Ubuntu's Community Link Problems: Page 2

Small events can have big consequences.
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Kerensa also faulted the Design Team for using testers who were not community members but a random group, "who may have no interest in the overall health of the community."

Kerensa supported his position by pointing out that "Members of our community who knew the link was removed from the top said they had spent over twenty seconds looking for the new placement of the link... We cannot expect that regular visitors will spend that much time."

Furthermore, Kerensa posted stats to show that the Community home page had received one-third fewer hits since the change. In addition, he posted a poll on the Ubuntu forum asking for opinions and generally receiving support.

Mention Hitler and Maybe You Lose

Keeping his tone respectful and clearly identifying himself as part of the community, Kerensa received some signs of support. However, more controversially, he also created and privately circulated a variation on the Hitler meme. Scenes from Downfall showing Hitler reacting to bad new are given English sub-titles that relate to the news that community members were complaining about the repositioned link.

Against Kerensa's intention, Terranova briefly made the video public, calling it "brutally funny" and claiming that Kerensa included a dig at him in it. Terranova even asserted that Shuttleworth would find the video funny, despite the comparison of him to Hitler.

Yet Teranova had to admit that the video came close to violating Godwin's law—the unofficial Internet rule that anyone who mentions Nazism automatically loses a discussion. Still, he defends the parody as a necessary escalation after other means to gain attention had failed.

Others, however, are not so sure. Ex-Fedora organizer Greg DeKoenigsberg replied with a simple "-1" to indicate his disapproval. In another comment, he suggested that Kerensa stick to facts rather than attempt parody.

An even stronger reaction came from Jef Spelata, a frequent critic of Ubuntu who has been known to be controversial himself. Noting that he had learned to moderate his own tone so he would be more likely to be heard, Spelata writes, "None of the decisions being ridiculed in that video are good ones, really, and there is a lot to sympathize with." However, he goes on to describe the video as "strategically poor, if the goal is to keep [the] community engaged and involved in the Ubuntu project."

The video, Spelata suggests, "is going to tighten up the collective mental sphincters" in Ubuntu and "put them into a several defensive posture." However, so far, Canonical has yet to show its awareness of the video, much less what anyone thinks about it.

Terranova has prepared an image consisting of the front page of the Ubuntu site with "Make room for Community" printed on it. He is also preparing an open letter to Shuttleworth. However, what reaction these efforts will provoke remains uncertain. Unless others agree with Terranova's view of the video as a joke, it may be too over-the-top for people to identify publicly with its perspective.

From Any Perspective, a Problem

It is still unclear just how much support exists for the complaints about Canonical's leadership. Except for the Hitler video, community reactions have had few hostile responses, but that might be due to the Ubuntu Code of Conduct.

At the same time, mention of the repositioned link on mailing lists and social media generates some expressions of sympathy, but not in the numbers that suggest overwhelming support. Each mention results in four or five supportive comments, but not the dozens that might be expected if mass support existed.

Yet perhaps those numbers, too, reflect the limits imposed by the Code of Conduct. Or possibly, potential supporters wish to avoid being viewed as troublemakers. In the absence of evidence, you can make the facts fit almost any theory.

However, even if the complaints do not represent a majority viewpoint, they should still be cause for concern in Ubuntu and Canonical. Even if the complainers are a minority, they are a persistent and vocal minority.

But the biggest reason for concern is that the complainers tend to be community leaders. Unless Canonical proceeds carefully, any attempt to quell dissatisfaction could fragment its community support and perhaps seriously affect its long-range plans.

At this point, all that can be safely said is that Ubuntu has community problems, and that past reactions to similar problem do not offer much hope of an amicable solution. But unless one can be found, Ubuntu and Canonical are beginning to look as though they just might stumble before they can manage the last few steps towards success.

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

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