Dave Neary asked the release team if they had a position on the language stuff, because he was interested to see if that could help move the Foundation Board discussion forward. Here’s his question, and my answer (after attempting to let the release team dodge it).
We’re talking over on the board list about the language thing, and I’ve been saying it’s not really the board’s job to decide anything on this.
It would help, I think, if the release team were to come to some kind of a position on things. We could then work out how to make that position upset the advisory board and the rest of the community as little as possible.
PS. This is me as an individual, asking for ideas, not as a board member. The board’s split on this right now.
So in that spirit, this is me as an individual, offering my thoughts. Though I gladly offer them as a release team member, they do not represent the view of the release team as a whole. I’m sure the rest of the gang will pitch in.
First, let me address the legal speculation and rhetoric surrounding Mono.
In the broader FOSS community, we have a common ground for understanding MP3 related patent issues. The patents are actively enforced, we know precisely who enforces them, we know that the enforcer is not particularly interested in software freedom and we can point to the patents in question (and in some extreme cases, know the patent numbers by heart). If you recall, we had the same common ground with RSA and GIF. We all knew the score. We even partied as the patents expired.
We cannot say the same for Mono. Crucially, no one has come forward to give us substantive evidence regarding any of the issues above. To be sure, Mono has a much broader scope than the examples I’ve used, but the same principle applies: If we face such dangers, corporate and individual stakeholders will sound the air raid sirens again (enlightened self-interest in action). We’ve seen companies such as Intel, Mainsoft, Novell and Medsphere get behind Mono but have yet to see useful, published information damning it — from anyone.
Let’s look at what else is on offer.
- C++: We are so vastly under-advertising our fantastic *mm bindings, that we’re in danger of creating humanity’s first DIY black hole. Insanity! ISVs have inquiring minds, and want to know.
- Java: Has microscopic mindshare in the GNOME community. Has brill bindings. Sun isn’t interested in our APIs or fixing the Achille’s Heel of Java (when it comes to GNOME)… the license. Red Hat are madly working on a Free Java. Apache are joining the fray. Massive developer base, but they don’t care about our APIs either. Jeffrey Morgan is kicking arse, while everyone else talking about GNOME and Java are waving their dicks in the wind. Sorry.
- Python: Probably suits the spirit of GNOME more than any of the others. We have recently come to our senses and encouraged pygtk apps in the Desktop release. We should integrate Python scripting into pretty much everything.
- Ruby: Big in Japan. So is GNOME. Anyone know why the Ruby bindings aren’t in the release? Wakarimasen.
- Smalltalk: Bindings are in the tarball, and I hear they rock pretty hard. Go play with them, then cry over old Engelbart videos. I’ll be there for you in the morning.
- Perl: The bindings live on, with regular releases, even though Perl turned into a pumpkin at the turn of the millennium. Pity.
Here’s how I think we’re going to solve it, whether we consciously intend to or not: First, we depoliticise the official GNOME suites by redefining them in terms of their interfaces. The Developer Platform continues as is, while the Desktop becomes the set of modules that define the interfaces — not the applications — we provide to everything else running on the desktop. Through both, we define what it means to integrate and work with GNOME, rather than our current definition of what it means to *be* GNOME (which is cold, unwelcoming and exclusive).
Second, we franchise the release process so that other suites may track the process, using the same concepts, but their own (or borrowed) standards. GPE and GNOME Office are already looking at doing this, and have been for some time. If we can pull this off, all those great apps out there will *be* GNOME in a way they can’t be today. They will *be* GNOME whatever they’re written in, whoever chooses to ship them. It will enable developers, community or corporate, to target GNOME – the Linux Desktop Defined.
I have more to say about this. I hope I can find the time to write it all down. I haven’t in the past, and I’m pretty impressed I found the time to write just this.