Leave it to Ubuntu/Canonical’s Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life Mark Shuttleworth to completely ruin a perfectly good release day for Ubuntu 12.10 and its arguably superior derivatives like Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu and Edubuntu.
Don’t take my word for it. I’ll let this article from TechCrunch with the headline “Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth Tires Of Critics, Moves Key Ubuntu Developments Out Of Public Eye” tell the tale.
Was it something I said?
Of course, there’s something both fundamentally and tragically wrong — bordering on criminally wrong — about any Free/Open Source Software project moving their “developments out of the public eye.” But let’s put that aside for a moment, because Shuttleworth writes in his blog that ” . . . we thought we would extend the invitation to people who trust us and in whom we have reason to trust, to work together on some sexy 13.04 surprises.”
So, not only is Shuttleworth throwing out the FOSS baby with the bath water, he also wants to provide a caste system that either patterns itself after the Inner Party/Outer Party in George Orwell’s “1984,” or takes a page from Orwell’s “Animal Farm” where, to paraphrase, “All developers are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
If you’re an Ubuntu contributor, how can you be sure you’ll be one of “the chosen ones,” and if you’re not, then why not?
To take a step back, the more fundamental question is this: Is this really how a Free/Open Source Software project should conduct itself?
I would say the answer to this question is an unequivocal “no,” and I would also add that, at this point, the direction that Mark Shuttleworth has taken Ubuntu is light-years off course from its original mission.
This goes beyond burying “Linux” on a second- or third-tier page on the Ubuntu site. This clearly goes beyond Shuttleworth’s treating current Ubuntu users as second class citizens while he chases the elusive Holy Grail of converting “the new users.”
This is betrayal.
So while the Ubuntu Apocalypse lines up to march, zombie-like, to take their shots below in the comments, I’d like to ask them to first look in a mirror and ask themselves if this is truly what they bought into when getting involved with FOSS. And while admiring what you see in the mirror, I’d like to offer a solution to right this ship that’s listing under the weight of gross misdirection.
To right this ship, the principled and noble thing to do would be for Mark Shuttleworth to turn over the keys to Ubuntu to Jono Bacon, the Community Manager for Ubuntu, and make Jono the Ubuntu Project Leader. Mark should resign from all Ubuntu community-related posts and concentrate on the corporate side of things, where he excels.
I don’t always agree with Jono, but his commitment to FOSS is nothing short of impeccable, and his commitment to these principles is completely unimpeachable. He has the wisdom and experience to bring Ubuntu back to where it should be.
Though this wouldn’t happen in either Mark’s, Jono’s or my lifetime, it would be a step that would go a long way in restoring my faith in Ubuntu’s commitment to FOSS.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to install Xubuntu 12.10 and put it through its paces.
This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.
(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)