Letter to Linux Journal

Dear LJ,

I’d like to start by saying thank you very much for the years of quality articles and features that your magazine has provided. I eagerly await the arrival of each month’s copy as it jets over the Atlantic to my doorstep. LJ has always provided detailed and informative articles on topics both mainstream and more quirky, but always with the deeply technical edge no other magazine or web site I have found can provide.

I am writing because the April issue proved a grave disappointment. Gone were the technical articles and gone were the interesting projects. In their place I found a plethora of opinion pieces most of which provided no new insight into their subject that I could not have found on Slashdot or OSNews, along with some beginner’s articles on how to install a couple of PHP applications. Even the Doc had nothing interesting to say about the yesterday’s-news trying-to-be-trendy refrain of “blogs, wikis and podcasts” which seemed to be repeated several times on each page. The articles which did contain decent technical content (notably “Work the shell” and “Remote Temperature Monitoring with Linux”) were swamped beneath the river of fluff through which I found myself wading.

When Nicholas Petreley wrote his first uninformed and ill-judged “/etc/rant” I felt I could let it pass since it was just one page of an excellent magazine, but now that his style of writing – opinion rather then content – seems to be spreading to the rest of the magazine, I feel the need to express my disquiet at what he has been doing with this column.

/etc/rant is an article put aside each month for criticising free software projects. The fact that an editor would allow such an article to exist, let alone write it himself, displays a profound and worrying misunderstanding of the community to which he is trying to contribute. Free software projects live and breath through encouragement and just plain getting on with it. As a member of this community, the right way to express dissatisfaction with the way something is being done is to contribute to the project, or (if necessary) launch or encourage an equivalent project that does things differently. By criticising from the sidelines Mr. Petreley reveals himself to be an outsider – as a writer a more appropriate way to contribute to the community (and hence form a useful part of it) would be to praise and encourage projects which are doing the right thing, rather than sucking energy out of valuable and innovative projects which have involved large amounts of volunteer effort such as GCJ and Gnome.

I never thought I would say it, but if this continues I will be cancelling my subscription to LJ. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll ever find another magazine that will reach the level of quality I have come to expect from you.

Yours sincerely,

Andy Balaam

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