Abuse By Proxy

It's really tough to leave an abusive relationship.

No, I'm not talking about relationships between humans, I'm talking about the relationship between humans and the technology that is done to them by other humans (that are in a position to know better and to do much better). I'll call this "pre-meditated abuse by proxy." (You could also call this predation.)

A co-conspirator (that's a term I reserve for friends) of mine recently wrote an article about the difficulties he had convincing a business contact to consider Ubuntu as a sensible alternative to the extremely uncomfortable (and expensive) computing systems that were in use, and by their own admission, barely functional.

When offered a free (Ubuntu) alternative, as well as free installation and support, the contact said "No thanks", repeatedly.

Baffling? Not really. When one frames this situation properly it all begins to make sense. She's not ready. I would normally just dismiss this as a textbook case of "Tip#4 for Ubuntu Advocates"1 but my co-conspirator made a more profound observation, and I think he's onto something.

People stay in abusive relationships2 (with their technology) for a number of reasons:

  • Fear
  • Believing Abuse is Normal
  • Embarrassment
  • Low Self-esteem
  • Denial

Here are some choice quotes from his article:

"Every time her proprietary operating system beats her and her colleagues down, they just accept it like it’s okay."

"I then had the creepy revelation that it’s like the physically abusive boyfriend who beats the girl and after each beating apologises."

I highly recommend that you read his words, as he's really a great story-teller. While you're at it, leave a comment.

Perhaps it's time to shine the spotlight on what (some) technology is doing to people, and to end this "pre-meditated abuse by proxy."

1. "Tip #4 for Ubuntu Evangelists" http://randall.executiv.es/tip4
2. "Why Do People Stay in Abusive Relationships?"

a. Thanks "wayneoutthere" for inspiring this article and for the permission to paraphrase it.
b. Thanks "hang_in_there" for the image.CC BY 2.0. http://www.flickr.com/photos/59632563@N04/6238711264/sizes/z/in/photostream/


Super writing, I appreciate the thoughts that are presented here, Very well-written content which is hardly found on current web pages. I loved the idea

australia gambling online


This reminds me of the Stockholm Syndrome. If the situation with propietary OS is not an abusive relationship, it's at least a captive-hostage situation, especially given the power that these companies have on people. Even if the captives open the door and tell their hostages that they are “free” to go, they are paralyzed. They look around and see others being controlled the same way, so they assume that's how it is supposed to be. Any free and virus-less solutions may sounds too good to be true. And they fear the unknown – they know how their captives works, so at least they can learn to just keep quiet to ease the abuse. The world out there is unknown and if they don't have others supporting them, leaving can be scary. And I guess there's where the LoCo comes in! To make sure that people have support to get them through and help them thrive. And then they can decide what system works best for them.


Nicely put! Thanks for your insight.


Great article and thanks very much to you for referencing mine. I'm going to write more and more as I can and thanks to you for inspiring me to do so from this blog. Here's to an Ubuntu 2013!


The problem is that such explanation can be used for anything. For example, you do not see yourself in a abusive relation with Ubuntu, yet someone could argue that you would never switch due to the same reason you gave.

If you switch, you would be Embarrassed, after writing so often on Ubuntu.
You are in Denial, since you recommend to people to not even mention others os, avoid direct comparaison, etc. Or you believe Abuse is normal, since you are ok with the whole amazon stuff. And the beauty is that if you deny this to apply to you, you reinforce the "denial" part of the equation, that's quite a clever trap :)

So given how easily theses word can be abused ( as I think demonstrated ) and used on anything, I would recommend to not frame anything like this. Someone will sooner or later think the way Unity was pushed to be a abuse like this and reuse the same framing against Ubuntu, and i am quite sure that's not a pleasant situation :) .


Given the right set of circumstances, I actually could envision switching. This is not the only platform I've adopted in my life. And if you knew me, you'd know I'm no stranger to change, even radical change.

On the Amazon stuff, I've written about my stance. I'm ok with the notion in general but I think it could be done with more finesse and polish. That's why I initiated a community design effort to "make search the best in the world".

Without naming names, the difference between Ubuntu and everything else is that Ubuntu is something we can all make.

The Unity ship has sailed and I'm on it.


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Images can be added to this post.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Tip Jar

Liked one of my articles? Please consider clicking the "Donate" button above

Namecoin (NMC) is also appreciated:

Thanks! Your support helps keep this site free and interesting.

An Ubuntu show right from Vancouver!

Real Local Community