A while back I was helping someone out over in the #fedora irc support channel. We managed to work on their issue and get it solved, but instead of enjoying their victory or working on another problem they indicated that they were happy, but were going to go off and install $otherdistro now. Not because Fedora wasn’t working for them, on the contrary, it was working, but they were just interested in trying out all the various distros and playing around with them. They had 4 or 5 installed at a time and switched around between them.

I don’t think this sort of person (an OS gypsy) is super common, but it’s interesting to think about the various types of gypsies we have in the open source world, migrating around. How should we handle them? Of course it may depend on where and what they are migrating to or from.

For the OS gypsy, should we provide all the help and resources we would for someone who would stay and contribute? I would say we should. Making our install process easier for those that do so often, or making docs easy to find for people who might be switching can only help everyone in the end.

On the next step down, we have desktop gypsies. These folks might well stay in a distro they know well, but might switch between KDE, Gnome, Xfce, LXDE, and others as their mood strikes. Again, I think it can only help everyone if we try and help these folks make the easiest and smoothest transition between them. Some will stick with a desktop, and some won’t, but making it easier for them to do so helps everyone who switches to that desktop.

Finally, on the bottom level, we have folks who migrate between apps. I find myself in this category for some things. Web browsers and IRC Clients. Even though I end up coming back to xchat and midori, it’s fun to see what chromium or firefox4 or kvirc or quassel have to offer. Even if their offering ends up not being what I want it’s good to know how they look and work to help others with them.

So, in the end I think we should try and learn from the gypsies at any level. Even if it seems like they aren’t going to stick with your OS or Desktop or application, they might just tell you something that helps other stay and settle.