I’m looking at you


I write to you all today on a solemn matter, one which I fear will be forgotten and ignored if nobody starts some discussion on this.

Earlier this week, some of you may have noticed that for a very short time there was a rather angry post by Philip Van Hoof, he sounded quite frustrated and disturbed and the title of his post basically said to please remove him from the Planet GNOME feeds.

Unfortunately this blog post was even deleted from his own blog, so there is nothing to refer to here, also it was gone so fast that I have a hunch many Planet GNOME readers did not get a chance to see what was going on.

What I want to highlight in this post is not this frustrated angry post by Philip, but rather the precursor which seems to have led us to this sad turn of events.

Let’s make things better

In late May this summer, Philip submitted the post “Let’s make things better“. This post is also deleted from his own blog, I’m not sure for what reasons, I’m keeping the link alive here incase Philip feels inspired enough to at reactivate that post (it would help for people to see this in perspective, as people who have not read that entry may suspect it contained rudeness or bad language or sweeping accusations or something, which simple was not the case at all).

Yes, a lot of you readers know about that post, many of you would probably prefer I don’t bring it up, but the problem is that many people just don’t know what happened. Also the result of him deleting his post is that people don’t get any chance to verify these false claims of indecency which were aimed towards him for writing a very sensible post.

What I can say, is that the post did not use any distasteful language, he was not rude and did not single anyone out or blame anyone, he just said some really sensible things which happened to annoy a certain few members of our community.

I think the critical part which made people react irrationally to his prose, ran something like:

Maybe if we spent a little less time on outreach, and a little bit more on development…

And went on from there, he was basically arguing that our efforts on sustaining programs such as OPW are not a part of our mission, and that maybe our attention would be better spent writing excellent software (I’ll be happy if the post re-appears so people can read it in it’s integrity, as I don’t have a copy anymore).

I think, given the turn of events, this recent post by Philip requesting to be removed was a final attempt to try to do something good for a community that just keeps telling him that his views are wrong, dirty, and need to be censored, i.e. he got a lot of flak from the community at large for absolutely no good reason at all – if anyone needs to be ashamed, it’s us, as a community, for failing him.

I’m looking at you

It’s generally bad form to name people in public, however the wider GNOME community needs to know what is really going on in this case and they will not have the evidence to judge for themselves without references. That said these are only a couple of excerpts from the circus of public shaming which followed Philip’s perfectly reasonable blog post.


Paolo Borelli makes a response to someone who quoted Philip’s blog in a positive light on a public mailing list, and he goes out of his way to mention his public opposition to Philip speaking his mind:

However you also started off by citing Philip’s blog post and honestly I found that post wrong and disturbing

Taken in context of the mail thread, it looks as though the original poster is to be considered lucky to be taken seriously in any measure, just for referring to the said blog post which puts a little scrutany on our GNOME identity as an outreach foundation.

Paolo, really ? I would never have expected this behavior, do you really feel it’s necessary to call Philip’s call to reevaluate our position on these matter as “wrong and disturbing” ?

We have a long history you and I, I thought I knew you better than that.


Alberto Ruiz takes it a step further, again taking a public stance against Philip:

“I’ve been asked to remove your blog by several people and I’ve reached the conclusion that it would be a really bad idea because
it would set the wrong precedence and it would shift the discussion to the wrong topic (censorship yadda yadda). Questioning OPW should be allowed.

The problem with your post is that if not questioned by other people (as many have done already) it would send the wrong message to the public and prospect GSoC, OPW and general contributors. Your blog was the wrong place to question and your wording makes it clear that you have misunderstandings about how the community works.”

Alberto, I’m disappointed in you. There is no censorship on Planet GNOME, you know that, I know that, and asides from one silly “upskirt” incident in the history of Planet GNOME, this has never caused any issues.

Moreover, it is simply not your call, or anyone’s call to make, to decide that a long time member of our community’s politely and consicely formed opinion be censored from Planet GNOME just because it disagrees with what some of the other members think.

It is not your call to say that people should not be questioning things on Planet GNOME, especially since that is EXACTLY where it will be heard. Have you considered that he takes this issue very seriously and has decided, as is his right, to raise the matter for open public discussion ? Public discussion on the direction of GNOME is what we do in GNOME, we are the foundation and contributors and public discussion needs to happen about critical matters in order for us, the public, to make good decisions about the future of GNOME.


Finally, Emmanuele Bassi, I know his recent post was pretty “out there”, anyone would expect him to be frustrated after the treatment this community has given him, the public shaming and insolence this community has shown him by taking such an opposed stance against his expressing himself would be enough to drive anyone nuts.

Don’t you think, though, that his post was a last-effort attempt to be heard and be a positive influence for change in GNOME ?

Do you really think this immediate response to a frustrated blog post was the correct way to diffuse the situation ?

Really, we should do better to protect our own, Philip obviously had a rough time in the last couple months, his blog post was not an excuse to quickly sweep him under the rug, but a challenge to call people to action and actually openly discuss change.

If we don’t have people like Philip who are at least willing to fight for our ability to openly discuss things, then I fear the worst for this community in the long run.

Moral of the story guys… Please get a grip, I’m really not impressed with how people have responded to Philip this summer, it could have equally been any of you, and if you had something important to share, I would be equally disappointed if the community had so aggressively shouted you down.

