Why we do the things we do

I am eating shit from zealots of all OSes (windows, osx, linux, bsd, beos etc) for over 6 years now because I speak my mind on my blog or on editorials and comments on osnews (and back in the day, on benews). Readers can not comprehend that editors actually have opinions, and strong opinions at that. I became infamous mostly in the BeOS and Linux community because I kept writing and saying things the way I see them: as raw as I could. People prefer editors to be politically correct and to wrap anything bad they have to say in sugar. But that’s not me. So after a few years (as I have blogged in the past about it in detail) I got burned out and left OSNews (I only contribute occassionally for the past 1.5 years).

Now that Thom got my place, he gets all the shit in the world instead of me. While we don’t always agree on everything with Thom, he reminded me of myself in many levels. Always ready for a good fight, and also ready to protect his opinion. He is able to see clearly about some things in the industry, and I liked that. So, I gave him the job. Now he is being accused of “being anti-Linux” (while he is using Linux as his main OS daily), of being “anti-Mac” (after having owned two Macs), of “being anti-gnome” (don’t forget that I am the maintainer of gnomefiles.org), or “being writing controversial articles in order to drive ad revenue” (while no one gets paid on osnews). Thom gets exactly what I was getting for years. I don’t know for how long he will last this war towards him, a war by people who don’t want their lovely world get shuttered by some editor of a news site. They will close their eyes and live in the bliss of whatever they believe in, and they will fight with all their strength so their Utopian world never gets destroyed, or other potential new OS users who might be reading Thom’s opinions don’t get baffled. These people want to preserve the status quo, while we want to shake it.

Someone might ask, if you know that you will get all this shit from people, why do you keep writing controversial editorials? Well, I don’t know about Thom, but here is why I do it:

1. I have strong opinions about things and I feel like expressing them when I know I am right about some things. OSNews has a special section called “Editorials”, where EVERYONE (not just the editors) can submit long opinion articles for publication. We have published many controversial articles over the years written by readers, sometimes articles that we, the editors, didn’t really agree with. But we did so anyway because that’s why the section exists.

2. Because I am a perfectionist. Where people see a “great Gnome/kde/osx/vista desktop”, I see an unpolished and unintegrated desktop. I want things to work out of the box, I want things to work well, and I want to find the feature I need exactly where I expect it to find it. No, I am not a feature creep, neither I don’t understand how OSS works, but the point remains, I am a perfectionist when it comes to software. Bugs, ugliness, usability issues, driver issues etc are IRKING me beyond belief. In fact, I might start shouting how BAD a software is, and forget to write its good points. Not because I am biased against it, but because the bad points OVERWHELM me as a user. This is the reason why in the last year I only care about gadgets and not OSes (I don’t give a shit about OSes anymore — I have never experienced recent Vista builds for example and I never installed the betas Apple sent me). Gadgets are aimed towards Joe/Jane User and therefore they have a very strong sense of usability, plus they are simpler, and so applying usability standards and bug fixing is easier. So I prefer using a phone that works well — as I expect it to– rather than using a complex OS/desktop that has a garabazillion bugs and usability issues in it.

3. Because hopefully, the article will create such a stir, that usually the developers eventually LISTEN and they fix the things we shout about. This has happened again and again and again the last few years via my reviews and editorials. Developers will just shrug off my bug reports, I will just burn them alive publicly, and what do you know: next day they have the feature implemented or the bug fixed. I can do that, so I do it — if that’s what it takes to get their damn asses moving. Immoral you say? Not at all!

4. Because being infamous is more fun than being famous. I don’t want to be “popular”, I want to think different instead and always try to see the big picture on things.

I stand by my opinions 100%, even if I don’t have the ability to express myself in English as well as other bloggers or journalists do. This has created a lot of misunderstandings over the years, but the funny thing is that when I usually got face to face with some people that were violently disagreed with my articles, we actually found that we… agreed!

Post a comment »

Thom Holwerda wrote on December 24th, 2006 at 10:01 AM PST:

My reasons are mainly that when I want to say something, I’ll say it. Even in private circles (with friends, family, etc.) I’m known for just saying everything that’s on my mind out loud (”Did I really say that out loud?”). Whether it be politics, music, other people (I love that), or software; when something sucks, I want to tell people that (this is dangerous too, it won’t be the first time I’m completely burning someone down while in fact he or she is standing right behind me…).

There’s one other hypocritical points you need to mention. Somehow, editors are not allowed to say certain things or use certain words. For instance, it is okay for GNOME/KDE developers to refer to 3.0/4 in a positive context for hours on end (esp. the KDE guys), but as soon as I use that same designation in a negative context, I am not allowed to do so, because version numbers mean nothing etc. etc.

Another thing is that developers are somehow allowed to be very rude, but us editors must remain calm and docile at all times. For instance, I was unnerved by Aaron Seigo’s personal attacks, but knew were I to use the same kind of personal attacks I would have been the bad guy– no matter how extremely eloquent my original article was (compared to Seigo’s, that is). Seigo sort of apologised in the comments’ section of the follow up article, so no hard feelings or anything.

Luckily, when I close my laptop’s lid, I forget all about the computing world. I’m a guy, and guys can only handle one thing at a time (men cannot multitask), so when the laptop’s out of sight, it’s out of the heart.


Alastair M wrote on December 26th, 2006 at 12:39 PM PST:

Am one of many many folk on OSNEWS to appreciate the sense of balance you guys have brought to the site.

As a punter I often take the choice not to shout down the trolls/ fools/ nutcases out there; I fully respect you guys don’t always have the same options.

Finally I appreciate the mid-pond nature of the site which gives a better range of viewpoints and improves the debate.


Dave E wrote on December 28th, 2006 at 8:57 AM PST:

I was always grateful for your opinions, and took them as what they were: opinions. Well thought out, fact-based, reasoned opinions but opinions nonetheless. It is very handy to have perfectionists around to be editorialists. If I were giving a review I would very easily forget or ignore the little things that bug me and just say, “Meh, it is good enough.” or not.

Thanks to you and Thom for your immense work on osnews. It continues to be a great news site.


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