I started writing this as a comment on Andy’s post, but it ended up quite long so I decided to blog it instead 🙂
From a user’s perspective, I’m inclined to agree—to put it bluntly, I can’t really recall the last major innovation I saw on my GNOME desktop. After all these years, we’re still mostly working on things that Windows and, more recently, OS X, can do for us already if we’re prepared to pay Apple or Microsoft for the privilege.
Clutter is one such example—it’s a promising technology for developers, and maybe it will turn out to be a “way out” of the “decadence” Andy describes. But if we just use it to write clones of Front Row or CoverFlow or any of Apple’s other CoreAnimation-based apps, then Apple will have moved on again by the time we’re finished and we’ll just be playing catch-up again.
In any case, Clutter is just a toolkit, and toolkits don’t help us with the vague lack of coherence and integration on some parts of our desktop today, or the need for more clarity of purpose going forward. For that I applaud Havoc et al.’s vision of an online desktop—while it’s not one that desperately excites me personally, I don’t have anything better to propose, and having everybody focusing on something is surely better than nobody focusing on anything 🙂
As for the HIG—I really don’t believe that it stifles creativity any more than (say) Apple’s HIG stifles theirs, but it probably has been a victim of it’s own success to some extent. It was written six years ago, and as such, it describes the best practices for six-year-old GNOME apps. We do have plans to substantially revamp it, but it won’t happen overnight.
That said, the HIG shouldn’t drive major changes in GNOME’s UI, it should reflect them. But at the same time, the gtk guys (and others) need to know what changes to make for 3.0 that will support the sort of changes we might want to make going forward.
Everybody probably just needs to get talking and generate ideas to move that process along again, but I also wonder if maybe we don’t have enough rockstars in our community right at the moment—it’s much easier to reach a goal when two or three people are driving you there, than when a hundred people are all trying to make their own way.