The Ups and Downs of GNOME 3

One of the most interesting parts of being Executive Director of GNOME has been riding the wave of feedback on GNOME 3. I took the position after GNOME 3 was already released, and it was that beautiful vision of the GNU/Linux desktop that inspired me to leave a job I loved. Since then, the highs have been really high and the lows have been tough. One of the very visible disappointments we had was aggressive criticism from Linus Torvalds, which started a cascade of detraction by others and a perception of a real decline in the GNOME community. It’s been difficult to reconcile all of the ups and downs. At GUADEC, we had such a rich experience with great participation by a broad community (and with a very high percentage of active attendance by newcomers) while at the very same time the blogoverse was exploding with news that our contributor diversity had completely dwindled away.

An article today in the Register got me thinking about all of this in a fresh way. The article talks about Linus Torvalds, and primarily about his style of interacting with others. The article ends with this:

Torvalds has switched back to GNOME 3 as he reckons the desktop GUI’s problems are being fixed: “It has been getting less painful. They have extensions that are still too hard to find. You can make your desktop look almost as good as it did two years ago.”

I was a little stunned as I read that – it was an afterthought to the article, and it really brought home how things often work in the free software press. The criticism we received was featured by many – if Linus Torvalds slammed GNOME, then how could it have any future? And yet, not so long after, he’s switched back. The point is that it really takes time to get things right. In free software, we develop in the open. We release often, and sometimes it takes more time to make something that is truly ready for prime time. But by going ahead early, we have the chance to really build a community around our software, be inclusive and have a chance to make mistakes and then learn from them with input from others.

At GUADEC and in connection with our 15th anniversary, we talked a lot about how negatively GNOME 2 was perceived upon release and how it took a long time for it to become the desktop that everyone loved. I think this is how that happens in a true free software community run project – through slow incremental improvements that may only be acknowledged as afterthoughts in an article.

Linus may not stay with GNOME 3 but I’m glad he’s giving it another go and having a more positive experience. I hope that others do the same. I remain as inspired as ever by GNOME. GNOME 3 is a beautiful desktop experience that I continue to enjoy using and love showing off to others. Our community is vibrant. I’m proud to be a part of it and look forward to seeing it grow and improve, incrementally and over time!

44 thoughts on “The Ups and Downs of GNOME 3

  1. Hi,
    I agree with you, that things sometimes take longer to really satisfy people with new stuff and in the open source world this also can take some more time.
    The problem I see is, when the incremental improvements you pointed out change APIs and therefor destroying the systems backwards compatability.
    As I mostly just use Gnome3, I can’t give too much examples, but I recognized it with GnomeShell themes and extensions.
    This way you loose many contributers, which is not good for the community.

    Nevertheless I think Gnome3 is heading in a good direction and I really like it, so keep working hard.

  2. Too bad Linus switched back to KDE (http://goo.gl/yODHj), desktop environment that already found out that single way of interaction for touch-based and dekstop devices is impossible to do right and ships separate ui for tablets (http://plasma-active.org/). GNOME approach works like this: Let’s make GNOME touch friendly, but don’t test it on touch devices, since we don’t have any of them running GNOME. The result is that GNOME is broken on desktop as well as on touch based devices ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCgWKoBOtK0 – this single touch device with gnome3 doesn’t look to well)

  3. I wish Gnome would publish some user testing results. I can not find any proof of usability for the new GnomeShell design.

    IMHO Gnome3 looks promising for TVs, tablets, and Minority Report Interfaces :-) but in my (government) desktop PC deployment is not functional out of the box.

  4. fwiw, Debian did *not* switch to Xfce as default desktop for wheezy. Those reports are wrong. The relevant commit in tasksel was reverted before it got uploaded to the Debian archive. GNOME remains the default desktop on Debian for now.

  5. Debian does not default to XFCE. The reporting on that came from Phoronix, and already at that time it was known this was to force progress on making the default install image smaller.

    Now, the limited hardware support in future might result in that default to be changed yet again. In any case, be wary when the reporting originates from Phoronix. The site is not bad, but often doesn’t do any analysis/reporting.

    • Exactly. This change didn’t occur because Debian actively advocates XFCE over GNOME; it just occurred because GNOME didn’t fit on CD 1 anymore. Since then, Debian has actively worked to fix that, and at some point GNOME may fit on CD 1 again.

