Does Ubuntu Contribute its Share to Free Software Projects?: Page 2

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Ubuntu Community Manager Jono Bacon gives a more detailed reply when he blogs that Neary's original analysis does not include contributions to GNOME that are "(a) not part of official GNOME modules, and (b) hosted and developed elsewhere, such as Launchpad [Canonical's development site]."

Nor, Bacon adds, does Neary's analysis include applications developed to run on GNOME that have not been accepted into the GNOME project, such as Ubuntu's Simple Scan. Furthermore, while Canonical has not contributed heavily to GNOME, Bacon also points out that the company and the Ubuntu community have made "significant upstream investment in other areas such as Upstart, Bazaar, Launchpad, and a full team building Ubuntu."

However, by far the strangest reply is from Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth. Instead of addressing DeKoenigsberg's comments, Shuttleworth attempts to deflect them obliquely by warning about the dangers of "tribalism," which he defines as "when one group of people start to think people from another group are 'wrong by default'."

Tribalism, Shuttleworth explains, is the origin of racism and sexism and "makes you stupid." By contrast, Shuttleworth describes Canonical and Ubuntu as a place where the prevailing values are to treat everybody with respect. He urges people "Do not be drawn into a tribal argument on Ubuntu’s behalf" and "hold fast to what you know to be true" -- that is, to pride in Ubuntu's leadership and contributions to free software.

"The Gregs are entitled to their opinions," he writes (his only direct reference to DeKoenigsberg), but, so far as he is concerned, people like Bacon have already answered the criticism and moved beyond it, and so should everyone else.

In a subsequent blog, Shuttleworth accepts DeKoenigsberg's apology, adding that "We should start every discussion in free software with a mutual reminder of the fact that we have far more in common than we have differences."

More than an argument

It is easy to pick out the flaws on both sides of this issue. On the one hand, DeKoenigsberg responds as though Neary's analysis and one or two other indicators were enough to condemn Ubuntu, when clearly they are not. It is this incompleteness that Jeffrey Stedfast is apparently responding to when he mocks DeKoenigsberg's comments.

On the other hand, the responses from Ubuntu are just as incomplete. Asay may have a point that Canonical started contributing later than Red Hat, but the contributions are still disproportionate when allowances are made for the fact. Similarly, Bacon ignores the fact that one reason why Canonical contributions are not being accepted into GNOME is that the company has chosen to proceed on its own rather than at the slower pace at which the GNOME project moves.

As for Shuttleworth's comments, his condemnation of DeKoenigsberg is justified, but his own attempt to assert superiority is as good an example of tribalism as anything that he is responding to.

In the end, neither position seems solid, and both DeKoenigsberg and Shuttleworth should be congratulated for making sure that the argument did not get further out of hand (although I have no doubt that on some level, others are continuing it somewhere on the Internet).

Still, the argument is worth noting for what it implies about the community. On the most basic level, it demonstrates -- if any proof is needed -- the passionate feelings that Canonical and Ubuntu provoke. After six years, Canonical and its successes are apparently still viewed by many as upstarts. While supporters see Canonical as taking free software to new levels of acceptance, others see it as taking advantage of the community's success, even though -- as Stedfast points out -- nothing in free software's official rules should make that unacceptable.

Next Page: What Canonical has not done

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Tags: open source, Linux, Ubuntu, Gnome, Shuttleworth

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