Canonical and the Cease and Desist Letter

Recently Canonical sent a cease and desist letter to Micah Lee and he responded by having a lawyer respond and compromised by taking down the logo and adding a disclaimer to his site. I do not wish to take sides in the current battle about who was right and who was wrong; that is simply not what I find important. I understand that Canonical feels they have to protect the trademark of Ubuntu. I also understand that many feel that the community and not Canonical should be the guardian of that trademark. I find some of the ‘flame posts’ in this argument out of line and inappropriate.

Here are some samples:




I find it odd that people who so valiantly claim to be ‘good’ people protecting the ‘free software’ community would engage in such inflammatory comments. Is Canonical perfect? No. What I have personally experienced is a company trying to find a way to become profitable while maintaining open source ideals. I remember another company that did this and they turned to a model that required users to pay to use their software. The source code was released under GNU, but if you wanted to use Red Hat Enterprise Linux you had to purchase it. At the time the move was not popular with many Linux users, but it worked for them and I believe many people are happy with Red Hat as an open source company.

Offering antagonizing inflammatory posts is not the best way to help Canonical become successful and maintain its commitment to open source ideals. I would love to see people with this passion engage in a positive constructive manner with Canonical and the Ubuntu Community. I have three children and when they throw tantrums I have a hard time taking their concerns seriously until they calm down. I cases like this I pay close attention to the people that post intelligent level headed comments.

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25 Responses to Canonical and the Cease and Desist Letter

  1. Dylan McCall says:

    That Ubuntu doesn’t have a community manager is correct. Jono is the Ubuntu Community Manager at Canonical. Rather, Canonical has an Ubuntu Community Manager. It’s an important distinction. Of course, it’s also a bit moot since there isn’t really an entity called “Ubuntu” which would be able to employ a community manager, but I don’t think we should assume any malice by that comment.

    • Charles Profitt says:

      Perhaps my assumption was incorrect, but I took the comment intent to get under Jono’s skin and did not find it constructive.

      • ScottK says:

        You may be correct about the motivation for the comment, but it is (as Dylan explained) correct. The Ubuntu project as a number of positions that are managed via the Ubuntu governance process, but that’s not one of them.

        • Charles Profitt says:

          It is true that it is not managed by the Ubuntu Community, but that, to my knowledge, does not make the position invalid. It also does not add to the process of moving forward in a positive manner.

  2. Jo-Erlend Schinstad says:

    I just skimmed this, seeing as the topic is already dead, being a misunderstanding confirmed as a non-topic by the man in charge, and all;

    • Charles Profitt says:

      While it is true that Mark has addressed the issue itself… and did so in a genuine manner as well as apologizing for some earlier remarks he made… I think the point still stands that some people are engaging in comments that server to enflame the problem more than solve it. It reminds me of school yard fights in which a misunderstanding gets prodded by onlookers in to a full on fight.

  3. I don’t really see what’s inappropriate about the first two comments. The first one is just stating a boring fact and the second one is voicing some honest unhappiness. Third one is totally unconstructive an inapproprate though.

    • Charles Profitt says:

      First: I find the first comment to be an attempt to bait Jono because it implies that his being a Canonical employee invalidates his position as Ubuntu Community Manager.

      Second: The reference to Baghdad Bob I consider highly inflamatory as it implies that Jono is bascially a liar-in-chief trying to mislead the world. In fact, this comment ranks, in my opinion, worse than Mark’s comment about the Open Source Tea Party.

      While these are just my opinions I wanted to offer my point of view as clarification.

      • Per Ubuntu Governance: “It is the Community Council that approves the creation of a new team or project, along with team leader appointments.”

        Since that role has never been approved by the community council it is not the fact that he is a Canonical employee that invalidates that position, but that it was never approved by the Ubuntu governance process.

        Why have processes if they can be ignored?

        • I don’t think I really agree here. We actually had that section removed from the Governance page on because it’s inaccurate. Teams create and have autonomy to appoint their own leaders. Mostly the CC only steps in if something goes wrong, otherwise we’d spend all day in a bureaucratic mess and people would hate it­čÖé

          Now it’s true that someone can’t just stand up and say “I am THE Ubuntu Community Manager” but Canonical has put serious investment into Ubuntu and I wouldn’t jump to invalidating his position given his honest work over the years (Canonical also names Kernel, Desktop, Server, etc leads – they are all Canonical employees thus far, but Canonical employees do often have the most time to spend on things). I like to think we have community elected CC and TB to balance things out and spread leadership.