    • Woah, can’t call it a nice read, but surely confirmed most of my impressions. Hope GNOME 3 will thrive … as a platform for Cinnamon ;)

      • I think there are some valid points in the original post, although it’s not easy to read. Some HN comments are a gold, and just because of that the post is totally worth it.

        I’m not a Gnome dev or contributor (just an user that does some bug reporting), so I can’t tell if it will help to improve Gnome in any way, but looks to me like nothing stated in the post or the comments is fatal or can’t be changed.

        [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

    • The second link was a reasonable criticism of Gnome developers but then some of the comments crowd donned their tin foil hats and started bashing RH and Google. I don’t know how that contributes to the credibility of the criticism.

      • Yep, “don’t feed the trolls” and “ignore the haters” are only newspeak for “I have no intention to listen to those who disagree” in GNOMEland. Sad sad sad …

  6. But Linus has a point. There are many nice extensions that improve the user experience with the GNOME3 desktop. But they are hard to find, difficult to install and quite often do not work. In particular since I’ve updated to 3.6 I found that most extensions from extensions.gnome.org don’t work any longer. The journal (aka Zeitgeist) for example. Very useful things like the weather extensions are not even available from extensions.gnome.org.

    There should really be a bunch of extensions that are considered part of GNOME and that are available by default and from day 0 of a GNOME release.

    • Well sure, we have some issues with getting our extensions updated timely to work with new releases. We know it is a problem and we are working on solutions. 3.8 is out and I still haven’t updated my extension that Linus uses. I haven’t because it hasn’t come out on Fedora yet.

      We do need a way to have images available that are stable enough to be able to create and modify extensions for the next version. That is a sysadmin challenge.

  7. I’m not sure this last comment from Linus is recent. I seem to remember that some time during the summer he was “back on Gnome” asking the community on G+ to help him “install Docky”. You know so he could use it instead of the native GS dock on the left. And all this talk about extensions. It’s as if he wants to use Gnome 3, but not the Shell, he just wants it changed beyond recognition with extensions and so on.
    Be that as it may – I’ve been following this Gnome situation with interest as somebody who might one day use GS, one day when it’s consistent and standardized in its appearance and functionality, and that day is not today.
    So in the meantime I have to observe that you at Gnome do have a problem bigger than what Linus likes and dislikes. Mint and Ubuntu, two biggest distros, are never coming back to GS, I think that’s safe to say. Fedora, which is showcasing it, has plenty of problems to release a new version, and on their mailing list their own community leaders are suggesting it’s not a stable distro that “normal people” should use at all. You are making a tablet interface, but there is no tablet known that runs GS. So your problem is, who’s it for, who uses it, and how will (“normal”) people who want to use it find it, if so few popular distros and no OEMs ship it?

    • Mint uses gnome shell, gnome shell plus it’s own extension. So your comment there doesn’t make sense. Unity uses GNOME libraries and cannot survive without the GNOME project readily.

      • I was under the distinct impression that both Unity and Cinnamon are forks. I am well aware as I’m sure they are that they depend on Gnome 3. Gnome Shell however they have discarded for good. I think GS devs (and designers……) would have a stroke if somebody suggested Unity and Cinnamon are “Gnome Shell”. Remember, those guys don’t even want you to change the theme.
        Then again maybe my comment really makes no sense. Maybe GS is widely accepted and used as the default on major distros.

    • “Fedora, which is showcasing it, has plenty of problems to release a new version, and on their mailing list their own community leaders are suggesting it’s not a stable distro that “normal people” should use at all.”

      If you talk about the incoming 18 release, stability issue is mainly related to the newest installer. The system by itself runs fine.

      • I think this discussion I mentioned, which I think is relevant because it’s the people who make Fedora, was about the distro more generally than the trouble with the new version’s installer. One quote:

        “We are not really doing a convincing job of releasing and maintaining stable operating systems, we’re just wasting a lot of resources on pretending to do so. Badly.”

        http://lists.fedoraproject.org/pipermail/devel/2012-November/173397.html

        I tend to disagree, because I’ve had Fedora work perfectly with no intervention past the initial codecs and whatnot hassle. But obviously they know better?

  8. .0 releases always have issues, which get sorted out after a while. GNOME 2.0 brought on the same kind of bad press when it tried to introduce usability and simplicity into the desktop, because it removed options just a little bit too aggressively. After a couple of releases, it got back to a sane state.

