Archive | January 10, 2008

FUD Revisited

What is FUD anyway? The Wikipedia article on FUD explains it very well, but in a nutshell, it refers to the rhetoric, propaganda or other disinformation distributed in an effort to influence peoples’ perceptions about a competitor’s product. The product of concern in this forum is, of course, Linux. Moreover, in the very first post to this ‘blog in July 2006, Kevin explains that fear, uncertainty and doubt are feelings often held by new and potential Linux users. It may be very difficult to discern when FUD is the result of an intentional effort and when it is intrinsic in the process of discovering or trying something new.

The bigger question is, what can be done about it? I purport that there are causal relationships linking both fear and doubt, which are emotional responses, to an underlying state of uncertainty. For example, knowing that a product is or is not capable of fulfilling a need means that doubt about its capabilities has already been overcome. Likewise, knowledge that a product is harmful in some way justifies legitimate fear in it, but fear based on uncertainty is irrational. If these relationships do indeed exist, then the elimination of uncertainty should reduce or eliminate the other two.

As is true for many things in life, education seems to be the key to success here too. A well-informed consumer is a happy consumer who is not susceptible to FUD and who can make decisions for himself about which products to use. However, in educating the consumer, Linux advocates should be careful not to spread FUD in the other direction. This does nothing to convince or to build credibility. Instead, advocates should focus on the benefits that Linux, and Open Source software in general, can provide, and at what cost.