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Will Canonical name a new Pope?

May 25, 2014 9 comments

Bryan Lunduke, who can best be described as one of Linux/FOSS’s top raconteurs (though others have described him to me otherwise, unfairly I would say), wrote what can be described as a moving tribute to Jono Bacon wrapped in his look back — and forward — for Ubuntu.

The problem with a glowing tribute wrapped in this kind of subjective analysis, without challenge, is that it likely becomes history when all facts aren’t represented. The most poignant example of why other voices and expanding on facts is necessary: When a story broke a couple of years ago that the computers at CERN run Linux, that overwhelming story somehow became the computers at CERN run Ubuntu, and years from now people could look back and make this fact rather than fiction.

So let’s set the record straight on that one: At CERN, the heavy metal that runs the important stuff runs on Scientific Linux. Higgs Boson was discvered in large part thanks to Scientific Linux, and Ubuntu is not within several light-years of being a factor. And that, friends, is what history should reflect, not the results of a bunch of “gee-whiz” posts saying Ubuntu discovered Higgs Boson.

So it stands to reason that Bryan’s assessment will carry a lot of weight over time, but I’d like to add a footnote or two going forward.

When he writes that “Ubuntu has, over the last several years, captured significant market share, especially in the consumer-oriented Linux space. I would posit that a big reason for that is Jono,” Lunduke hits the bulls-eye. If he does nothing else for the rest of his life, Jono’s accomplishments at Ubuntu would be a huge legacy which many, including me, find awe-inspiring and unequivocally admirable.

However — and you knew that was coming — there’s this, almost in the same proverbial breath: “. . . Mark Shuttleworth (who has acted as a sort of elder statesman for the project, aka “Self Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life”) and Jono Bacon (who has, in many ways, played the role of the mascot).”

Nope. It should be, ” . . . Mark Shuttleworth (who has acted as a sort of arsonist) and Jono Bacon (who has, in every way, played the role of the fireman).”

Bryan, Shuttleworth a “statesman”? If the synonym for “statesman” is “douchebag,” then again you’re right on target.

Sadly, Bryan has his Wile E. Coyote moment in this piece comes when he compares what I guess is Jono Bacon’s visibility to the leaders of the Fedora Project when he asks, “When you think of, say, Fedora, who do you think of?”

Well, Bryan, I think of Greg DeKoenigsberg, the Fedora Project Leader who got the ball rolling around Fedora Core 5 — as it was called back then — and who is now providing the same outstanding leadership at Eucalyptus. I also think of Max Spevack, who took FOSS leadership to a new level before ending up at Amazon. I think of the steady guidance and innovative changes under the leadership of Paul Frields and Jared Smith, and the cool-headed organizational skills and problem-solving abilities that Robyn Bergeron — the first woman to lead a distro — provided in some of the rough waters she faced during her tenure.

So “when I think of, say, Fedora,” Bryan — or “when I think of, say, Debian or OpenSUSE” — I think of people who get the job done and leave their distro, and the wider FOSS landscape, a better place without monopolizing the limelight or pilfering undue credit. No star value among their ranks, to be sure. Just accomplishments. Arguably, Jono did more for Ubuntu than “be a star,” but when you invite this kind of comparison, Bryan, that’s what you end up with.

Arguably it would appear that Bryan’s point here is that while Fedora, OpenSUSE, Debian and other distros have been doing the heavy lifting for Linux and FOSS, Jono and Ubuntu have been basking in the warm glow of the spotlight.

I would agree with that 100 percent.

Nevertheless, the understudy now becomes the focus: The decision to replace Jono will be a remarkably important one for Canonical to keep whatever momentum they have, despite Shuttleworth’s hubris-based attempts to derail it.

No one with two brain cells to rub together thought for a split second that I’d be replacing Jono Bacon. Apparently, some of you completely missed the satire here. Of course, if they had completely lost it in the upper echelons of Canonical (well, they may have already, but speaking solely on the issue of replacing Jono Bacon) and decided to hire me, it would be my duty to turn them down, and I would. I also would have turned them down if they offered me the applied-for Canonical position of monkey boy to the Community Leader, however for the record Canonical beat me to it, wiping the last tears of laughter from their eyes before writing the standard rejection note, no doubt.

So who should replace Jono?

My choice, and I hope it’s not el beso de la muerte (that’s the kiss of death, to those who don’t speak Spanish) for me to say it, is California LoCo leader Nathan Haines, who I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog post. Again, I have known Nathan for years and he has been an eloquent advocate and steady leader in the California LoCo for quite some time. There are few in FOSS for which I have as much respect as I do for Nathan, and his leadership skills are top-notch. If Canonical misses the chance to hire Nathan as their Community Leader, they should at least — at the ultimate very least — make him the Community Leader’s monkey boy.

But after thinking about it for awhile, my guess is that Jono’s successor will be Alan Pope, Canonical’s engineering manager, podcaster and all-around good guy. He may not be able to play electric guitar as well as Jono Bacon, but he has the right stuff — for example, a likeable demeanor and a knack for diplomacy for starters, and the same ability to perform the same foot-from-mouth extraction that Jono always performed on Shuttleworth. He would be a good fit for Ubuntu.

So the question becomes this: Are we going to see white smoke from the chimneys at Canonical if they elect Pope?

But wait, there’s more . . . .

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy, Fosstafarian, Larry the Korora 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.)

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