    Similarly, GNOME 3.0 removed options a bit too aggressively, but a few releases later it has now started to get back from “prototype vision of the future” to “usable”.

    As long as the designers of GNOME 3 retain the ability to listen and act on user feedback, everything will straighten itself out just like it did for GNOME 2. History repeats itself.

  9. What is not the problem: The Gnome-Shell, the style, the new applications menus, the removal of window borders in maximized state, the notification and message area. They are all great!

    The biggest problem of GNOME are the developers itself, their don’t communicated plans and react ignorant on suggestions.

    The whole story about Type-Ahead-Find is a perfect example. A developer removed a basic standard feature, no one stops him. And the users tried to turn is mind. Thats a catastrophe! And behavior of developer wasn’t acceptable, if a change breaks more than it fix. Dont change it. And don’t force users to use “forum”. Which forums?!

    Next thing. The “don’t react on LID-CLOSE” button was removed. Users tried to turn the mind of developers. But they refused, five buttons on one panel are confussing. WTF?

    Next thing.
    Personally not a matter for me, but I understand the userbase. The “Shutdown/Logou.t” behaviour in the user menu. Three release cycles to fix a thing, which was wrong from the very first moment?

    FEATURES. FEATURES. FEATURES. And some buttons. We don’t want KDE. Gtk+ looks, by the way, a lot of better.

    DCONF is not a solution. Nearly most of that stuff is not supported and tested. Leads to next matter: Quality. GNOME must decrease the number of embarassing bugs (e.g. birthday calender in evolution again broken. for the sixed time now?). Maybe the development cycle is to short at all.

    Last but no least: Maintainers. See Murrays post. This is the C++ binding!!! OMG! Help him! Maybe you should work much more with Red Hat and Ubuntu, the foundation could really need fulltime developers.

  10. As a former GNOME user, I think GNOME has a future, if the developers who designed the current user interface admit the mistakes that they’ve made and start looking for solutions. The first step would be start listening to what the users say. Unfortunately, none of this seems to be happening. On the contrary, anyone can read Allan Day’s blog and see that the man is still convinced that putting a “touch”-oriented UI on a desktop OS was a brilliant idea.

    • It is not a touch oriented GUI. It is was not made for tablets. I will continue to repeat this to every person who mentions touch.

      The idea is to create distraction free computing. The components use javascript and CSS which does seem to show some resemblance to WebOS or some other. But there is nothing in the UI that assumes touch functionality.

      No, we are not going to admit there was a mistake, there is no mistake. I’ll let you know a secret, people said the same thing in GNOME 2 when we incorporated usability and accessibility. Clearly, you liked the end result. So trust us one more time.

      • I don’t think it’s a matter of trusting. I liked Gnome 2 because it allowed me to use a computer the way I want to use a computer. Gnome 3 doesn’t allow me to do that, and no amount of trust is going to change this fact.

        As for the touch-oriented GUI, it seems hard to deny this one. Look at the applications menu. They went from a classic dropdown menu to a full-screen grid of icons. For what reason? This is anything but distraction free. It’s painfully obvious that the designers were inspired by and wanted to recreate a touch-driven user interface.

  11. The argument that “it takes time to get it right” in the free software world is counteracted by the distros that always want bleeding-edge software. Gnome 3 and KDE 4 were both horribly buggy when they were released, and yet how many distros made those initial releases the default?

    The problem applies to the entire desktop stack and doesn’t seem to be getting addressed. I’ve used Linux for over a decade, and the “just trust us, it will work in the next release” mantra is getting stale.

    Either developers need to hold back on their initial releases, or the distros need to stop packaging them. We need a solution.

  12. 3.6 worse than 3.4 Tray is not usability, to whom it can be useful? Application icons are hidden, not visible if you wrote someone or not, etc.

  13. I’m surprised so many actually care what Linus says. He is certainly no expert in the user interface design field, he is a kernel guy. Obviously people listen to what he has to say about it, but this stuff is highly subjective, thus everyone should make up their own mind. I think Gnome Shell is great, finally a desktop environment on Linux, that actually looks “professional” and clean, uncluttered. It performs well, and the extension argument is in my opinion, non existant. I do use a few, but could absolutely live without them, and none of the are “highly” useful nor make me more productive.

    There is still room for improvment in Gnome, but I think it has shown itself as a reliable experience, and I personally love the new way of working the desktop.

