Torvalds, KDE 4, and the Media Circus: Page 3

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For someone like Seigo, who has been not only a leader in KDE development but frequently its public face, such an admission must be difficult to handle. Still, after a year like the one that KDE has had, it's alarming to read Seigo defending the managerial decisions (or, possibly, not separating them out from the engineering ones):

"While 4.0 was a brutally hard decision and one that cost me (and I assume others) sleepless nights, it was what we needed to do to ensure that we didn't end up stagnating ourselves into irrelevance. By "ourselves" I mean the F/OSS desktop, which includes the Linux desktop . . . . [W]hile '08 will be remembered as a freaking tough year . . . we're already past that time period and into the beginning of the pay off period. That period will extend several years out, and will gain us yet millions more users on all sorts of systems."
In theory, people should be able to say that KDE 4 was an engineering triumph and a managerial disaster, but, by not making this distinction, KDE defenders like Seigo open up the possibility of the same situation reoccurring again. Such remarks might call into question KDE's commitment to the new Community Working Group that is partly intended to avoid repeating what happened with KDE 4. Their defensiveness also undermines Seigo's efforts to put Torvalds' remarks into their proper perspective.

Media circus

Seigo probably goes too far when he implies that the timing of this news could be deliberately intended to undermine the reception of KDE 4.2. Nor does his bitter comment that, if Torvalds switches back to KDE, the change will go unreported seem an accurate prediction: Torvalds is a celebrity, and many journalists are only too happy to report on celebrities whenever they get a chance.

Still, Seigo is generally right that the parties involved in this story are not only Torvalds and the KDE community, but also the members of the free software media, who have "sensationalized the article". In the headlines alone -- let alone the stories -- journalists have ripped Torvalds' remarks out of context, and given them an emphasis that he did not intend. Moreover, they have repeated each other's mistakes, often with near-identical headlines, rather than evaluating for themselves. The results are both the needless stirring of latent animosities in the community and the framing of discussions such that both sides are vulnerable to being put in false positions that they probably would otherwise not defend.

This situation benefits no one. There are aspects of Torvalds' remarks that KDE might absorb, and aspects of the comments from KDE stalwarts like Seigo that might put Torvalds' remarks into proper perspective for the general community. But, thanks to the media reporting, such nuanced thinking is next to impossible -- no matter how badly all of us need it.

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Tags: Linux desktop, Gnome, KDE, desktop, Torvalds

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