Survey, shmurvey

4:15 pm gnome

Here you can see it again. People at Phoronix ranting against GNOME3. People on d-d-l staying kinda cool and professional – and critic-prone. The very same scenario you could see on Slashdot and and other FOSS-related sites.

Even though GNOME 3 is already 3.2, these battles keep happening. Why? And we seen them back in the days of GNOME 1 –> GNOME 2 transition. Why?

Look at the lessons explained by Guy Kawasaki in his blog. In particular, lesson #2. “Customers cannot tell you what they need”. The same way late Jobs was “the pioneer of the computer as a jail made cool” (c), Gawasaki’s lessons make active marketing look cool.  And yes, “active marketing” is a term with extremely negative ethical value (same as “jail”), as far as I am concerned. What is it about? Inventing new needs for the people. Telling people what they want instead of giving them what they think they want. The results are high profits. Kawasaki says this is the only way to innovate and be commercially successful at that. He is right, most probably. I consider it pushing the innovations down customers throats. That is the thing that made Apple great and rich. That is one of the things that made many people angry with Apple.

It is a common place to accuse GNOME  of following Apple, spiritually, technically, visually. There are funny and serious sides about that. But it seems that lesson #2 was taken seriously by GNOME, when GNOME 3 was conceived. And that is the most pronounced PR issue with GNOME 3 – the way it is perceived by many people.

How many? That is the question of the day. Noone can say. Really. The way the survey is performed by Phoronix is somewhat provocative and questionable – at least it is seriously challenged by the d-d-l folks on those grounds. With all that, the question still does exist. And that question is strategically important.

So, would GNOME Foundation consider performing “proper” survey of what people think about the way GNOME goes? The survey that would be accepted by GNOME developers as useful, reasonable, answering important questions. The survey that (potentially) could help reconsidering the values and goals. Or, alternatively, the survey that would silent (forever!) all people who just want “faster MS-DOS” – by displaying them the real demand in innovative interfaces. “Look guys, there are only 10 of your kind!”

I guess the question is important enough to consider it first priority for the GNOME future, immediate and long term. Would you be able to face the statistical truth?

30 Responses

  1. Alexandre Says:

    Personally I’m sick of downers who eat my precious time.

    Constructive feedback – yes
    Well organized user testing – yes
    Surveys by brain-damaged people – no

    If we all stick to what we already know and stop embracing possibilities, then the human race doomed. I don’t want to stay here forever. Whoever wants good ol’ anything can stay is their cozy little hole in the ground. I want to fucking kiss the sky and travel across galaxies.

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  2. Alexandre Says:


    Or, alternatively, the survey that would silent (forever!) all people who just want “faster MS-DOS” – by displaying them the real demand in innovative interfaces. “Look guys, there are only 10 of your kind!”

    10 of a kind are still able to breed. Well-known fact 🙂

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  3. John (J5) Palmieri Says:

    A quote attributed to Henry Ford comes to mind – “If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse”.

    That isn’t to say the consumer’s input is invalid, just that they don’t spend much time thinking about things beyond what is currently in front of them and tend to only comprehend incremental improvements to the more radical innovative changes.

    That being said, the challenge is making the innovative change become what consumers start to expect as the status quo in which case the former examples (the horse in the Ford analogy) becomes antiquated. I’m sure there are still some people who prefer horses to cars as a mode of transport but it has become the minority position.

    Innovation is definitely a risk. In the desktop arena we can see clearly that the incumbent platform Windows has seen a number of highly rated desktop competitors stumble. The most prominent that comes to mind is BeOS. But then we have the interesting story of MacOS and NextSTEP which both by themselves couldn’t compete with Windows. They then did an interesting thing and merged designs when Apple bought NextSTEP to make MacOS X. That was a huge leap in desktop design that finally made grounds against the slowly faltering Windows GUI.

    Have they won? It depends what metric you use. They have definitely won hearts and minds and money (including share value) if not volume shipments. On the other hand if you include iOS and devices in line with the desktop, it can be said that the Apple line of OSs has become the new defacto standard for how people expect to interact with computing devices.