    On a side not, I’m not crazy about the tray changes in 3.6 either. In 3.4 is was a bit intrusive, but in 3.6 it seems too hidden. Hopefully they can find some nice “inbetween”.

  14. Very worth saying.

    GNOME3 news and blogging often seems to be an echo chamber. When a developer leaves in January, then its news. When its a slow news day so the same article is written again in October its not news, nor a sign to terminal decline.

    Of course the same thing happens whichever desktop project makes itself more awesome… presumably when KDE5 comes out then it will KDE that is in terminal decline… until GNOME4.

  15. Is there any work from the foundation going into tracking the “ups and downs” of GNOME and its public reception in a quantitative manner?
    Relying on the anecdotes of vocal minorities does not seem to be a solid way of judging progress to me.

  16. Hi Karen,

    I’m not sure why I’m writing to you. Maybe because I’ve been a passionate Gnome user (and briefly almost-developer) for a decade or so. Maybe because I think you have the right skill set and are sufficiently detached from everyday development work to look at the big picture and steer the situation towards a good ending.

    You write:

    “[...] But by going ahead early, we have the chance to really build a community around our software, be inclusive and have a chance to make mistakes and then learn from them with input from others. [...]”

    I’d like to challenge this assertion. This may well be how Gnome used to operate, or how you’d like Gnome to operate, but how can you say that there’s any community building, inclusiveness or learning from feedback going on at present if you read stuff like this https://igurublog.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/gnome-et-al-rotting-in-threes/ (which is arguably just the tip of the iceberg)? A more accurate description appears to be that Gnome as a community is actively being destroyed by a few designers and their loyal following.

    How is Gnome building a (developer-) community if your lead designers tell theme writers that their work is no longer wanted in the land of Gnome 3 because themes don’t align with their brand identity goals?

    How is Gnome being inclusive if your designers feel entitled to dictate how Gnome users use *their* computers? “Don’t like the default panel icon order? Go away!” Gnome also used to be about freedom. If users want to move panel apps around, why take away that freedom? Remember, this is your existing user base you are alienating, the people you rely on to rave about how much they like Gnome to friends/family/colleagues.

    How can anyone in Gnome possibly be listening to feedback if the storm of third party developers and users pointing out obvious mistakes in the current implementation of and design process behind Gnome 3 hasn’t stopped three point releases and 1.5 years after 3.0?

    I am still kind of shocked that Gnome as a project is allowing any of this to happen. Design does have a place in software development but at such a high cost can you really justify giving designers so much leeway?

    “[...] At GUADEC and in connection with our 15th anniversary, we talked a lot about how negatively GNOME 2 was perceived upon release and how it took a long time for it to become the desktop that everyone loved.[...]”

    Likewise, this just isn’t factually correct. There was indeed a lot of uproar when 2.0 was released. But if I recall correctly it was very short-lived. By 2.2 the dust had pretty much settled (apart from the spatial Nautilus episode in 2.6), people were excited about Gnome 2 again, and the Gnome 2.x user interface has remained virtually identical from 2.2 all the way to 2.32. Please don’t put the controversy over Gnome 3 off as “just the same thing as the 1.x->2.0 transition”. It is not.

    I don’t know exactly what your responsibilities as Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation are. If anything I think you should acknowledge that there is in fact a problem, a problem that cannot be explained by poor tech journalism or trolling alone, and get the involved parties together to work towards a solution. It may not be possible to fix the implementation immediately, but do fix your (design-) processes as soon as possible.

    Community building, inclusiveness and listening to feedback should indeed be core values guiding Gnome development. Hold everyone involved in Gnome responsible to respecting these values. If Gnome does not get back on track in this respect the situation aptly described by El Reg through the following rhetorical question will inevitably ensue:

    “[...]If a major Linux desktop falls in the forest and no one is around to use it, does it make a sound?[...]” (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/11/04/state_of_gnome/)

    I believe this would be a sad ending to what used to be a 15 year long Free Software success story.

    Cheers,

    R

    • Well. As I said before, I fine with the Gnome-Shell itself. I’m not fine with the removal of *important features*. Which is continuing with 3.6 – we have lost features.

      But now to your point “it is the same/not the same like 2.0″:
      Well. You are right. It is definitely not the same! Why? See above. GNOME 3.6 is not gaining features, or simply said buttons to press. What happend, especially with Nautilus, is the worst case. GNOME is losing feature. Users haft to argue against developers to get important button to change settings or not to lost feature everyone needs.