          • ScottK says:

            For server there is an Ubuntu Server team (of which I’m a member) and a Canonical Server team (which I am not), it’s not at all the same. The “Community team” is a Canonical construct. They do a lot of good work with the broader community, but I don’t think the community needs managing.

        • Charles Profitt says:

          The current governance reads:

          “Ubuntu Community Council

          The social structures and community processes of Ubuntu are supervised by the Ubuntu Community Council. It is the Community Council that handles appointments to and elections for official project boards and councils. The council is also responsible for the Code of Conduct and tasked with ensuring that community members follow its guidelines.

          The council is ultimately responsible for dispute resolution, should it be required. For example, in the past, we have helped to resolve conflicts in LoCo teams and in the Ubuntu forums – both very important parts of the community that have their own leadership structures carrying authority delegated by the Community Council.

          The Community Council meets every two weeks on Internet relay chat (IRC). You can propose an item for discussion at a council meeting on the Community Council Agenda page on the Ubuntu Wiki.”

          In reality the Ubuntu Community Council did not approve new teams nor approve leaders. I was part of the Ubuntu Beginners Team which formed on its own and had leaders who were elected internally. I am also a member of a LoCo team and the leaders of LoCo teams are not selected or approved by the Community Council either.

  4. I don’t see how charging for Free software is in conflict with “Open Source ideals. In fact, pulling Redhat’s licensing model in here seems like the usual antagonism card played by those who try to excuse what is quite clearly wrong behavior. It’s a strawman, as the fixubuntu screwup has absolutely nothing to do with Redhat. You are not helping by confusing these things here, just putting up a smoke screen.

    • Charles Profitt says:

      When Red Hat pulled Red Hat Linux and created RHEL there were many people that were upset about the decision. My post was motivated by the recent issue with fixubuntu, but I was not isolating it to that issue. Recently people have engaged in inflamatory tactics when discussing issues surrounding Canonical and Ubuntu… there was similar when Red Hat made their decision to change their model… perhaps it just wasn’t as easy to find since the Internet was not as populated as it is today.

      • That’s a very wide arch you’re drawing here.

        Canonical repeatedly tries to fend off criticism as coming from haters, being motivated by political or economic reasons, especially from Redhat. (Even Mark’s apology post keeps to this pattern of dismissal, without acknowledging the valid underlying issues.) It’s a smart strategy trying to counter, often valid, critics by picking the worst among the arguments. Your reference to Redhat is consistent with this exact same strategy. Yet, the issue at hand (verbal abusiveness, as you state) is served by balance and clarity more than by convoluting, possibly strategically motivated arguments.

        • Charles Profitt says:

          In this particular case, as I stated, I am not taking sides. I agree that balance and clarity is required to move the great good of Libre Software forward. There are certainly some things that ‘appear’ to be against that when they are indeed not; such as charging for RHEL. Is Unity Search an issue; to some, yes. Is it a violation of libre software; to my knowlege no. Again, that does not make it right or wrong. My opinion on the search is that it should be opt-in with a decision made at install time for self-installs or at first boot for OEM images.

  5. Thanks for the kind words, Charles. I agree that the tenor and tone in our wider Open Source community can be disappointing at times. I don’t ever see a reason for people to be rude to each other; it merely demonstrates an inability to articulate themselves well.

    As for Canonical Community Manager vs. Ubuntu Community Manager, I don’t think my employment at Canonical de-values the role. Canonical is a very active part of our community, not a seperate entity, and has invested in hiring my team to help grow our community. While everyone has their own view on what areas we should focus on, I do think the overall value of the team is worthwhile, and I don’t think the terminology of the role is that interesting…the output is what should be interesting.

  6. Martin Gr├Ą├člin says:

    I would have loved to see such a blog post when Mark called me an Open Source Tea Pary member, who is an outraged individual torturing the English language. The reason that I finally decided to leave the Ubuntu community behind me was not his insults but the fact that the Ubuntu community did not stand up against this abusive behavior.

