in General

Love flies under the radar

Note: This post is part four of a series of thoughts on the relationship between Canonical and GNOME.

Tempers will occasionally flare in large communities with many stakeholders. There will always be a delta between the goals, strategies and assumptions of different groups and individuals. Unless we achieve perfect transparency and communication, circumstances like this are sure to arise.

Open communication is challenging in a highly distributed environment, of course, but when a disparate network must interact with clusters of comparatively more efficient communicators (co-workers in the same office, for example), a special kind of friction is created.

This is not unique to Open Source, either. Consider the Nokia experience: Years of vicious internal warfare, infighting between and even within divisions, and for what? If Nokia were a squabbling family around the Christmas lunch table, Stephen Elop was the aloof uncle who left to enjoy Christmas Day on a park bench with the local wino instead.

So the sky is not falling. This is not the end of Software Freedom, GNOME, Canonical, the “Linux desktop” or anything else. The cure is communication, and finding better ways of working together.

There’s a very important thing to remember at times like this: Every day, volunteer and paid developers, from around the world and every contributing organisation, are quietly cooperating in their work on GNOME.

It’s not sexy. It’s not political. It’s getting the job done. Filing and fixing bugs, landing all the little changes in a long transition, coordinating releases, and sharing knowledge that will benefit everyone.

This particular brouhaha may be about a single company, but when you read about tensions between Canonical and GNOME, keep in mind that Canonical developers working in the trenches are unlikely to be at fault, and may well be unhappy with the situation too.

They, along with developers from Red Hat, Novell, Intel — and all the others, because there are too many to name — are still very much our brothers and sisters in GNOME.

They’re not involved in the politics. They’re flying under the radar. Spreading the love.

Disclosure: I enjoyed working for Canonical from 2004-2006, and although I have occasionally been accused of shilling for Ubuntu since then, I suspect few at Canonical would regard me as their #1 fan at the moment. I haven’t been involved in GNOME for quite some time, and generally try to avoid thinking about it very often.

Write a Comment

Comment

Comments will be sent to the moderation queue.

  1. Jeff,

    You and I have probably never met or talked but I appreciate the blog posts you have been writing. I think you have done a great job pulling the curtains back and explaining how things work a bit within GNOME and Ubuntu.
    Very interesting and very enjoyable.

    Jonathan

  2. So the sky is not falling. This is not the end of Software Freedom, GNOME, Canonical, the “Linux desktop” or anything else.

    A snarky comment I didn’t want to put in the main post, but it’s okay down here: The dinosaurs didn’t eat each other into extinction. They were hit by a meteorite. Totally out of their control. :-)

  3. While much (all?) of this is true, it totally misses the big picture. Outside the free software world there are powerful adversaries. They are smart, have skillful marketing departments and big budgets. Their goal is to make free software fail.

    It is totally impossible to win this fight if we don’t agree on some things and make compromises. One of the most important compromise to make is to agree on shared standards, which make using applications using different toolkits and from different communities work together, no matter which desktop they are running on.

    That’s what this whole debate is about, not if there is snarkiness in comments or hurt feelings. And it seems from the feelings and comments of many people that there is one party that is not willing to make such compromises: the GNOME community.

    If you have a 10,000 developers working in different directions, the total distance moved will be zero. If we have a 1,000 working in the same direction, the distance moved can be tremendous. Now imagine what could be done if we had 10,000 working in the same direction. Isn’t that worth making compromises for?

    Your post totally ignores this. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts about that instead.

    • I will write about the freedesktop.org stuff in a later post, but keep in mind: That was an issue raised by Aaron Seigo, largely separate from the issues raised by Mark Shuttleworth (he just jumped on them as supposedly supporting evidence for his own claims). The GNOME community isn’t unwilling to work with other communities or make compromises. Remember, freedesktop.org was founded by a GNOME developer!

      If you have a 10,000 developers working in different directions, the total distance moved will be zero. If we have a 1,000 working in the same direction, the distance moved can be tremendous. Now imagine what could be done if we had 10,000 working in the same direction. Isn’t that worth making compromises for?

      Yes, and that’s precisely what Canonical has not done. GNOME hasn’t excluded them. They just haven’t come to the table.

      • It’s not at all separate. That’s where the collaboration that didn’t happen was supposed to get done. The discussion got started, but that’s it. If it was going to have gone differently, that’s exactly where it might have succeeded. I realize this is inconsistent with your thesis, but this doesn’t divide neatly into a series of bi-lateral relationships, it’s all intermixed.

        • The contribution of libappindicator to GNOME, and the discussion of the specification which underpins it, are indeed separate issues. The rejection of libappindicator was not a rejection of the StatusNotifier spec — indeed, even in Dan Winship’s mail he’s clearly open to StatusNotifier support in GNOME Shell. That GNOME Shell hasn’t implemented the specification yet is mostly a matter of timing (but concerns about the specification are also relevant).

          There are two quite different areas of collaboration involved, and they’re not inextricably linked as Mark (or Aaron) would have you believe.

          Again, knowing what libappindicator actually does, and how it is relevant to the GNOME software stack, is crucial… and that will be related in an upcoming post.

  4. I haven’t been involved in GNOME for quite some time, and generally try to avoid thinking about it very often.

    Why?

  5. Jeff, you make me feel good! I am a KDE user but blog posts like yours increase my confidence that both communities have a common future and will sort out some misunderstandings like the current one.

    I hope more people have an attitude like you. :-)

  6. They’re not involved in the politics. They’re flying under the radar. Spreading the love.

    Yup, we’re out here. I rarely/never read mailing lists and rarely blog, but I’m active on IRC, bugzilla(s), and git.

    And I’m looking forward to the big 3.0 (though running big sections of it for many months, I’ve got a nice idea of what it’ll be like :)