    What does that tell us? First innovation itself isn’t an instant cure. There are a lot of factors, but if you keep trying you at least have a chance than if you slowly die away from stagnation. Second consumers don’t really know what they want until you give it to them and by the same token developers aren’t going to know how something new is going to be received until it has been used out in the wild for some time. The things developers have going from them is drive to get it right and learn from mistakes, as well as the bandwidth to think of these issues and try new approaches.

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  4. Marcus Says:

    I’d say the criticism wouldn’t anywhere close to this if Gnome 3 was more customizable. Anyways I really like Gnome 3, but there are a few examples where the users have had good arguments and have been ignored. (or at least it seems like it)

    For example the “what happens when I close my lid” and “power off” as a menu item.

    Gnome 3 is definitely going in the right direction, but I hope you’ll listen to the users when they actually have something useful to say. 😉

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  5. Harvey Kelly Says:

    I’ve been running Gnome 3 (Debian Sid) for months now and dug put an old laptop with Gnome 2.28(?) on it – I really couldn’t imagine going back to Gnome 2 now. A while ago I installed Gnome Shell on my girlfriend’s laptop which is running Ubuntu as she’d laughed at Unity.

    Yes, laughed.

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  6. Leonidas Says:

    You GNOME folks need to get out of your high horse and live in the real world.

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  7. Roger Says:

    I’m one of the Gnome 3 Shell haters. I have absolutely no issue with Gnome going forwards – heck I expect it and want it to happen.

    The problem is that in order to lay the foundation for going forwards, a number of steps backwards have been taken. A very large number of them.

    Of all the things that are important for me to be productive in a desktop environment, the vast majority were present in Gnome 2 but most are not currently present in Gnome 3. My productivity has been directly harmed, a lot.

    You see this over and over again in products where people decided to do what amounts to a from scratch rewrite. It is likely to be a regression over what was present before, and take a long time to get anywhere.

    By far the best way of doing things is not to use revolution, but evolution. Note how the Linux kernel constantly changes but keeps going fine. There would be considerably less hostility if gnome shell had evolved out of what was there.

    A final point to remember is that when people complain it is because they care. The worst thing would have been silence.

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  8. Benjamin Otte Says:

    Does Apple do surveys about how much people like their stuff?

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  9. Stephane Says:

    “the survey that would silent (forever!) all people who just want “faster MS-DOS” – displaying them the real demand in innovative interfaces”

    We are the 99% ! 😉
    Joke apart, the main problem with Gnome shell, its designers confounded simplicity with modernism.
    The underlying technology of Gnome 3 is modern, yes. But the Gnome Shell is too much rigid, and it lacks a lot of features compared to Gnome 2 + Compiz.

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  10. Arno Says:

    How’s the effort to disable the screensaver going? From what I can tell that invasive change didn’t make it into Fedora 15.

    The 10 people that run F15 in a VM desperately want to know how your decision to make the screensaver mandatory makes the world a better place, or why it should be considered progress.

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  11. aka Says:

    So I just upgraded to Ubuntu 11.10 after skipping 11.04, and I’ve ended up with Gnome 3 over Unity, but I understand why people are frustrated.

    1) Regressions
    For example, Network Manager in Gnome 3 doesn’t work with WPA-Enterprise. There’s more, but that’s the one that annoyed me the most.

    2) Lack of configurability
    In some ways, this isn’t true, because Gnome Shell extensions are neat and have restored a lot of the configuration options and features I was missing from Gnome 2, but they’re not a first-class citizen of Gnome.

    3.0 extensions don’t work with 3.2 for example, and the gnome-shell-extension-tool is currently broken as shipped in 3.2 – didn’t anyone test it first?

    There’s tools and extension collections, but not straight from Gnome. It’s a real shame, because there’s a lot of possibilities in JavaScript/CSS extensions.

    Same with themeing – that should be an integrated part of the Gnome desktop, not something I get from 3rd parties.

    3) Lack of backward compatibility

    The fallback exists, why not have a panel for the old applets and indicators for the first few releases of Gnome 3 while the extensions are sorted out and calm down?

    Yes, Apple breaks backwards compatibility a lot faster than Microsoft, but they had support for PPC for years, for example.

