What makes the Linux community special?

It is the human aspect that makes each open source community unique.
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In 2021, there are more reasons why people love Linux than ever before. In this series, I'll share 21 different reasons to use Linux. The community is a cornerstone reason to use Linux.

Many a Linux user has said that the key feature of Linux is its community. That might seem strange to a new user because "community" is a pretty popular term these days. There are actual jobs for building and managing communities. With communities seemingly a dime a dozen, what makes the Linux community unique?

Attributes don't make a community

The fact is, nothing's particularly unique about the Linux having a community. It's in our nature as humans to find common threads with one another. There are Android People, and there are iPhone People, Windows People and Mac People, Software People and Illegally-downloaded-software People, and so on. You find support forums for devices and software and people who use creative apps and people who use business apps and people who use financial apps. We tag people with attributes, and then we form groups accordingly.

When you download and try Linux, you're inherently added to the group of people who have downloaded and tried Linux.

The question is, what communities form within this big group of people?

Humans make community

A community is more than just a group of people. Communities share knowledge, experience, and most importantly, they share a connection. While it's easy to identify a similarity between two people who happen to use the same operating system or application, it's not as easy to find a connection. Sometimes, something special emerges from an interaction. Maybe you're struggling to understand how some software works, or you can't understand why an action on Linux differs from what it was like on your former OS, or you're not sure which desktop you want to install or which text editor to use. When you and someone else work through a problem and succeed, there's a moment of mutual appreciation and understanding.

Similarly, when you're using software that a community member has uploaded (like Linux itself), you're entering into someone else's world. You may not feel like it's a big deal to download and use an application, but if nobody downloaded and used that application, whatever it might be, then it probably wouldn't last long. These small, almost negligible actions that seem to "just happen" online every day are exactly why we call a group of people a community and not just a herd of humans.

Finding the right community

Nobody fits in with every community within the larger Linux community. Like any social group, each community has its own expectations and culture. You may have a compulsion, as a human, to join a community, but you also have the right as a human to be selective about which one you adopt as your own.

If a community isn't empowering and encouraging you to achieve your own goals, technological or otherwise, then there's nothing wrong with leaving it behind to find another. Thanks to the still growing diversity of Linux users, there's plenty of space for everyone, and new communities are forming all the time.

Communities build software

No matter what you do in the community, there's participation happening. The fact that people are getting use out of what their community builds is exactly what drives the community to create more. It's a human perpetual motion machine, and the energy it generates powers some of the best technology available.

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Seth Kenlon
Seth Kenlon is a UNIX geek, free culture advocate, independent multimedia artist, and D&D nerd. He has worked in the film and computing industry, often at the same time.

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