Supporting Free and Open Source Software
I have been an ardent supporter of Ubuntu for a while now and had the amazing opportunity to attend UDS and meet the amazing people behind the distribution. This includes Canonical employees and community contributors from around the world including Mark Shuttleworth himself.
It was with sadness that I watched Mark’s blog post twisted and turned in to something ‘ugly’. Here are a few of the twisted headlines:
Key parts of Ubuntu 13.04 will be developed in secret, to escape the critics’ ire
Ubuntu moves some Linux development inside
Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth Tires Of Critics, Moves Key Ubuntu Developments Out Of Public Eye
There are others, but what I find interesting is that the headlines were so far from reality. We all suspect why that would be… to get more clicks. Sensational titles that stir strong emotions make for great hit counts. Fortunately for the bloggers and associated sites I have a higher standard of Ethics so I will not name names, nor will I claim that I know their motivations.
For those that have not seen it here is the part of Mark’s blog post that is being distorted.
I put in red the key parts of this text that caught my eye. I am not sure how extending an invitation or producing code under the GPL is a bad thing. I am not sure how an honest person could produce a headline claiming that Mark did this because he was ‘tired of critics’. I saw this as a positive opening up of projects like Unity; an opening up in the infancy stage of the project. That is a positive step towards more openness while preserving the ability of Canonical and Ubuntu to make headline release splashes at tech events. Those ‘splashes’ and headlines allow the distribution to pierce the popular media and gain recognition in global computer user population who goes to a big box store to buy a computer. Seriously go ask a non-tech minded computer user what Fedora is and they will tell you it is a type of hat. Ask them what Ubuntu is and you have a far, far better chance of telling you that has something to do with a computer. I, in fact, had this experience Thursday night at my last Linux User Group Meeting (LUGOR) when a young college student stumbled upon our meeting.
student: What meeting is in here?
linux user 1: It is a Linux user group.
student: What is Linux?
Fedora user: You know, like Fedora.
student: It is a meeting about hats.
Ubuntu user: Have you heard of Ubuntu?
student: Yeah, that has something to do with computers, right?
That exposure is important for Ubuntu, Canonical and Linux as a whole. I understand the need for ‘splash’ and ‘magic moments’ in the process of growing a community.
There is another aspect though. Why does the first iteration of a piece of code have to be completely public? Is there some requirement that it must be? I have no issue with someone, or a group, who has an idea trying to build their first release in a small circle. I would take issue if they did not open up the code after or were unwilling to take feedback and improve the code. What is happening with 13.04 is a more open environment than what happened before, not a more closed environment.
Now, over the years Canonical has invested extensively in building components to help grow and improve the Ubuntu experience. Examples of this include Unity, Juju, Launchpad, Bazaar, Ubuntu One, and various other projects. The majority of these projects are fully open and anyone can participate in them.
So, in the future we can expect the community to have people ‘sitting at the table’ with Canonical developers when projects like Juju, Ubuntu One and Unity are being born. I see this as an amazingly good thing. An amazing amount of trust being extended by Canonical and the individuals working on the projects. I also think it will help produce better results and stronger first release code.
Please note that this is my opinion and from my vantage point. I fully acknowledge that others have different frames of reference and are entitled to their opinions.