Time to Write About Something Besides Redmond

by Tom Adelstein

I plead guilty to past transgressions. So, call me a hypocrite if you will. I don't care anymore. I refuse to get stuck in the past because the present and the near future is fun.

Indulge if you will in recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images experienced as intrusive and distressing. The obsession with Microsoft in Open Software communities is excessive and unreasonable and a product of the mind. My only hope is that such thoughts, impulses, and, or images can be expunged by logic or reasoning, which is contrary to the notions in the psychiatric community.

I have a pretty good idea what transformed me. Toward the completion of "Linux System Administration" the world got intense. My friend and editor, Andy Oram, began pressing and pressing and pressing. The deadlines became untenable. For three months, I didn't sleep much, I didn't have a break, my best friend was Ethiopian coffee.

Bill and I turned in the final chapter and I felt a great sense of relief. In fact, I took a deep breath and sighed. Shortly afterward, I started getting e-mails from Andy; fix this, where's the image for figure 2-31, rewrite these two pages, reformat the template because it won't work in Framemaker.

That was intense - really intense. I turned everything requested by Andy back to him. He assured me we were finished. Shortly afterward, the next wave of demands made their way to my e-mail inbox. This time, the people in the production department began what seemed like a deluge of requests.

Andy assured me we were really done this time. But within a few weeks, we got 12 pdf files that my friend called galleys. After a decade or so of writing books, I knew about galleys. I thought the digital age of reason had eliminated the need for galleys. Not so, we had to read the book cover to cover and look for typos and errors of all sorts.

I turned my galleys back to Andy with the thought that something else would make its way back to me. But, Andy called and said that the book went into production. They began printing it.

I spent two years three months twenty one days and fourteen hours researching and writing that book. I felt like Forrest Gump when he decided to quit running.

I remember sitting on the sofa in the living area when a call came in from a close friend. He had some news about something Microsoft did with Novell. He seemed incensed about it. I remember my reaction vividly. I said, I don't care.

After installing numerous servers and getting OSS applications to play nice together I felt exhausted. The Open Source community has so many developers, I find it remarkable. But, projects where 98% of the volunteers develop leaves a wide gap in documentation. You can have all the wikis you want, but if people don't write in them, edit them, publish security problems and instructions for installing and using applications, then those wikis are useless.

Bill and I spent a majority of our time getting standard Open Source applications to work. Bill found bugs in the code and fixed them. I found errors in documentation and fixed those. We looked through mailing lists, archives, called and wrote friends and developers we didn't know. The documentation sucked.

I suppose in a state of pure exhaustion I realized the time had come to get our own house in order and forget about Microsoft. You know the old Alcoholics Anonymous saying about having the strength to change the things I can and accept the things I can't and the wisdom to know the difference.

If you can't write code and contribute in that way, then either learn to code, file real bug reports instead of feature requests, or write documentation. Otherwise, the state of Open Source will remain the same. We'll have plenty of developers and we'll miss Subject Matter Experts, documentation specialists, defect trackers, regression and performance testers, mailing list managers, sysops for Forums
and QA teams.

Redmond? So what. Let them do what they do. We need to do something other than write about all their transgressions - real or imagined.