I’ve always been a bit scared about the day when 99% percent of the world uses GNOME. It’s always been said that there will be huge amounts of people that will come and post questions to the mailing lists or filing bugs and the current developers won’t be able to handle the load. This sounds like a very convincing argument. If currently 1% of the world uses GNOME and it suddenly were 100x as many, we’d be at 40 million bugs right now. Even Andre wouldn’t be able to keep up anymore.
Since the last few days I’m not scared anymore. We’ll easily scale to much more than 100% of the world’s users. And the reason for that is easy: Most people won’t come to us. Most people won’t know or care that there is a way to complain about something and will instead moan about missing features in their favorite internet forum. I’d even go so far as to say that the amount of bugs wouldn’t increase at all if we suddenly had 99% market share, because everyone interested in working on GNOME already does.
What made me say this? The online forums of/for distributions. I tend to google Swfdec regularly – particularly after releases – to see what the public perception of it is; it helps a lot in identifying issues. Lots of people talk in those forum, but even though they are really close to the distro (as opposed to a WoW forum), there is a huge disconnect between the forum communities and the distro community. It almost never occurs to the forum members to file bugs, check the homepage of upstream projects or otherwise interact with the distribution. Instead, they spend most of the time with anecdotal stories of how they fixed problems and hearsay about what they think happens in the Linux world. In shot, they’re as well informed about their distro as the tabloid press is. What makes this even more interesting is the fact that this seems to be by choice. Noone is discouraging them from participating in the Free Software world. At least they don’t sound bitter. They seem to be content the way it is. And I see no reason for why the remaining 99% of the world will be any different.