSC I worked for a company that did point-of-sale systems for gas stations. That's where I met Dan Wilder, who has been our head geek for the last few years.

I could go on and on here, but the important point I am trying to make is that with LJ, connections have just happened. Or, more accurately, when we let things happen in the Linux racket we seem to get the desired results.

Building a Community

Linux made me believe in community. I have worked in computers since 1968 and had a few other technical jobs when I was going to college. They were just that, jobs. I worked for a company that produced something it wanted to sell. You always had “the company” and “the customer”. With Linux, that paradigm changed.

At first there was no company. The latest Linux distribution was a box of home-brew floppies that were passed around at the Seattle Linux Users' Group meetings. We knew Linux was growing fast when we had two sets to loan out. I remember sending e-mail to Ted Ts'o about a problem I was having with the serial driver. I was somewhat timid, but his response included a new driver to test. It fixed the bug, and I realized that Linux was moving forward because we worked together.

The first time I met Linus Torvalds I saw what was behind that whole sense of community. It was at a party in Washington, DC. When Michael K. Johnson and I arrived, Linus was there along with a few other people who had contributed code to Linux. They were in a technical discussion about how something new should be implemented. What I saw was Linus treating these people as peers rather than trying to be the boss. To me, Linus is the ultimate manager. I mean, who else has been able to get thousands of employees, many of whom he has never even met, to work for free?

With Linux and Linux Journal, that community continued. We have authors who write because they want to write, readers who tell us that our ads are very useful to them and advertisers who ask us what we think our readers want to see. Sure, there is money changing hands (I haven't yet figured out how to get my staff to work for free), but much of that money is recycled within the Linux community.

World Domination

Linus coined the idea of World Domination after we had started Linux Journal. At first it sounded like a joke, but today, it sounds like a goal we will reach before LJ turns 20. But, again, looking at the world scene we see a much different picture than if we solely focus on the United States.

Initially, I thought it was a third-world issue that drove Linux penetration. That is, people here don't have the same amount of disposable income as those in the US, and therefore, they are more willing to listen to a solution than follow the marketing hype. But, Linux penetration in Europe is very significant; the same is true in Asia. Although I don't understand why, I think the United States will be the last country to take Linux seriously.

There are two ways we can move Linux forward in the marketplace. One is to continue to show the shortcomings of proprietary alternatives. The problem with this approach is you get into a “which is better” contest, and the people on the anti-Linux side have a lot more money than we do. Thus, it isn't an issue of being right but of getting everyone else to see you are right.

The other method is to just do it. That is, run Linux. Help others run Linux. When a business needs a solution, offer Linux. And, most important of all, when Linux doesn't do something that is needed, address it. We have an amazing base available and some amazing talent in the Linux community. It is time to run with what we have and reach that World Domination goal.


Phil Hughes