      What happend? Immediately forks! Ubuntu decided to stay at 3.4 and Mint started on developing.

      Also GNOME tries the users to use the desktop in a way nobody likes: I’cant set a background, if I’m not using the XDG_PICTURES_FOLDER because somebody remove the File-Open-Dialog? And what should I do with this useless applications “Documents” or “Photos”? This is not iOS! We have a filesystem, which we can use and want use. We have (still) a file-browser, called Nautilus.

      btw.
      Does anyone know why GNOME give applications undistinguishable names like “Web”, “Files”, “Documents”, “Photos” and so on. Doesn’t make building a reputation easier, without own names. Doesn’t make bug-reports easier.

      • There were very good reasons for all the changes in Nautilus — just read http://blogs.gnome.org/mccann/2012/08/01/cross-cut/ .
        Have you actually used it, though?
        IMHO, it’s much nicer than the old Nautilus: the new search feature works suprisingly well, the view you set finally applies globally, not just to the current folder (this bothered me for ages), and there’s a really handy “Recent files” entry in the sidebar.
        Frankly, it blows all the other file browsers out of the water now.

  17. I’m sorry. I forget the most important thing above:

    If I am wrong with the assumption, that the problems with GNOME 3 are not the same like with GNOME2. Than the project have to answer this question itself:

    Why do we have the same problem, again? What is going wrong?

  18. Hi Karen,
    You’ve done a great job on Gnome 3 — keep it up! I’ve switched to Ubuntu Gnome Remix and I’m loving it.

    Hopefully we’ll see a Gnome 3 HIG and a redesigned software center soon, so that developers have incentive to develop Gnome 3 applications. The rest will follow. :)

  19. There is something on GNOME that makes people hate and rant. I have not seen this happen to the same extend in other communities. Sure, every project receives a sh*tstorm now and then. But GNOME is at it constantly, it seems …

    And in fact, I am myself switching to XFCE now. The reason is simple: GNOME has announced to discontinue “fallback” mode. Which I use, because it fits my style of work and works best with my hardware. So I’m investigating my choices now, in case my next upgrade removes my *working desktop*.
    I’m hoping for you that Linus has not switched back to “fallback” mode, too. Maybe he just found out that Gnome3 has this nice Gnome2-like mode hidden in it… you better ask him, or you might be up to the next Linus-sh*tstorm soon.

    While there is some stuff I really like about Gnome3, there is plenty that I’m not happy with. And Gnome no longer gives me a real choice. For example, themes are broken all the time, so I have to use black panels. I hate black panels (PANELS, not people). And the only thing added in 3.8 seeminly is the option to make everything black themed. Mind it, but I’m not watching movies all the time, and if I do, I use fullscreen.

    And that were just the two most obvious things. Black “design” and “shell”. I figure the key problem – which you see over and over again – is the removal of choice. People like to stick to what they have grown to like. Forcing them to move to the latest designer choice is NOT what they want.

    Some versions of Gnome, but IIRC the Gnome 2 iteration, tried to force everybody into using Mono. And using Tracker. Which didn’t really work well, and wasted a lot of disk space (definitely not worth it if your barely search for files). I remember the outcry when Galeon started removing the madness of options it had, which spawned Kazekahaze. It’s not that removing options is always bad. But Gnome has overdone it, and that might just be why it receives so many sh*tstorms.

    Maybe you could do some user study that focuses on the users you LOST, to find out how to get them back. Because a lot of them – such as Linus Torvalds – definitely are leaders and sticking to Linux. One of the key success facors for GTK was that it had the better license compared to QT back then, and the much wider language support. But these things can flip easily. A lot of things around Gnome became an order of magnitude more complicated: GSettings, Dconf, GIR, DBUS everywhere. The API you need to know to develop for Gnome3 is at least 2x as large as that of GTK2, and there isn’t a working GTK3-Windows port anymore. While GTK2 was a good choice for cross-platform development, GTK3 is a dead end right now.
    Gnome3 could soon have a much larger problem than people frequently ranting on them.

