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Programming GNU is Not Unix Software Technology

Open Source Geeks Considered Modern Heroes 361

loconet writes "The BBC reports that a report by Demos says that the all-consuming passions of geeks and nerds may actually be beneficial for society. The UK think tank's report published today, underlines the importance of 'Pro-Ams' -- amateurs who pursue a hobby or pastime, in many cases an all-consuming passion, to a professional standard. The report says Pro-Am astronomers have made 'significant contributions' to the knowledge of the universe, while Pro-Am computer programmers are providing the only serious challenge to Microsoft's dominance of personal computing."
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Open Source Geeks Considered Modern Heroes

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  • Yay for us! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by general_re ( 8883 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @01:24PM (#10953991) Homepage
    Today's as good a day as any for a little circle-jerk.

    (rolls eyes)

  • by Justice8096 ( 673052 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @01:27PM (#10954024)
    Note that the article from Demos indicates that professional amateurs are not new - this is just reversing a trend that started last century when professionals made most of the contributions.
    I'd say that the only "new" thing about professional amateurs is that the Internet allows them to publicise their work earlier, allowing us to take advantage of genius before the person dies.
    Whether this marginalizes them by forcing them down the conventional paths by responding to feedback from their peers, where previously an amateur would have less feedback and explore the non-utilitarian aspects of an idea, or allows the amateur to expand their idea by meeting more of their ilk, is up for grabs.
    Any ideas?
  • by hsmith ( 818216 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @01:30PM (#10954048)
    amateurs and people who code for corporations Pros?

    don't people do both? i know i do, so does that mean only projects where money involved are "professional" and OSS is "amateurs"?

    that is just assinine
  • Gratuitous? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @01:30PM (#10954055)
    Although open source programmers have done neat things, one must be careful not to throw around the word 'hero'.

    Heroes are people who save lives. Firefighters and policemen are heroes -- they brave danger on a daily basis to save lives. So too was Jonas Salk; if he developed a program to add tags to MP3 files instead of discovering penicillin and refining it for medical use, this would have been a disappointment.

    This isn't intended to disparage the work of open source geeks in any way. They're just in a different class (improving our lives in front of a LCD monitor instead of saving them from a burning building.)
  • by forrestt ( 267374 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @01:40PM (#10954143) Homepage Journal
    "Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)"
    Hero He"ro, n.; pl. Heroes. F. h'eros, L. heros, Gr. ?.
    1. (Myth.) An illustrious man, supposed to be exalted, after death, to a place among the gods; a demigod, as Hercules.

    2. A man of distinguished valor or enterprise in danger, or fortitude in suffering; a prominent or central personage in any remarkable action or event; hence, a great or illustrious person.

    Each man is a hero and oracle to somebody. --Emerson.

    3. The principal personage in a poem, story, and the like, or the person who has the principal share in the transactions related; as Achilles in the Iliad, Ulysses in the Odyssey, and AEneas in the AEneid.

    The shining quality of an epic hero --Dryden.

    I think this fits #2 ("...a prominent or central personage in any remarkable action or event; hence, a great or illustrious person....")

  • Shut and do your job (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @01:45PM (#10954195)
    I'm sick of all these new American "heros." Soon they're going to start calling politicians heros. If you're getting paid, you're doing your job. If you are unpaid, or untrained and risking your life on a whim, I'll credit you as a hero.
  • Re:Gratuitous? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @01:54PM (#10954275)
    Might it be possible that there are more than one type of hero?
  • by emiddlec ( 673376 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @02:03PM (#10954388)
    The BBC article mentioned something interesting:
    • Calling them "Pro-Ams" - amateurs who pursue a hobby to a professional standard - it suggests such people should receive government funding to "promote community cohesion".

    Fishing for the details in the report [demos.co.uk]..

    • In sum our main policy proposals for promoting Pro-Am participation include the ideas listed below.

      • The government should launch a Pro-Am fellowship programme, investing small sums in community Pro- Ams. This might be modelled on localised versions of the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts, which provide fellowships for innovators, and be funded by the Big Lottery Fund.
      • Promoting Pro-Am culture should be a central focus for public service media. A prime example is the BBC's Neighbourhood Gardener scheme, developed with the Royal Horticultural Society, which is modelled on the US Master Gardener scheme, in which 60,000 collegeaccredited amateur gardeners provide millions of hours of expertise free of charge to other gardeners in their locality.
      • Pro-Ams should play a much larger role in innovation policy. Lead users should play a larger role in foresight exercises to chart the future course of innovation, and policies to deregulate markets should also open up spaces for Pro-Am innovations. Pro-Am communities are the new R & D labs of the digital economy.
      • As underused publicly-owned bandwidth is auctioned off some spectra should be reserved as an innovation commons for techie Pro-Ams - the kind that helped create the WiFi revolution - to play and experiment with. Government should develop innovation policies to fund open source communities as competitors to proprietary incumbents.

