Has GNOME rejected Canonical help?

3:14 pm community, freesoftware, gnome

Through the fall-out from the Unity decision, and now the fall-out from the packaging of Banshee on Natty, I have repeatedly read Canonical & Ubuntu people say “We offered our help to GNOME, and they didn’t want it”.

Exhibit #1:

For starters, some people in the GNOME community moan about how Ubuntu doesn’t pull its weight upstream.They then make it difficult for Ubuntu-y folks to contribute things upstream.

Exhibit #2:

For the app indicators we also had a lot of community involvement, it was based on a Freedesktop.org spec, worked on with consultancy from KDE, we invited GNOME developers to participate in the Freedesktop discussion and proposed them to the GNOME community for inclusion, but it’s not up to us, if they take it or not

Exhibit #3:

Where tensions between Canonical and GNOME have occurred, according to Bacon, is in Canonical’s desktop innovations for improved usability, such as the Ayatana indicators for sound and social media, and the new Unity desktop, all of which were submitted to GNOME and rejected, leaving Canonical to develop them outside the GNOME project. […] Asked whether Canonical could have developed its usability modifications within GNOME, he replies, “To be honest with you, I don’t think it could have been done. The fact that nothing’s been accepted is a pretty reasonable indicator that the two projects have widely different directions.”

Exhibit #4:

We committed to build Unity […] because we had ample reason to believe that the trajectory of the alternatives was going to fail. And it did fail – Gnome 3 looks much more like the vision we painted with Unity than the original vision […] I am sorry that a few Gnome leaders have blocked Gnome’s adoption of Unity API’s, and the stress that will cause, but I feel proud that we had the guts, and the capacity, to design and deliver something wonderful.

I have seen and heard this mentioned by others too, but cannot find any others right now – additional pointers in comments would be welcome!

So – given that GNOME is a project which scores very highly as being Open By Rule (disclosure: I put together the evaluation of GNOME for Simon), I thought I would go back through the archives and see how true this was.

Looking at what was actually proposed for inclusion in GNOME from Ayatana work, libappindicator was rejected because (quoting directly from the release team’s decision):

  • it doesn’t integrate with gnome-shell
  • probably depends on GtkApplication, and would need integration in GTK+ itself
  • we wished there was some constructive discussion around it, pushed by the libappindicator developers; but it didn’t happen
  • there’s nothing in GNOME needing it

I went back to see where the discussion happened for the libappindicator proposal. There was a discussion, some over & back, Ted was (as usual) forthcoming & helpful, and things appeared to be moving approximately in the right direction. There were some issues over copyright assignment, and the discussion petered out. No feedback I could see from the GNOME Shell team – positive or negative – to depending on the library.

Now, this is hardly ideal. I would love to see debate on why there wasn’t a more in-depth debate on using libappindicator in GNOME Shell. Was this ever proposed? If so, where? I can’t find any reference. Was there any reaction other than “we don’t think it’s an issue” to the copyright assignment issue? Perhaps there was a lot more discussion in another forum that I haven’t linked to – on the release-team list, on IRC, or elsewhere? Comments, please!

I would love to point to other instances of work which has been proposed upstream from Canonical and which has been rejected, but my (admittedly, brief) search has not turned up much useful stuff. I can’t find any online reference to displeasure with the GNOME Shell vision, or proposals of alternatives, nor can I find situations of “Paper Cut” patches being rejected because they were from Canonical or Ubuntu. In fact, the one reference I found to the UX hackfest in 2008 from Mark seemed quite positive about the whole thing.

There are apocryphal stories about patches submitted twice by different people before they were accepted, other stories about people being “impossible to work with”, design feedback being ignored, and more – I would love to see some evidence of this, or some documented criticism from 2008 of some of the GNOME Shell design documents. I hear often that some of the design decisions were unacceptable, but ask which ones, where the discussion took place, or how much effort was spent trying to get things changed, and hand-wavy “lots of stuff” type answers is what you get back.

I would really like to shed some sunlight on this – if we do not have publicly archived references to places where these disagreements have happened, then there are a couple of possible conclusions we can draw: either insufficient effort was made to collaborate, or the effort was made, and GNOME Shell is not sufficiently transparent for the developers and designers to be accountable.

So please – pile in on the comments. I want to know of instances when GNOME has (allegedly) refused contributions or help from Canonical, with links to Bugzilla, mailing lists, even IRC logs or wiki pages. Let’s get to the bottom of this & see if we can’t solve the problem.

Updated to clarify that the reasons for rejecting libappindicator were not mine, but were copied from the release team decisions, after reading Aaron Seigo’s response

74 Responses

  1. Damon Says:

    Glad I’m back to Windows. The Linux community is still behaving like spoiled children after 20 years.