    I appreciate that you point out these comments and I do hope you will do the same the next time when Mark sends out insults (as I learnt lately that seems to be more of a pattern than an exception, which rather shocked me­čśŽ ).

    Concerning the comments you picked: I agree with the first two and the third one is clearly not acceptable. I would have deleted that one from my blog comment section. There is no reason to insult someone.

    You might think different on the first two comments, but let’s face it: both are true as others have already pointed out. Of course they are snarky, but I think that this is something which is sometimes needed. If Jono is considered as a PR-spokesman and not a community manager, then something somewhere went wrong. Pointing this out is the only way to get people to rethink their behavior. It’s quite likely that Jono doesn’t notice that he sounds like the PR-spokesperson, maybe such a comment helps.

    • Charles Profitt says:

      I fully agree that Mark’s comments about the Tea Party were unacceptable. As a member of the Ubuntu Community Council I can assure you that there are incidents of poorly worded comments from members of the Ubuntu Community which are noticed and handled. I would not say that all of them have been handled, but when they are noticed and raised they are dealt with. In most cases they are handled in private. I have always been taught in life that praise is done in public and criticism is done in private.

      • jspaleta says:

        I would argue that strictly private criticism reduces overall accountability, especially for someone who is repeatedly failing social norms, and the lack of accountability is bad for team or social dynamics. And I’m not the only one who argues this point:

        If the Community Council has engaged over Mark’s comment with him in private, and there has been an agreement on steps he needs to take in the future to avoid a repeated pattern of verbal abuse… then the outcome of that discussion and action items of that agreement, needs to be communicated widely..and not just by Mark..but by the group that are holding him accountable to the agreement he met in private.

        Because everyone impacted by his commentary, everyone not in on that private chat with him, have zero expectation that he’s going to change his behavior in the future. Nor does anyone outside of that private discussion have any clue as to the specific actions to look for as signals that he’s specifically agreed to work on as part of your private conversation. Everybody whose feels slandered or abused by his comments have their defensive screens on high, and rightly so. As I’m sure he has his defenses up because he feels similarly. And thus the cycle repeats itself.

        So is the Community Council as a group going to put their good name and reputation on the line and talk specifically about how the Ubuntu leader has agreed to show…restraint.. in the future with regard to communicating with externals he perceives are in conflict with the project?

        And unfortunately, Mark can’t just be politely shunned without actively shunning the Ubuntu project. He holds the irrevocable leadership in the Ubuntu project and to shun him as Ubuntu leader means to shun the project. Which again unfortunately, is exactly what has been happening as individual developers and contributors reach their limit with his particular way of engaging with critics.

        Regardless how what the Community Council collectively feels about his behavior, there’s no way for them as a governance body to censure him or rebuke him. No matter how much damage he’s causing, no one can force him to take off his leadership hat, take a break from the role, and get some perspective by taking on a different role, leading to healthier situation for everyone and giving the strained relationships time to repair without the personal conflict baggage he specifically brings to the table.

        Unlike the random internet comment thread trolls which you highlight, Mark is in a leadership position for the Ubuntu project, he doesn’t have the luxury of slumming it with the trolls, as Mark Shuttleworth. It is what it is. He he can’t help himself, then he needs to develop a second identity just for the internet bar brawls or just learn to avoid throwing punches at all. Having an alternative identify might serve him well actually. An identity that everyone can easily ignore, and doesn’t stand on the Ubuntu project leadership podium nor wrap its words in the ubuntu project flag using the goodwill of the project at large to shield against criticism.

        • I don’t think Charles suggested that the Community Council engaged Mark on his comments.

        • Charles Profitt says:

          I can respect the opinion that making agreements concerning improving performance or behavior public can help to improve accountability and transparency. I personally think that there are situations when revealing such discussions and agreements could be detrimental to the situation as well.

          In the end, while it may be idealistic, it would be great if everyone could work in harmony or be allowed to go off and scratch their own itch without a war of words. The point of my post was not to take a side, but to express a need for all side to ratchet down the verbal and personal nature of the dialog.

          Two wrongs do not make a right.

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