    It looks like they are trying to recognise and reward volunteers at the community level. Interesting -- I especially like the part about giving out unused bandwidth. (grin)

  • Hey look!! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @02:31PM (#10954650)
    I see... You're one of those too "mature" to admit he's been watching "The Incredibles" (crappy, boring and predictable btw, just in case someone's planning to buy tickets for it).

    Look everyone, it's the head of Disney Animation!

    The Incredibles is one of the best movies in recent memory - just in case someone was reading and decided to go with your wierd grinchy opinion instead of something like a 96% rating at RottenTomatoes [rottentomatoes.com].
  • Tolkien & Lewis (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ProteusQ ( 665382 ) * <dontbother@n[ ]ere.com ['owh' in gap]> on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @02:39PM (#10954729) Journal
    I wondering if they considered the "ProAm Effect" in literature. Tolkien and Lewis were operating well outside the mainstream of their time and without a budget (at least at first, even though the roylaties of "The Hobbit" could never have been a driving force to write something like "The Lord of the Rings.") Alternately, their contemporaries were feted and lauded by the Powers That Were, given grants, scholarships, professorships, etc.

    Now, the works of Woolfe, Joyce, and hundreds of authors who are mostly forgotten are read primarily by 'experts' in the field or by lit majors, while Tolkien and Lewis are two of the most recognized fiction writers in the world.

    The same case could be applied to Rowling, in that she wrote her first novel without consulting the "experts" in fiction writing or children's lit.

    Perhaps we'll see the same effect in pop music now that there's Mac OSX, Linux, and all of the FOSS tools that are available, to say nothing of using the Net to promote and sell.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @02:54PM (#10954906)
    I'm always delighted that the internet has things such as Slashdot, wherin not only information comes forth but also every conceivable individual and the myrad of colors that their opinions display, and the wonderful connections they have to whatever is being discussed (thanks for your post here about the BBC post there where you also, er, posted).

    My take on the article and the unusual response:

    A professional is a person who prosecutes anything for a livelihood, and not in the character of an amateur. An amateur is a person attached to a particular pursuit, study, or science as to music or painting; esp. one who cultivates any study or art, from taste or attachment, without pursuing it professionally.

    Those two words have nothing to do with a value judgment of better/worse, quality, or what have you. It is merely the distinction between doing something for money or doing something for, as the latin root suggests, simply the love of it (amore->amator). Any other use of the words "amateur" or "professional" are inconsitent with their meaning, and are a result of what's known as descriptive grammer flaws since human language continues to evolve and mutate just like any other organic system.

    Of course, I don't forget their original definitions since my education was in literary arts, not science. Other people's milage may vary.
  • ego much? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by crabpeople ( 720852 ) on Tuesday November 30, 2004 @08:31PM (#10958755) Journal
    "Ridicule us based on a sterotype that may not apply. This holds true in the media - look at how geeks are portrayed. It's always someone with big glasses, greasy hair, and clothes that don't quite fit right."

    you seem pretty damn egotisitical to care about how your "class" is portrayed in the media. why not laugh it off? say haha media, thats what YOU think -- and proceed to have another snifter of hennesy.
    also saying your smarter than everyone you know is kind of lame. news flash superman, everyone thinks they are smarter than everyone else. its called perspective.

    personally, i dont care if geeks are supposed to get laid or not supposed to get laid. it really has no baring on my life. the one thing i think those sorts of stereotypes are good for are a nice warm feeling for those of us who dont get laid alot -or ever- as the case may be. why would you take the comedy of the lack of personal relationships and turn it into a horrible situation. just because you seem to be above middle class and probably shoot your own pr0n? this post was just an excuse to brag. so good job.

    "The problem is that it's just not cool to be smart."

    also the first step to being cool, is thinking cool which i dont think that you've mastered.
  • by Chatsubo ( 807023 ) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @04:38AM (#10961335)
    I wouldn't necessarily say that I'm smarter than those around me. I know some very smart folks who I absolutely cannot have a conversation with because we have different interests.

    I always find I can talk continuously with people who work with me, because we share more-or-less the same interests. Then I go home and try to mix with some old school friends, and I find I cannot really partake in the conversation, because, yes, they do not know what I'm going on about. But not because they're somehow stupid. It's because *I* have too narrow a field of interest.

    Said group of friends don't have similair jobs, but they can still talk about the same stuff because they have wide, shallow fields of interest. By that I mean that they know a lot of things, but not to a very detailed level. Whereas I know a lot of detail about a handful of fields (programming, electronics, science..).

    Do you think this is their shortcoming or mine?

    I guess if you think about it, it's neither. We're just different.

"If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong." -- Norm Schryer