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  3. Jef Spaleta Says:

    Paul,

    As I said I did not have a compatible expectation as to what Mark regarded as private as I did not ask for a private discussion from him and have made it clear in the comment track in his blog…repeatedly..that I am looking for public discourse. I will take the full blame on myself for telling everyone here that Mark sent me a private email.

    In the future I’ll delete unlooked and unwelcome private emails from him without reading them so I don’t have to be conflicted by access to information he considers confidental when I am specifically and very forthrightly requesting public information. I’m not trying to scoop a story I am trying to get us past what appears to be abuse of off-the-record conversations instead of public channels for years of discussion between people.

    Now as I said in the first post here. I am very reluctant to post any bugreports without contextual information about how an unnamed person feels about it. I do not necessarily agree with the views expressed to me, and I am not going to be able to defend the views. It would be half-hearted at best and I think the people inside the Canonical fenceline deserve someone who will relay their interpretation in a public discussion with an authoritative voice.

    I am not that person. And as much as it pains me to have been thought of as acting in bad faith by telling you I got an email from Mark with specific bug tickets… it would pain me significantly more to have anyone think I was representing Canonical’s pov in public in bad faith. I have no desire to be seen to be speaking for anyone inside Canonical.

    So please, if you feel you can be that person. Please email mark or any other canonical employee you feel will talk to you off the record and ask for the same information he sent to me so that you can then relay the ticket numbers and attempt to defend their interpretation.

    -jef

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  5. Doug Reed Says:

    I am a software designer, but don’t work on desktop stuff. I use Windows, Linux, and OSX.

    Ubuntu is based on Debian, is friendly and works.
    RedHat is ugly and hard to manage and RPM stinks.
    Don’t know about Suse.

    Gnome didn’t used to work.
    KDE used to work. They broke it.
    Gnome fixed it.
    Now Gnome wants to kill the Max/Min buttons and break it again.

    Why is it necessary to rewrite what works every couple of years?

    I stand with Ubuntu. The Gnome and KDE guys live in some world the rest of us can’t see.

  6. rch Says:

    HEY: I use Fedora every day and never think about any of this nonsense. Even when I decide to actually look at the desktop I do not notice any serious problems at all… None. I haven’t seen an MS desktop in 4 or 5 years, but OS X doesn’t impress me, so I don’t expect Windows to do so either.

    The fact is, they all work pretty well already.

    Now… say you can reduce the scope and complexity of an api and I will listen. Tell me that you found a great way to remove something like app indicators (whatever those are) without bothering too many 3rd party developers at once, and I’ll get interested. Make it simple.
    Really, just make it simple already.

    The truth is none of what needs to be done with the ‘desktop’ is all that hard, and the tricky bits were figured out ages ago.

    Remember when Linus said to choose [omitted] and move on? That was So So long ago, and things do not seem to have improved much at all.

    So: consolidate, simplify, and move on already. And whatever you do, don’t race with Mark to capture the attention of the lowest-common-denominator users. It is easy enough to make a living writing interesting software without their help.

  7. Paul Sladen Says:

    Jef: Per “Please email mark”, I have taken your suggestion and emailed, and that it appears that others have done just that too. My understanding (from the reply received four hours later) is that Mark Shuttleworth has already cleared it with you (by email?) that you are free to release the correspondence in question; is this the case?

    -Paul

  8. Jeff Schroeder Says:

    @Dave: Here is (if true) a small but relevant smoking gun:
    http://aseigo.blogspot.com/2011/03/collaborations-demise.html?showComment=1299807005600#c2417381301530751354

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  12. Jef Spaleta Says:

    Paul,
    Yes in the same email that Mark said I was acting in bad faith, he also gave me permission to repost. Mark still has not given me permission to publish the full email exchange.. so the very fact that I am telling you that he told me that I can repost the one email may be considered bad faith. I honestly have no idea what he personally considers confidential at this point.

    So please understand that I am reluctant to repost anything with regard to that conversation now. Mark reacted quite strongly to what I did say publicly. In the same email where he gives me belated permission he first berates me for using the information I did mention publicly to raise tensions. I’m not going to release further information into a situation where Mark feels like I’ve backed him into a corner in bad faith and misused information given to me. I have apologized
    publicly, that is the best I can do under my own code of ethics.

    Mark is free to repost his email to me in its entirety and our entire email exchange starting with his first email to me. I want to be accountable for what I say and I have expressed that desire to him. But I do not want to be put into a position where I am expected to re-interpret or defend anything he desires to say or to make a judgement as to what is or is not confidential.

    -jef

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