Ubuntu's Community Problem Page 2: Page 2

Are the interests of Canonical and Ubuntu identical? Some Ubuntu contributors are starting to question that assumption.
(Page 2 of 2)

Canonical Responses

In answer to Elizabeth Krumbach's comments, former Ubuntu developer and activist Mackenzie Morgan commented that when she tried to bring such matters up a couple of years ago, the response was that "Canonical can't be excluding the community, because Canonical ARE the community."

This observation remains an accurate summary of Canonical responses to the complaints. Despite discussing these concerns with Krumbach and other Community Council members, Canonical executives show little awareness of them. Instead, they offer their own reasons for continuing to support Canonical.

Mark Shuttleworth did emphasize that rolling releases were only a topic of discussion, and that he tended to be against them.

Otherwise, Shuttleworth's reply was mostly unrelated to the complaints. His comment that "everyone has a say in what they can and will contribute. Canonical's contribution is massive" seems to imply that, because Canonical contributes the most, it has the largest say, although he didn't say so in as many words.

Instead, Shuttleworth claims that, "It's simply nonsense to say that Canonical gets 'what it wants' more than anybody else. Hell, half the time *I* don't get exactly what I want. It just doesn't work that way: lots of people work hard to the best of their abilities, [and] the result is Ubuntu."

Shuttleworth went on to say that distributions that were completely community based are also full of discussions and quarrels. Ignoring the fact that at least some of those expressing doubts, including Krumbach, were staying in the community, he added, "If you've done what you want for Ubuntu, then move on. That's normal -- there's no need to poison the well behind you just because you want to try something else."

He suggested that Riddell was being selfish by "inviting people to contribute less to the broader project, and more to one stakeholder." Riddell's response was that he was simply inviting people to move to another part of the project.

Bizarrely, Shuttleworth continued his defense by implying that the complainers wanted to keep Linux a preserve of experts. So far as I am aware, none of the criticizers expressed such a sentiment, yet for some reason Shuttleworth commented that "I simply have zero interest in the crowd who wants to be different. Leet. 'Linux is supposed to be hard so it's exclusive' is just about the dumbest thing that a smart person could say."

However, the main argument of both Shuttleworth and most pro-Canonical commenters was that Ubuntu and Canonical are at the brink of becoming mainstream, and that dissent threatens the chances of reaching that goal:

"If we want to get beyond being a platform for hobbyists, we need to accelerate the work on Unity to keep up with Android, Chrome, Windows and Apple. And that's more important than taking care of the needs of those who don't share our goal of a free software norm . . . . What I'm really interested in is this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a free and open platform that is THE LEADER across both consumer and enterprise computing."

In other words, Shuttleworth sees little room for compromises and seems intent on continuing with exactly the same policies that led to the complaints — all on the assumption that success will make everything worthwhile in the end.

The only hint of compromise came from Ubuntu community leader and Canonical employee Jono Bacon, whose dual roles understandably leave him feeling "somewhat trapped" in the discussion.

Bacon tries hard to find a middle ground:

"We need to be able to work in a way that maintains our Ubuntu values but also gives Canonical the opportunity to get our platform out to the market. Canonical cannot deliver this vision without our community, and Ubuntu would be significantly debilitated if there was no Canonical providing staff, resources, and other investment into Ubuntu. Canonical is not evil, and the community is not entitled; we all just need to step back and find some common ground and remember that we are all in the circle of friends."

Unfortunately, Bacon's diplomatic efforts are weakened by his defense of private development and keeping strategy secret. While he is obviously conflicted, this partial defense seems to imply that, should he have to choose, he would side with Canonical, and not Ubuntu — all the more so because he makes no concrete suggestions about how to compromise.

Sooner or Later

It's impossible to determine exactly how widespread the dissatisfaction might be. On the one hand, those complaining include a number of prominent or long-term Ubuntu activists, which would be unlikely unless the criticism had reached an advanced stage.

On the other hand, the number withdrawing from the community seems to be small. In fact, with Krumbach continuing to produce a copy of the Ubuntu newsletter this week the same as every week, the crisis might seem to be over. As discontented as many Ubuntu contributors might be, their discontent has apparently not reached the point of mass resignations.

Very likely, though, if the complaints have diminished, they have only gone dormant. The inadequacy of Canonical's response, to say nothing of the fact that the complaints have been brewing for several years, suggests that the discontent is not about to go away. It could break out again at any moment.

As much as Canonical wants to focus on becoming successful, it may have no choice except to deal with community complaints first. Ubuntu and Canonical clearly have evolved very different cultures, and a clash seems inevitable — if not now, then perhaps at an even more inconvenient moment.

Page 2 of 2

Previous Page
1 2

Tags: open source, Linux, Ubuntu, Canonical, community

0 Comments (click to add your comment)
Comment and Contribute


(Maximum characters: 1200). You have characters left.