on Jul 14, 2013
They say that to explain a joke is to ruin it. And to a certain extent, it’s not worth ruining a good joke for the sake of the stupid people. But after half a year of madness, I think I need to spoil the joke to save my sanity.
Back in January, I wrote this ridiculous comparison of Linux and Windows, where I took some of the annoying disadvantages of Windows and listed them as advantages. It was silly, absurd fun and if there was anything wrong with the post itself it might be that I made the satire too obvious. For crying out loud, it had images like THIS:
That’s hitting you over the head with the punchline for sure. But that’s fine. We all had a laugh and some people joined in on the joke, listing other Windows shortcomings as “features”. Then the fun ended and everybody moved on.
And then the crazy people showed up.
A few days after that post slid off the front page, it had gone quasi-viral and new readers began showing up. Linux users were reading the article and sharing it on forums and social networking whatnots. These new readers were reading it seriously, and then getting very angry about it. They began leaving bizarre, profanity-laden comments that flung hate and bile at me, the site, and Windows. I deleted the really vile ones because that’s how you run a good site, but if you go to page 2 of the comments you can get a feel for how people behaved. Basically, like this:
Wow is this guy for real!? This is probably one of the most retarded reviews of anything technical I have ever read. The issues this guy has is an absolute joke. I do use Windows, Linux, OSX and even Android regularly. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. This guy managed to miss on all of them. My sugestion would be to find something a bit simpler to review like music or tv shows where abnormal opinions are the norm.
Think about how hard it is to make this blunder. To leave an angry comment on this post you have to:
- Miss the humor in the silly events of the post, such as rebooting one computer to make up for the lack of rebooting on another, unrelated computer.
- Ignore the huge, ridiculous, and OBVIOUSLY photoshopped images that accompany the article.
- Overlook how everything positive listed about Windows was actually something really terrible.
- Scroll right past tons of comments that applaud or explain the joke.
You might be tempted to invoke Poe’s Law, suggesting that comments like these are from people trying to be funny. That’s certainly what I hoped at first, but that’s a really tough position to support. If these posts were going for ironic humor, then there should be something ironic about them. The above comment isn’t a parody of Linux users, since Linux users aren’t stereotypically known for talking like that. These comments aren’t “accidentally” praising one OS or insulting another. They’re just dumb and angry. I’ve even got a few emails over it. I think it’s safe to say that if someone is writing a private email then they’re clearly not trying to amuse the crowd.
Understand that this is the worst behavior I’ve seen on my site. I’ve started flamewars on all kinds of things over the years. Halo. Console wars. Casual vs. Hardcore. We’ve discussed Objectivism. We’ve talked about the housing crisis. We’ve had comment threads drift off into debates on programming languages, sexism, and religion. We’ve hit lots of hot-button topics and I have never seen a single group of people on this site behave with such irrational anger and vigorous stupidity.
I suppose it’s a credit to the operating system itself if drooling imbeciles like these can make use of it, but still. I’m a nominal Linux user myself. I use Windows more than Linux, but since I’m a videogame pundit that’s sort of unavoidable. I was lucky enough to have some smart, patient people there to help me along while I was learning my way around Ubuntu (and later, Mint) and trying to figure out how to make it all work. My wife and my friends were there to answer questions so I didn’t need to post to a forum and wait six hours just to have some jackass tell me to RTFM.
Aside from gaming, Linux is basically ready to go toe-to-toe with Windows. It can do it all, and it can do it faster, cheaper, and and sexier. Windows 8 is a mess and while Windows 7 is pretty spiffy, it’s also a hundred dollars. Given the shape of the economy right now, lots of people would probably be willing to endure a bit of a learning curve to save that kind of money.
The point is, the biggest barrier to the spread of Linux is not functionality. From here on, it’s a cultural battle. And the biggest impediment to winning that sort of thing is having a community of unrepentant assholes. The usual claim is that while some Linux users might be rude, arrogant, elitist, condescending, pedantic, and obtuse, at least they’re smart people who know their stuff. But here we have a crowd of people who not only have all of the stereotypical flaws, but are also manifestly, maximally stupid. This is horrifying.
I know these people don’t represent all Linux users, and I hope the sane people outnumber the jerks, but I would be very surprised if I was the only person on the internet to have a run-in like this. For this thread to have gone so wrong, for so many months, with so many different people, says that this isn’t just an isolated little group of uncharacteristically difficult people.
So congratulations, idiots. The biggest problem facing Linux isn’t the software itself. The biggest problem is you. Knock it off.
EDIT: I stand corrected. The Linux post is actually the second worst comment thread, behind this one.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.