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  12. nate-m Says:


    I am of the opinion that user interfaces should be used, not seen.

    Gnome 3 does a glorious job of getting out of the way.

    People just don’t realize how freaking awesome it is yet.

    Think about it. Think about all the alternative window managers that people always went to to ‘get away from Gnome’:

    Blackbox, Fluxbox, Openbox. A whole family of different WMs. Stuff that is distinctly Unix environment. No other platform has something like that.

    Well just sit back and look at Gnome 3. Just relax and open your mind and open your eyes.

    Now any Linux user worth their salt used BB-style WMs for a time period. You’d try to add this or that to it. Maybe a panel, maybe some sort of tray thing.

    What made those things unsuitable in the long run for most people? What makes them so persistent.

    Now just start up Gnome 3 and just sit back. Don’t touch anything, just look at it.

    Open up just one window (your browser), let it float in the middle. Don’t maximize it.

    Now just sit back and look at it again.

    Try to have a ‘zen moment’.

    Click on your ‘windows key’ on your keyboard. Click on it again. Do it a few times. Over and over again. (or alt-f1 if you have a cool keyboard)

    Now open up your terminal.. tap your ‘windows key’. and type ‘term’. don’t click on anything, DO NOT touch your mouse.

    Just type ‘term’ and hit enter.

    alt-tab to your browser

    now hit your ‘windows key’ and type ‘term’ and hit enter.

    Now you notice something?

    How can I open a second terminal, you may ask. Well it’s simple..

    hit ‘windows’, type ‘term’, hold down your control key, and press ‘enter’.

    now you have two terminals.

    Do it for 3 terminals.. over and over again. for 3 more terminals.

    Now use:

    alt-tab to switch between the current term and your browser.

    do it again to switch back to your terminal.

    But you have 4 terminals open…

    use alt-~ (or alt-button-above-tab) to choose which terminal.

    Now keep in mind that you launched 4 terminals and can efficiently switch between windows AND between applications on a desktop with 5 windows open. NO MOUSE WAS USED.

    You can have a dozen applications open. You can embed websites into individual ‘application windows’ and yet you can still navigate between all of them easily and all their windows with just alt-tab and alt-~.

    Get used to doing this and use it for a few weeks.

    Now go back to using anything else, especially Gnome 2. IT WILL SUCK.

    Now keep in mind that this window manager is scriptable (remember sawhorse from Gnome 1.x days and how people bitched and moaned about Metacity?)

    It has a built in debugger

    You can reset your desktop by clicking alt-f2 and ‘r’

    This is a uniquely Unix environment. It’s OS X meets Black box. It’s a modal application like Vi. What other desktop environment is modal?

    They just need to do a few things, like maybe adding a ’tiling’ features for window scripting people to take advantage of and it’s going to be very effective environment. A few improvements here and there. Things change and the Gnome shell will evolve. Eventually there will never be any other reason to use a different window manager to get what you want.

    It kicks ass.

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  13. Jonathan Turner Says:

    Exactly. Honestly Gnome 3 is the best GUI I’ve used in a long time… keep polishing it and ignore the people who criticize it without trying to absorb it.

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  14. Ben Says:

    Comparing GNOME to Apple is unfair. Or maybe not. Certainly GNOME2 borrowed heavily from the Apple design aesthetic, with (imho) mixed success. There were some things that GNOME2 did really, really well, mostly w.r.t. turning up the sexy without becoming overly gaudy like KDE4. But in other cases, it hid important functionality and configurability because it didn’t fit into the banal, simplistic use cases they had dreamed up: John Q. User, Grandma Betty, etc etc. In other words, they were beginning to forsake the tech crowd that made and appreciated GNOME in the first place in favor of chasing some imaginary demographic that is probably going to buy a Macbook anyway. So, great, maybe you’ve brought some Windows refugees and unsavvy end-users into the fold; meanwhile, you’ve driven a significant chunk of your old userbase onto other platforms because they actually need to get work done.

