A small technology revolution is underway in Jordan. Let me correct that: it’s not just a technology revolution, but a social one as well. And in the middle of all of it is Linux, the open source operating system.
In a country where you sometimes can’t get 2 people to agree on a social or political agenda, here is a group of people who voluntarily came together in a decentralized community devoted to the exchange of knowledge and the pursuit of technical excellence, and having fun while at it: the Jordan Linux User Group.
This group was started on the initiative of a young university graduate, Isam Bayazidi, who started the whole thing on Yahoo Groups. The JoLUG has grown with a short period of time into an active community of 100 people and a mailing list that reaches 400 more. And if you think that that computers are anti social, the open source philosophy behind this and other similar LUGs around the world will prove you wrong.
Richard Stallman, one of the fathers of the open source movement, believes that software should help build communities, not destroy them. And it is precisely this what is happening with Jordan’s LUG. This is not just a virtual community of geeks, sitting behind their screens. JoLUGs activities include lectures, study sessions and social meetings.
“It’s all about meeting people and exchanging information and knowledge,” says Ammar Ibrahim, an open source enthusiast and a core member of JoLUG.
One of the most popular events of the group was its so called installation festival held last October in the Professional Unions complex in Amman. “What’s that?” you might ask. An installation festival is an event where people “lug” their computers, go to a big hall, power-up and help each other install the latest version of Linux on their machines.
“It was amazing,” says Ammar, who attended the festival. “Hundreds of people turned up with their computers.”
The was no advertising in newspapers for such an event. Just by using their mailing list JoLUG was able to attract this number of enthusiast.
Students, open-source advocates, professionals and business people are members of JoLUG. The affiliation of the members with “open source thinking” ranges from fanatical belief in the free software ideology to those who like Linux just because it’s cool to have a 2nd operating system on your machine. The age of members ranges from 14 to over 40.
A turning point in JoLUGs life was during METS 2003. The group set up a booth at the show and was overwhelmed by the interest from visitors. Plans are already in place to take part in METS this year. JoLUG has its eye on taking part in GITEX in the future.
JoLUG is not the only LUG in Jordan. A number of universities already have their own LUGs. But JoLUG is the biggest of them all and represents interesting phenomena. It shows that people in Jordan are willing to come together, volunteer their time, share and learn when they find a worthy cause or a common platform of interest.
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