Poor Eugenia

I may get flamed for this, and no I’m not agreeing with what she did,
but after reading a blog entry
that Jamin linked too I’m starting to see things in a different light.
I’ve been trying for a few days to understand why she would have done
what she did, when she’s put so much time into things like gnomefiles.org (which I think rocks,
even if there are a couple issues from the foundation perspective on
worrying about it looking like an official site) and so much time
covering and using Gnome on OSNews. Anyway, having thought about it
for a while, I think Eugenia may not be the villain many are making
her out to be. Yes, I’m also upset and I feel that she
misrepresented the mailing list thread
–and did so as publicly as
possible; but I think there may be much more to the story. Here’s my
verbose guess at what may have happened:

It looks like it started with the
ClearLooks as-the-possible-new-default
email that was sent out.
Eugenia
interpreted the email
as meaning that it was going to be the new
default (honestly, it sounded like that to me too), and thought it was
cool news and announced it. But, it turned out that it was just a
preliminary note. Unfortunately, themes have been a topic that drove
everyone nuts on d-d-l because it resulted in hundreds of useless
messages with no useful result (well, except maybe
the email that ended it
). So, I think people were testy with an
incorrect announcement that was likely to require lots of effort to
correct…meaning a lot more inevitable time spent on the topic that
many had grown to
hate.

The
patched Simple theme
issue didn’t help. She had tried to help by
submitting an improvement to a theme several months back, but it got
applied to the wrong theme: the default one. Now, the default theme
is so hideously ugly that no one actually uses it so no one noticed
until several months later when taking release notes screenshots.
Naturally, changing the default theme a week before release when we’re
in hard code freeze looks bad; unfortunately, when people tracked down
the problem her name came up. Now, it wasn’t really her fault (it
wasn’t anyone’s fault), but a communication disconnect with an
important issue tends to put anyone related to the problem in a tough
spot.

So she felt bad, even if they were honest mistakes, and wanted to fix
things. So what’d she do? Well, the main things she works on is to
try to analayze applications and operating systems and how they can
improve in order to report on them. So, she thought she’d find a
bunch of improvements that could be made and
report them
. She may have thought that she wanted this list to be
public to show that she was trying to be helpful (i.e. to “mend her
image”) when she sent her request and thus requested to have them
shown somewhere outside bugzilla (unfortunately, she probably didn’t
think things through and ended up looking like she wanted to do less
work, not follow the normal rules, and get special treatment).

Still wanting to try hard, she suggested a different approach (yes,
this was probably a mistake too because others would have been more
amicable had they seen her decide to follow the normal rules and put
the effort of filing her couple dozen bugs manually). This idea was
an
online poll
(which she was
requiring to be official
) of features people want. That would
allow her to do something she excels at and show she’s trying to help.
Unfortunately, besides being slightly misguided (we want to target
normal users, not just power users whom we already get feedback from
via mailing lists, irc, forums, etc.), her lack of filing these bugs in
bugzilla made this look like she was trying to craft a poll that would
allow her to get her pet features implemented.

I really don’t think she understood why her requests were being turned
down or the responses; I think she was somewhat emotional at this
point having tried to help and finding that things were actually only
getting worse the more she tried. Although she may have normally been
able to think things through sanely, things were just too charged at
this point. She
kept trying
to press the point…and even tried to make another
suggestion on how to “improve” things–getting all Gnome users to
pay for it
so that we could hire more developers to handle more
user requests (Eugenia doesn’t understand free software even if she
does use quite a bit of it, and probably further didn’t realize that
this came across as “you are doing things so wrong that we need to
change your whole development model”).

At this point the thread (er, “threads”, no thanks to Microsoft
Outlook) was preventing lots of work from getting done and several
people jumped in to say that the thread(s) had to stop and pointed to
the previous emails for why the ideas were not wanted. Coming from a
very charged situation in which she tried hard to help had left her
confused, sad, and also angry (some of the responses,
including mine
, had become curt and showed a lot of annoyance with
her emails–to say the least). It was not long later when she posted
her infamous
article
, which, probably more than anything else, was a knee-jerk
reaction to exhaustion from trying to find a way in which to help and
inexplicably digging herself a deeper hole. She was in quicksand and
her flailing wasn’t helping. I doubt she was thinking at this point
when she posted her article. Unfortunately, it seems to be digging an

even deeper hole
.

Poor Eugenia. I may be way off in my guess above as to how events
occurred, but I suspect that something like it has transpired.
Although Eugenia has always struggled to understand the free software
and open source software way of doing things and thus has always had
problems communicating with the community, she has put a lot of work
into promoting it (even if she also promotes that other crap out there
;-) I think that, given the chance, she’d probably rejoin the
community (well, half-way, since she may be too firmly tied to XP to
fully join) and try to help. Granted, it’ll probably never happen
given the looks of it right now, and maybe others don’t want to allow
that to happen, but I for one think we ought to give her the chance if
something like what I have postulated did in fact occur.

Okay, go ahead and flame me now.

Update: Got some emails pointing out inaccurate or misleading
things in this entry. I’ve tried to change and correct them. Sorry
for any mistakes; please do point out any further problems.

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