    Everybody always treats the existing HCI paradigm as being an age-old product of the COBOL generation, and scoffs when people prefer it to… whatever Gnome Shell is supposed to be. But the modern DE isn’t necessarily an old stodgy artifact: it’s the result of 30 years of continuous refinement and HCI study. A gradual, non-revolutionary refinement which, until quite recently, GNOME was obsequiously proud of. And suddenly, because a couple of guys get the bright idea that my 26″ workstation should function like my 4″ phone, I’m left with no choice but to abandon ship.

    So long, and thanks for all the fish.

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  15. alvarezp Says:

    On most surveys, even those prepared by professionals, you will find a small amount of valuable feedback inside a pile of garbage. One must to learn to find the valuable and useful feedback. You should guide the user on how to improve the survey instead of plain ditching it. The attitude of just ditching it is just a reflection of the current development attitude.

    I hope GNOME devs correct the development path. For me, so far, GNOME 3 has been hell. I really hope it gets better.

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  16. Danilo Says:

    If GNOME Foundation could ever do a fair survey of a majority of desktop users, then it’d make sense. However, that is usually impossible. Any survey that would be organized would only reach those users which tend towards the “vocal minority” anyway 🙂

    I have my own qualms about GNOME3, but I still believe it’ll end up being a success. The one thing we seem to suck at is estimating how much time we need for a nicely finished “product”. I think it is our marketing desires that have led to GNOME3 (and GNOME2) not feeling finished when they finally went out.

    We could have approached it with a evolution-instead-of-revolution approach, where we’d gradually make gnome-panel into gnome-shell. That would have allowed us to not skip any cycles, would have taken longer, and would have ensured we end up with a polished product. However, it would not have allowed for a big bang with the announcement.

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  17. Pierre Says:

    Thanks for your post, I can’t agree more. You’re totally right when concerned with “statistical truth”.

    A firm as Apple can look at sales to survey product’s popularity. GNOME cannot. Forums do not provide valuable statistical data.

    Phoronix may be wrong on some details but I did participate the survey ; as it won’t provide genius feedback but will shed some light on reality.

    Nobody minds if i’m using GNOME3 or GNOME2 or Windows. What is important is “how many?”.

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  18. SVU's blog » Blog Archive » Survey, shmurvey – GNOME Blogs | Linux Blog Says:

    […] accepted by GNOME developers as useful, reasonable, answering important … See original here: SVU's blog » Blog Archive » Survey, shmurvey – GNOME Blogs This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged answering-important, consider-performing, […]

  19. Mirek2 Says:

    I love Gnome 3 and the Shell, but due to its requirements and my love of speed, I use LXDE instead. Still, I believe the Shell is headed in the right direction, but it’s still missing a lot: a visible Power off button, for one thing, but also the planned Music, Pictures, and Videos applications and software center. Above all, though, GNOME, and Linux in general, is still dogged by the lack of quality applications. GNOME Office needs to get its act together, Inkscape needs to get animation support (there’s really no good open-source software for animators), and GNOME needs to become an attractive platform for developers.

    Anyway, looking forward to what comes next.

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  20. Dan Winship Says:

    The problem isn’t that GNOME developers don’t want to listen to valid survey results. The problem is that no one can think of any way to get valid survey results.

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  21. nona Says:

    I’m using Gnome 3.x on Debian since … beginning summer I think? I like it enough to not want to go back to Gnome2, it does some things really well, and feels very polished.

    I have some issues with it; I think they all have been reported before, I subscribed to them on the bugzilla etc – no need to bring them up ad infinitum. I had hoped a lot/most of these would be fixed by 3.2 – but it seems a great deal of them are actually by design.

    I also believe you listening to your users won’t yield the best design, or even a good one. The aggregate opinion of users is all over the place, trying to cater to them all will yield something mediocre.

    The question then becomes: how do the Gnome designers know when the design of a feature is wrong? How do they know when it’s necessary to make adjustments? What drives them to evolve and improve? Apple had no trouble killing their own stuff and replacing it with something better; they were their own worst critics. What I keep hearing from the Gnome designers is “stay the course” – and as a Gnome user, that scares me a bit.

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  22. Cual es el verdadero problema detrás de GNOME 3 y su Shell? | el mundo según Linux Says:

    […] una entrada publicada en su blog, Sergey Udaltsov habla acerca de una encuesta que actualmente se lleva a cabo en el sitio web de Phoronix, donde […]

  23. John Lewis Says:

    as a mere user of computers I’d like to add my 2 pennyworth of thoughts.

