Some words worth repeating

[At http://gnomedesktop.org/node/2468#comment-39184 I posted the following, and I thought it might be worth repeating here. Note that words in italics are quotes from the person to whom I responded.]

It’s difficult to claim that GNOME is community project because all the important decisions are made by employees of corporations at the behest of their paymasters. This isn’t always a bad thing, since a variety of opinions is needed… but the viewpoint of average user/developer isn’t represented in GNOME, and is in fact ignored.

Wow, somehow I missed that. I didn’t know that my opinions as a volunteer didn’t count. Yet somehow I managed to become a bugmaster, have heavily influenced the direction of metacity, became a co-maintainer for libwnck, and am a member of the release team (and, in fact, recently became the release team manager though that’s a role that I’m actively trying to make not mean much; especially since I’m in the odd situation where everyone else on the team is more qualified to be on it than I am).

I’m by no means a lone exception either; I can point you to other influential volunteers. Yes, there are a large number of developers who get paid by various companies to work on Gnome, but that’s a reflection of the fact that the community is growing to the point that businesses are interested in it and thus tend to hire many of the individuals in the community (and/or individuals in the community start up a company themselves). But that’s no different than how the linux kernel operates.

Anyone who has followed GNOME over the last few years cannot have failed to notice this. From corporate GNOME developers ignoring bugzilla patches, roundly ignoring any comments

You try to make the lack of patch review and response on many bugs sound like a conspiracy. It’s not. It’s a failure of the community at large and it’s not limited to Gnome either. Take a look at http://mail.gnome.org/archives/desktop-devel-list/2005-March/msg00136.html for example. That email (and others) explain how there just isn’t enough hours in the day for the current developers to handle everything. I’ll let you in on a little secret: you can help.

I used to sit around waiting for all the patches to get reviewed too, and would often have to politely ping developers in other forums (irc, email, via coworker, etc.). One day, I started trying to assisting other people who had submitted patches by pointing out parts of it that wouldn’t pass review by the maintainer (and always pointed out I wasn’t the maintainer whenever I did so). After a while, the maintainer started asking me to review various patches or would say in some cases that if I’ve looked at a patch and tested it out, then it was okay to commit.

Maintainers would love to do the same thing and get lots more people reviewing patches. But they need to have someone that they know understands the code and design goals of the project in order to do so. The only way they find out if someone is capable is if people start doing “pseduo-reviews”.

Also, I’ll point out that you try to point out this lack of patch review and bug review as a corporate oriented thing. That’s not true. Volunteers also drop stuff from sheer lack of time. There are many outstanding libwnck and metacity patches out there that I personally should be looking at. It’s not from a conflict of interest from an employer (I’m a student so no such conflict of interest could exist), it’s just a lack of time. Yes, it is totally embarrassing to have some patches get through the cracks and take over a year (the maximize-to-fill bug in particular that I’m thinking of–I totally suck for not responding yet). I do try to respond to most quickly but I don’t get them all. Please help.

to the absolutely refusal to setup a Metacity mailing list on the grounds that (and I kid you not), people might comment on the software.

That’s a very misleading way to represent the reasons. Further, it doesn’t back up your claim that it was corporations are in some kind of conspiracy or tight control. Rob Adams, a volunteer who has done an awful lot of work on Metacity, represented the strongest opinion against the creation of such a mailing list. Yes, Havoc was also opposed, but he was not the only one. I, as another volunteer, agreed for a while as there are several good reasons (bugzilla can be used to track bugs and carry on discussion–what does a mailing list add?, further it can be used to mark duplicates which mailing lists suck at, etc.) Besides, Metacity is kind of the favorite punching bag of everyone (admittedly because it still sucks pretty bad) and the sad fact of the matter is that as a developer trying to fix its problems you often spend more time responding to peoples’ constant criticisms or queries or hard-to-understand duplicate reports instead of actually fixing the stupid bugs. The signal-to-noise ratio is often terrible. You may not think it’s a big deal as one individual, but when you multiply by hundreds of people it becomes a real problem. The only way to try to fix it is to try to increase the signal to noise ratio by e.g. avoiding those that will try to get into long arguments or that constantly whine (no, this is not true of everyone in the community, but there are far too many noisy individuals that suck time these ways).

Anyway, I don’t know if I’ve really explained the reasoning behind this very well, but let me point out that metacity-devel-list was created later. Interestingly enough, not very many people have posted.

Yes, I’d say the days of GNOME as a community project are long past. It’s now a collection of prima donnas in the pay of various corporations.

Couldn’t be further from the truth.

One Response to “Some words worth repeating”

  1. Elijah says:

    I really like Kjartan’s follow up too at http://gnomedesktop.org/node/2468#comment-39208:

    “I just want to back up Elijah on all his points above. There’s no reason to fear that the corporations are taking over the GNOME project at all. Yes, a lot of the people who are involved in the project are employed by various companies who seek profit from what the community produces, but they also put huge amounts of money and developer time into the project and in my opinion this is essential to the very existance of GNOME as we know it.

    I’ve never been paid a cent for my work on GNOME in the 8 or so years I’ve been involved and I’ve been trusted with lots of different tasks including, steering commitee, interim board, release team, sysadmin team, translation coordinator, web team and so on. There’s no cause for all this whining about the degree of corporate control over GNOME and if you care enough you should get off your behind and contribute instead of criticising the people who give their blood, sweat and tears to make this whole thing possible.”