I’ve been pondering for a few weeks now, as to why relatively smaller (in popularity) distros like Arch and Gentoo have such loyal communities. I’m trying to understand what those communities find so important, rather than trying to offer the best in convenience in reaching out to new-to-Linux users (as is usually the case with most distros).
I think they are being loyal first and foremost to a set of ideals. It’s a loyalty to a process, namely that of compiling things yourself, and having a deeper understanding of the underlying system, with its many byzantine layers and libraries (which are about as well-organized as you could realistically ask, in comparison to, say Windows).
An analogy occurred to me. Imagine a museum which showcases Steam Engines. Steam Engines were a cool technology a long time ago, but have been completely eclipsed today by internal combustion engines. You may think that the internal combustion engine is deeply problematic, what with climate change looming, but setting aside the moral implications, for the sake of comparison, it’s not controversial to say that the internal combustion engine is the current dominant and popular way to do vehicle engines.
So to me, distros like Arch and Gentoo are like those Steam Engine museums. They enshrine an older way of doing things (compiling from source, at a great expense in time, compared to installing pre-compiled packages), wanting to preserve, and never lose the highly-nuanced knowledge of how that method works.
They preserve a heritage that they don’t want to forget. Thus my suggestion of the term “Heritage Distro.” This is in juxtaposition to an obvious term like “Popular Distro” (for distros like Ubuntu, Debian, and Linux Mint).
So those “Heritage distros” are actually kind of praiseworthy, when you realize the ideals that they are working very hard to uphold (despite the loss in convenience to the end user). These distros aren’t my cup of tea, having said this.
Having considered these things, now I won’t laugh at them any longer, but will rather just say “it’s not my cup of tea”. I feel this is my more mature response.
I offer this for your reflection. The next time someone announces, unasked, that they use Arch, I feel a possible mature response is “…not my cup of tea, Thanks”.