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Mark Shuttleworth responds

July 30, 2010 7 comments

Mark Shuttleworth responded to the blog item I posted a few hours ago. Rather than have it just get lost in the responses to the previous blog item, I thought I’d reprint it verbatim here.

Mark commented on the previous item:

Larry, it was Greg who used the expression “Hater’s gotta hate”, not me.

Jono has done an ample job of pointing out how the data is a poor reflection of Canonical’s contribution, rather than reflecting poor contribution itself.

And I didn’t call Greg stupid. I said that thinking tribally makes one stupid – it precludes opportunities for rich interactions with interesting people.

Right now, on numerous fronts, developers at Canonical are feeling frustrated because when they try to collaborate with people in upstream projects that are maintained by folks who resent Canonical, they get blocked. One of our developers told me he has taken to submitting patches through a proxy because he does not get reasonable answers when he does so directly.

I can’t think of a better example of tribal thinking making a project stupid: if you’re actively dissing patches labelled “Canonical” and then complaining about the lack of them, “stupid” would be on the more complimentary end of the appropriate epithets.

And I reply:

Mark — First, thanks for responding. I know you’re a busy guy; a different busy maybe than some of us who are promoting FOSS in the trenches, but busy nonetheless. Frankly, I wish I had more time between $DAYJOB_1 and $DAYJOB_2 to address your comment more thoroughly, but I’ll do my best in the limited time I have here (thank God for quick typing).

Also, so you know: I have been an Ubuntu user since 2006 (though no longer on my primary machine — more on this in the next sentence) and a member of the California LoCo since then as well. My business, Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, has several Ubuntu boxes and has converted several small businesses and home offices to Linux and the operating system they use is Ubuntu.

Today, for several reasons, I am primarily a Fedora user. However, my daughter is an Ubuntu user. But rather than rend my garment and wail, “I have no daughter,” I encourage her to use whatever distro — heck, whatever operating system — she likes because FOSS is all about choice (tell you something you don’t know, right?).

We agree that tribalism, as defined in your blog, is bad. There is no place for it anywhere, including Ubuntu. There are aspects of the Ubuntu organization that smack of tribalism — specifically the LoCo program, which I’ll discuss in a minute — that you should probably be aware of. Just a quick warning about the glass houses and stones thing . . .

True, you didn’t actually call Greg DeKoenigsberg stupid, but you did accuse him of tribalism, which is stupid. The implication sticks, even though it wasn’t directly stated. I don’t know Greg well — we’ve exchanged e-mails while he was at Red Hat and, superficially speaking, we’re friends of Facebook — but knowing him even marginally and after reading his blog item, I don’t think he was practicing “tribalism.” As I mentioned in my blog, I think that while Greg may not get a whole lot of points for execution, he does bring up a valid point that I have heard more often than I would have liked.

Bringing this up does not make him a “tribalist.” It makes him someone bringing up a point that you can take or leave (and frankly, if I were a captain of industry and not a guy with two jobs and a passion for FOSS, I’d have probably publicly ignored Greg’s blog altogether and, given the time, looked into it more. I’d also think about going into space again, as that sounds really cool, but that’s another matter).

On the issue of “tribalism,” you might want to give LoCos a closer look because, from a Linux User Group standpoint (I run one of those, too), it seems that LoCos — at least the one that I have the most experience with, here in California — have a “separate but equal” attitude toward participating with LUGs and promoting FOSS. While they’re welcome and urged to participate in our activities for the greater good of FOSS, activities that are LoCo based tend to be Ubuntu-only, which of course is their right, but think about the message it sends.

Also, you mention developer feeling frustrated about contributions that they make being thwarted. That surprises me, and that would definitely be something that would need correcting. I’d be glad, too, to post examples if you could provide them.

Thanks again. Back to work for me.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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Pages from playbooks

July 30, 2010 3 comments

Yesterday, Greg DeKoenigsberg wrote a blog item outlining Canonical/Ubuntu’s weak numbers in participating in development for GNOME.

Rather than address Greg’s blog item with a reply that addresses the issue, Mark Shuttleworth decided to take a page from the Fox News playbook — not to mention the Sarah Palin dictionary — in responding to Greg’s blog.

To recap, here is Greg’s blog item, and following it is Mark’s response.

Clearly, Mark can do better than this, and if I were a Canonical/Ubuntu advocate, I’d be a little sheepish about the response. Criticism can be handled by either addressing it or deflecting it, and clearly Mark chose the latter. To call someone a “hater” and calling them “stupid” because they present an argument with which you don’t agree — especially when the numbers are there to show that Canonical/Ubuntu does not pull its weight — is, quite frankly, a load of crap.

Rather than address the fact at hand, we get a liturgy of how “tribalism” (whatever that means) is bad — yes, that’s true, Mark, as you define what “tribalism” is — but how does that apply to the fact that Canonical/Ubuntu has only 1 percent of contributions upstream in the GNOME project? Without begging the question that if it’s 1 percent in GNOME, what is it for Xorg? For the kernel?

Does pointing out that the emperor has no clothes make you a “hater,” or does it just make you observant? Taking it one step further, if Greg is right — and I think he is — doesn’t that call for more intelligent response than “you’re a bad person for pointing this out, and anyone who thinks like you is a divider”?

A more honest response would have been, “Yes, we are lacking in contributing upstream. We have not been involved as long as others, like Red Hat, but we hope to be up to speed in the near future.”

But no: What we get is some of the mudslinging and divisiveness that, ironically, Mark himself rails against.

True leaders know that having shortcomings pointed out to them helps an organization grow, assuming the shortcoming is fixed. It’ll be interesting to see if the true “leaders” in Canonical/Ubuntu actually try to close the gap in contribution upstream, or if they hold fast to Mark’s dictum of “those who are not with us are against us.”

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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Talkers and doers

July 29, 2010 2 comments

Greg DeKoenigsberg wrote a blog item which wraps up with the following quote: “The world is full of talkers and doers, and in the long haul, people are usually smart enough to figure out which is which.”

While the blog itself is based on a recent presentation by Dave Neary of GNOME regarding contributions, or lack thereof, by FOSS companies and individuals to the GNOME desktop, the underlying theme (for lack of a better term) returns to the upstream argument where, frankly, some entities aren’t pulling their weight on the development end of things — and it applies not only to GNOME, but to the kernel, to Xorg and so on down the list.

So I’m just going stand aside and let you read it, and comment on it if you like.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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