    [...] GNOME 2 had 45% in 2010, and GNOME 3 only 19% in 2011 [...] Xfce has been steadily gaining in the LinuxQuestions survey for several years, with 11% in 2009 and 15% in 2010. However, in 2011, Xfce jumped to 28%, finishing well ahead of GNOME 3

    And sure, XFCE is also GTK3 based, I know. Still, these numbers speak a clear language. Despite GNOME3 still being (and remaining) e.g. Debian default, Gnome interestingly loses market share. LOTS of market share.

    Speaking of non-tech users. My dad, retired, has been a happy gnome2 user. When I upgraded him to Gnome 3, the first question he had was: how to get the panels back. So I set him to “fallback” mode, and he was happy again. Looks like with the next upgrade, I will also have to switch him to XFCE. Because, well, it works as he *expects* it to do.

  20. Oh, and a key example of why Gnome3 was unusable for my dad:

    The shutdown function was hidden behind the magic ALT button. Suspend doesn’t work reliably on the hardware, btw. Yes, he uses a desktop PC.

    I would be surprised if Gnome-Shell has more than 10% of current desktop share. Unity takes probably a large share, XFCE will have twice as much as GNOME, and KDE probably too. For reference, the whole computer lab at my university was just switched from KDE to XFCE, because XFCE had the least issues with the video drivers. You bet they tried Gnome and Unity, but also had to ditch them. And yes, this was this year. Just the computers have been inexpensive computer three years ago, so their graphics boards are not that well supported. They work, but on the second screen you often get artifacts when OpenGL is used. Go figure.

    I have the impression that of all the Linux users I know, I’m the only Gnome user left, actually. Some left as early as Gnome2, some when Gnome3 broke a lot of stuff. Now with fallback mode, my dad will have to switch to XFCE, and I will probably do the same, because it is just EASIER for me.

  21. My feelings towards Gnome Shell are mixed to positive. It is much more easier to use then Gnome 2 ever was but I’ve had a hard time adjusting to the new interface. Which is why I’m thankful for the Linux Mint team and Cinnamon.

    Overall, I’m slowly growing to like it.

  22. To comment on the Ups and Downs:
    In my oppinion, and I read an enormous amount of comments that seem to confirm this, the Gnome core developers have chosen to reshape all that underlies Gnome to fit a single “take it or leave it” desktop philosophy (which is named by the ugly word of “branding”) without consideration of the needs of the user base. Again and again I read the project advocates trying to conjure the public that their way is “the” way a desktop should work.

    This, in my oppinion, will not work in the open source community where the success of software critically depends on Users and Devellopers who are willing to spend their time on the development and reporting of bugs and features. Many users may be happy with the default behaviour of a desktop environment (if it performs well) but many may want to change its behaviour and/or looks (if it does not perform well, or optimal). In my opinion, caressing the developer and user is critical, the Gnome project was great (2.x branch) and has much potential (the 3.x branch) to become again widely supported as long as Gnome can come up with ways to define a clear default behaviour that is versatile enough to be changed according to the needs of the users. The latter however seems to be blocked by the core developers and can, in my opinion, be a pitfall for the whole Gnome project.

    Especially also the comments I read on the Gtk+ API, breaking with every new (Gnome?) release, and even erasing functionality other desktop environments use, but not the next Gnome release, worry me, since it is a generic and widely used library, underlying many software packages. Open source is not only about “your own project” but, especially for libraries and software technologies, is about enabling open software development in general. The Gnome project seems at this moment to divert from this view and appears to become self centered in it’s technology development approach. This is a way that, when executed in a rude way of user (in the sense of software developers using a library) negligence, is even more harmfull for an open source software project and will inevitably lead to a decline in the user support. Looking at it from the side-line it appears to me that this is happening to Gnome at the moment?

    I hope for the best in the future of the Gnome project, but one thing is clear, no project can become successful without it’s user and developer potential. Take good care Gnome, don’t lose the current base to search for a new one, search for expansion from the (old?) current base.

    As far as my own experience is concerned:
    As a gnome user (for a long time at least as long as the 2 branch existed) I unfortunately must say that gnome-shell messes up productivity and am running the fallback mode to have some possibility to resemble a 2.x look (and that looks horrible), and switched to Cinnamon at my work place. I’m even looking for other alternatives at this moment. It is unfortunate but the desktop environment that did what I needed to interact nicely with my computer without distracting me has gone. Gnome 3 unfortunately has become a distraction, where it wants to stand for a non distracting desktop environment. There is potential, but the simplicity and clear looks of the 2 branch have gone for the moment. I hope for a brighter Gnome future.

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