And no, I was never a proponent of the CoC effort, but please guys at least try to remember the first rule: Assume that others mean well.

All the best.



Today someone pointed out that since the original post at the end of may is missing, noone can form an opinion of their own. I did not have access to it at the time but another commentor was kind enough to paste a copy:

Matthew gets that developers need good equipment.
Glade, Scaffolding (DevStudio), Scintilla & GtkSourceView, Devhelp, gnome-build and Anjuta also got it earlier.
I think with GNOME’s focus on this and a bit less on woman outreach programs; this year we could make a difference.
Luckily our code is that good that it can be reused for what is relevant today.
It’s all about what we focus on.
Can we please now go back at making software?
ps. I’ve been diving in Croatia. Trogir. It was fantastic. I have some new reserves in my mental system.
ps. Although we’re very different I have a lot of respect for your point of view, Matthew.

56 thoughts on “I’m looking at you”

  1. Maybe it’s time for a fork – just leave all the “outreach” people and see how their outreaching gets things done.

  2. OPW is a project that brings contributors and sponsors to GNOME. The people that speak against it haven’t come close to showing how it hurts GNOME, other than the flawed argument of “it’s not tech, it’s social.”. Well, if you don’t want to get involved in non-technical issues, then simply don’t. Ignore OPW. It’s incredibly hypocritical to claim you’re a tech-only person and actively engage in a social issue such as this (although in a destructive manner, you’re still engaging in it).

    As far as the GNOME desktop being nothing but a technical show piece, I’m pretty sure that’s been false since day 1. That said, as a user and contributor you can focus on doing what you like; GNOME is a pretty huge project with several different people focusing on different things. Some want to provide a great user experience, others focus on great tech. Some contribute by making it localized in their language, or simply by spreading the word about it.

    Either way, a great desktop will showcase the tech behind it without needing every single person to focus on tech. GNOME is currently doing that greatly; for example, Tracker being so well integrated with the Shell and all the new desktop apps is a great showcase for that tech. Much better than the times when we had endless Beagle vs Tracker flamewars on ddl that you seem to remember so fondly. Speaking of apps, GTK+ 3 has made incredible progress over the last few years in allowing great beautiful applications to be easily developed. GNOME is also leading the charge for Wayland finally replacing X11, thanks to the great tech in mutter and gnome-shell that you so easily attacked in a ridiculous conspiracy theory.

    Software development is a social endeavor, whether you’re working with a single other person in small project or in a huge, thousands of people large free software community. When you release software to the world you’re also making a social impact, whether you intend to or not. Be responsible and be respectful of others.

  3. Wow, just wow! Here are some facts:

    1. I shared my chat with Philip *verbatim* on g+. It was a simple copy&paste. It was the complete chat and there was nothing “out of context” for any reader. If Philip gives me his persmission, I can share that with public so he can compare it with his chat logs.

    2. I *only* shared it with friends circle.

    3. The chat was not a simple “Hey, you have always been pissed at me and I want to know the reasons” but rather a long monologue where Philip wrote several personal insults and how he is very smart and we are all a bunch of religious fanatics.

    4. Its funny how Philip is still assuming that I am some super devotee of RMS even though I told him at the end of the chat (one of the few things I got to write) that I even left FSF recently mainly because of RMS. Not only is this guy very delusional, this shows that he can’t (easily) be taken out of his delusions.

    5. Another thing I did tell Philip was that I was never angry at him but rather had decided to ignore him because he proved to be extremely annoying. This was after years of trying to create a good friendly relationship with him.

  4. The problems we’ve had with GNOME in the past few years is caused by a few bullies in positions of power; ebassi is one of them. He doesn’t just act like a bully, he talks like one.

    “I will fight you and I will win?” Come on. Please reel your narcissism back in.

    Also, the point that “we don’t just write software, if we did, it might as well be proprietary” is a misrepresentation. We write *free* software. *That* is our mission.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  5. GNOME’s mission is great software. Not women. Not men. Not whites, blacks, Asians, or anything else. GNOME does not discriminate against contributions and the entire world is welcome to help out.

    A program that targets women implies that the GNOME community is otherwise hostile, which is not true. Not only that, but the nature of the program is discriminatory by its very nature.

    To put it plainly, these side goals are distracting (as evidenced), and waste money.

  6. @Philip
    To understand positive discrimination you first have to understand equality. There are several variants of what “equal” is, in this case, equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. Simple illustration [1, replace “equality” with “equality of opportunity” and “justice” with “equality of outcome”].

    Accessibility is an example of “equality of outcome”. Stairs themselves don’t actively hate person in a wheelchair, but we still try to accommodate. In case of tech world, it is a hostile place to be for women (as witnessed in this comment thread), so some organizations have gone extra mile to mitigate the issue.

    You might say that equality of opportunity is enough, but is it? There is no objective reason why tech should be a men’s world, nor have I seen any evidence that women are intrinsically worse programmers. Since there is no good reason for status quo to be as it is, for social justice sake we should change the status quo (the same social justice that says that people should be able to fully control their computers and so on).

    [1] http://www.bookwormroom.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Equality-and-Justice.jpg

Comments are closed.