UKUUG: Not Fired for Buying Linux? Quirks of Open Source Adopters' worldviews

My notes and some comments on Andrew Nicolsons presentation Not Fired for Buying Linux? Quirks of Open Source Adopters’ worldviews

Throughout his session, Andrew did not work with slides displayed to the audience. His talk was mainly a caleidoscope of good ideas and criticism.

He started with some questions addressing the audience, the funniest one: “Who wears a dress at his working place?”

Andrew continued analysing who is actually looking at the adoption of FOSS. It’s mainly the media, he said, that presents case studies, articles, interviews, etc.; but, you usually don’t hear about people who did not go for it.

Moving on to discuss the term “computer users”, he doubted the usefulness of this term. He brought up an anology: “Although managers talk a lot, we don’t call them talkers; allthough politicians shake a lot of hands, we don’t call them shakers – but computer users are called computer users because they use the computer.”

Decisions on migrating to Linux, Andrew said, sustaine the myth of rational decision making, which is a masculin approach to decision making. In general, Andrew is a constructivist thinker when he says that a decision is made first, afterwards we piece the evidence together to make our decision defencable.

Software is created socially, in discourses, speech, text and works with conecpts, networks of concepts, theories.

His MBA research is based on some migration examples:
– the city of nottingham that moved to a SuSe email system
– a school that moved to OpenOffice
– Unilever, that decided upon a 5 year plan migrating to linux
– the west yorkshire police

The result is that he detected classical structures of fairy tales and naratives in those migration stories: There’s 1. a problem/crisis, 2. a hero, 3. a solution (linux, the “magic tool”). Andrew explained that the story makes the teller look good and is deeply deep rooted in a traditional conceptional framework/structure. It all comes down to the phrase “we lived happily ever after”.

Having a closer look at the actors in the migration narratives, he enjoyed interviews with employees of the West Yorkshire Police, stating “TV cliches” like “tax payers money”, “I am a responsible police man”.

One more interesting point when looking at the migration stories is that on the one hand, FOSS is presented as something new and different, on the other hand, its similarity is stressed (e.g. between MS Word and OpenOffice).

Andrew adviced the audience to consider that it might not be a good argument that Linux helps companies in saving money, because the power of a manager is bound to the budget of his department. The more money he (can) spends, the more power he has.

At the end of Andrews superb talk, I asked myself, what’s the essence of his statements? Is there nothing new under the sun, even with FOSS, or does it essentially make a difference?

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