Monday, July 11, 2011

What is a GNU/Linux user group?

What is GNU/Linux?

To fully appreciate LUGs' role in the GNU/Linux movement, it helps to understand what makes GNU/Linux unique.
GNU/Linux as an operating system is powerful -- but GNU/Linux as an idea about software development is even more so. GNU/Linux is a free operating system: It's licensed under the GNU General Public Licence. Thus, source code is freely available in perpetuity to anyone. It's maintained by a unstructured group of programmers world-wide, under technical direction from Linus Torvalds and other key developers. GNU/Linux as a movement has no central structure, bureaucracy, or other entity to direct its affairs. While this situation has advantages, it poses challenges for allocation of human resources, effective advocacy, public relations, user education, and training.
(This HOWTO credits the Free Software Foundation's GNU Project as the crucial motive force behind creating and furthering a free aka open source integrated system. Thus, it refers to "distributions" comprising the GNU operating system atop the Linux kernel as "GNU/Linux". Yes, the term is awkward, and FSF's request for credit isn't widely honoured; but the justice of FSF's claim is obvious.)

How is GNU/Linux unique?

GNU/Linux's loose structure is unlikely to change. That's a good thing: It works precisely because people are free to come and go as they please: Free programmers are happy programmers are effective programmers.
However, this loose structure can disorient the new user: Whom does she call for support, training, or education? How does she know what GNU/Linux is suitable for?
In part, LUGs provide the answers, which is why LUGs are vital to the movement: Because your town, village, or metropolis sports no Linux Corporation "regional office", the LUG takes on many of the same roles a regional office does for a large multi-national corporation.
GNU/Linux is unique in neither having nor being burdened by central structures or bureaucracies to allocate its resources, train its users, and support its products. These jobs get done through diverse means: the Internet, consultants, VARs, support companies, colleges, and universities. However, increasingly, in many places around the globe, they are done by a LUG.

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 What is a user group?