    My ‘use’ of computers goes back to around 1990 when I was able to play with Concurrent CP/M on Merlin M2215 boxes at work, which led me to becoming a 25 user Novell Netowrk manager.

    I first used Linux around 1993/4 with set of floppy disks I’d downloaded from my OS/2 based system. My first recorded purchase of Linus was LinuxFT from Lasermoon in 1995 but got RedHat 5.0 the same year and used the distro until about 2002/3 when I switched to Debian Woody. I have been a Debian user ever since with Sid on two boxes and Squeeze on another box and two laptops.

    I used WindowMaker for quite a few years but switched to the Debian’s default Gnome when I got an AMD 64 bit system a couple of years ago.

    At last I get to the reason for making this comment – I had no knowledge of the survey being run by
    Phoronix until I read your blog on Planet Gnome, I didn’t and still don’t know who Phoronix are but I did fill in the survey once I knew it existed.

    I have also read the Gnome devs comments and their responses confirm my opinion that they are an autocratic and pig-headed bunch who don’t really care about users but are determined to impose their ideas on hapless users.

    I am trying to like Gnome 3 but finding it difficult, as a result I am inclined to dump it and move to XFCE4.

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  24. Rexx Says:

    You guys are treating all people unhappy with GNOME 3.x as if they all were “haters”, and continue your ride on the “we are innovating!” high horse. Points like those made by aka and others in this same thread are fair criticism, but you decided that it’d be better to ignore them. No, it’s not that people “have to absorb GNOME 3.x” (doesn’t that clash with “the desktop should be unobtrusive” mantra). No, it’s not that people hating change should just go away (“there are so many desktops you can move to” >_<): if I still bother reading planet Gnome it's because I loved Gnome 2.x and still have hope that something will change in your attitude. If not, then it will be really time to look at something else.

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  25. Baybal Says:

    Gnome 3 is not a move forward, it’s move towards necrosoft, sco and apple

    Supporters of G3 are advocating false values.

    Customers know better what to use.

    If USA market wasn’t protectionist that much, microsoft would’ve been swept away by webtron back in nineties.

    American model of active marketing is a contagious disease . It fail products: American cars, American vacuum cleaners, TV magz, Amercan styled smartpones.

    Quality and not hype makes a good product. G3 is a bad product: it’s a lot of hype and not much of use.

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  26. Baybal Says:

    Gnome 3 does not have a commitment to quality.

    The development of G3 is lead by a group of people who has hijacked the project and is ignoring feedback of the rest 90% contributors.

    Gnome heads into nowhere. We are loosing key, talented developers.

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  27. Oat Says:

    I am an Enterprise Admin and love the new Gnome. I have tried/used just about every OS for the past 15 years.

    I have a questions for all of the Gnome detractors. Do you get out much? I ask because Microsoft is currently taking a sledge hammer to the current Windows interface. If you want to see change in the wrong direction, go download a free pre-release Windows 8 iso and marvel at the (awful) changes. People are still trying to figure out how to close a program.

    My point is that desktops as we know them are changing. Please allow Gnome and the others to due the same and pick the one that works for you. Most linux users I predict will be using completely different desktops like Gnome 3 in the next two years because that is where the entire IT world is going. Linux for once, thanks to Gnome, is leading the way with this transition.

    I still remember the early days of Gnome and how people would complain and complain, but it just continued to improve. I think Gnome 3 will be the same.

    Keep up the good work Gnome developers. There are people who appreciate using a product that they paid nothing for.

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  28. Luca Ferretti Says:

    A diary study on new designs could be appreciated too. By now the only proof you have they work is “we discussed on desktop devel chan”.

    However, yes, it’s sad seeing the transformation from “community” to… dunno… “corporation wannabe”?

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  29. Luca Ferretti Says:

    doh, sorry… s/desktop\ devel/gnome-design/

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  30. Martin Coxall Says:

    If and only if GNOME-shell stops being a steaming pile of suck, perhaps.

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