Freedom and Community

I have read a great many posts about the events of the past ten days in the world of Canonical. Each has an opinion and I, as a rule, understand that people have their own unique opinions. I will not call them wrong or incorrect even though I may disagree with them. Why? It is because I know everyone has a different lens to view the events from; they may see things I do not and vice versa. What follows is a sample of these comments and my opinion.

Canonical started making the relationship unequal, though. They have their reasons and they make sense to them. But they are hurtful to me and I can’t be true to myself and live under them at the same time.

Their true side starts to show itself in those heated moments when you wonder what is really going through  their head.

 Greg Grossmeier (full text)

The first part quote from Greg’s post is spot on. Greg no longer ‘agrees’ with the decisions and direction of the community. Everyone has a right to have an opinion and a belief. What troubles me is the the second quote from the post; it implies that Canonical has been dishonest. If you read the rest of the post Greg clearly states that Canonical has been lying to him. I will admit that I am not fully aware of the relationship between Greg and Canonical, but I do believe there could be another explanation. An explanation that does not require one of the partners to be vilified. Is it possible that both Greg and Canonical shared the same vision and dream in the beginning, but things have changed? Is it possible that Greg and Canonical had similar visions and dreams, but that Greg missed slight differences?


When Ubuntu launched I doubt many thought smart phones would run full blown OSes and be capable of replacing laptops. It took the iPad in 2010 to make people believers in tablets as computing devices for the masses. The slogan was Linux for Human Beings. At launch that meant desktops, laptops and servers, not tablets and phones. I do not view the push to go to tablets and phones as a deviation from that original slogan. The computing world is changing and that is driving changes to how things need to get done in order for Ubuntu to be Linux for Human Beings.

People are leaving

From Planet Ubuntu + Google+ at least 4 community members have left the Ubuntu community because of Canonical’s decisions. Most of them even gave up Ubuntu membership. Is this what we want? Canonical being “Big Brother” in the Ubuntu community?

Howard Chan (full text)


It is true that people are leaving the community. People were leaving the community before these announcements. People are also joining the community after these announcements. Here again there is an assertion that Canonical is being bad when the image of George Orwell’s 1984 is invoked by calling Canonical “Big Brother”. I need to be honest; this type of allegation bothers me greatly. In the past I have seen Canonical compared to the Nazi party as well. These comparisons are so far off the mark it would be funny if it was not so insulting and insensitive for someone to invoke them. Canonical has not declared war, taken innocent people prisoner nor have they tried to brainwash people.


You were warned plenty. It’s not your fault. You had to deliver decisions against the best interests of the Ubuntu peer community and in favour of the Canonical community. Driving so hard towards product nirvana that peer relationships were driven into the ground. I’m sure you disagree that the community is dead, but eventually those scales will fall or the fake smile will stop. I don’t know what kind of Community you want, but it sure isn’t the peer community I signed up for.


Unless you can see a way forwards to rebuild this broken dream, disband. Focus your great skills on Debian. I’m sorry we couldn’t make it work, we were overpowered.

Martin Owens (full text)

The component of Martin’s complaint that expresses that the community has changed and is not the one he signed up is accurate. Going to the point of asserting that Jono has been forced to deliver decisions and that he is presenting a fake smile is going too far. The second part to the Community Council also goes to far because it makes the assumption that there was a shared dream. Martin also tries to instruct the Community Council what to do. Is that not what Martin is accusing Canonical of doing?

In all of these posts I see a bit of a double standard. From my viewpoint Canonical has said “This is what we are doing”. They have not coerced or forced the community to follow. They have not implied that the community members that have chosen to leave the community are in some way bad or evil. Clearly Martin, Greg and Howard want to do something different. I want a community that allows for freedom; freedom for Canonical employees, Canonical as a company and every individual. I would never dream of trying to force Martin, Greg or Howard to work on something they did not believe in. I also would not try to force Canonical to work on or fund something that they did not believe in. While it is painful to see people leave that I have become friends with, that have inspired me and that I have great respect for I refuse to lash out with accusations. I respect these people and their opinions even when they differ from mine.

In closing I would like to share some quotes about Freedom.

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

“Freedom lies in being bold.”
― Robert Frost

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
― S.G. Tallentyre

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”
― Abraham Lincoln

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10 Responses to Freedom and Community

  1. Ian Nicholson says:

    Thank you for putting into words what I feel. People of course are welcome to leave, but the tendency to ascribe evil motivation to Canonical is totally silly.

  2. jonobacon says:

    Thanks, Charles, for a balanced, fair, and well written post. I think it provides a great sense of perspective.

  3. Michael says:

    I am not sure the “big brother” referal was exactly to Orwell, or rather, I took that literally with Canonical deciding, and then community voice not being heard. That doesn’t mean its true, but as a outsider, the way I see is that the double standard ( like pushing a unnnounced change for Amazon, like deciding to cancel UDS at the last moment ) show that there is a unequal treatment. It has always been true and this is unavoidable, but before, people at least tried to reduce this gap. People were working openly, stuff were being discussed at UDS, etc. Maybe that’s just the community being too big. Maybe that’s just budget cut, or just a general issue due to the state of the world ( economic recession ), winter, whatever.

  4. Canonical is, and always has been, a company. As such, they want to deliver a product and make a profit. Of course they welcomed community help, and in turn, gave the community resources to help in that. Perhaps I have a different take as part of the Kubuntu community — our flavor is entirely community directed and produced. Canonical always gave us little help, so we’ve never expected much. As long as Canonical produces an excellent base for the KDE we put on top, I’m happy to stick around. As for the new processes which have been proposed, they have not been submitted to the Technical Board as yet. Discussions continue; speak up for your needs!

  5. Pingback: My responses to dozen of posts | smartboyhw's Ubuntu blog

  6. crimsunkg says:

    Thank you for articulating these thoughts. I agree: people (and their aggregations, commercial and otherwise) should have the freedom to live their decisions, and while I may not agree with them, compassion and respect always are forthright. Free Software (and everything worthwhile in life, really) is so much more than seeing eye to eye on every speck. Accepting, even encouraging, differences is vital.

  7. Ian Weisser says:

    Great post. Well said.

    It’s nice, after a week of rancor, to see more voices of moderation and perspective.

  8. Just leaving a reply to your questions:

    “Is it possible that both Greg and Canonical shared the same vision and dream in the beginning, but things have changed? Is it possible that Greg and Canonical had similar visions and dreams, but that Greg missed slight differences?”

    Yes, we shared a philosophy before, when I joined the community. Now Canonical has left it behind/diverged enough that I no longer feel we share a grounding. That’s it really. It’s been a long time coming, this divergence. But its been happening. No one can be truthful to themselves and say that isn’t true.

    That’s it.

    Thanks for your comments.

    • Charles Profitt says:


      I have the utmost respect for you and understand that each and every person must be true to themselves.

  9. Matt Mossholder says:

    This talk of freedom is all well and good. But in my mind, the key factor here seems to be that people are feeling misled. So, sure, Canonical is just as free as anyone else to make decisions behind closed doors, and to make last minute announcements that impact a lot of people, but that still doesn’t make it right.

    And yes, Canonical is a for-profit company, but given the way that the community was formed and “advertised” in the past, I don’t think it is an unfair for community members to feel that they aren’t involved or appreciated the way they used to be.

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