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Mark Shuttleworth responds

July 30, 2010

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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  1. Colonel Panik
    July 30, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    The Colonel is almost afraid to step into this pile.

    Communities are tricky things. I have stated this in/on numerous
    forums, blogs, IRC channels. A community of geeks is the ulitmate
    oxymoron. Yet we keep trying. Someday the communities will be
    smooth running just like the software they promote.

    LoCo’s, some work just fine, some don’t. But that is sort of like
    bowling teams and LUG’s and most of the Colonel’s ideas. Could it
    be that we try to do too much online?

    Ubuntu is just about to have it’s 6th birthday. Lets see how it does
    when it is a teenager. Fedora is just a year older, and is backed by
    a corporation. Maybe that helps? Many distros are pure anarchy and
    seem to hang on.

    Let’s look for points of unity and work from that. Please remember
    even astronauts have off days. Rock stars too. Even guys who sit too
    long in the sun at the farmers market?

    Now y’all get out there and throw some chairs.

  2. August 5, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Larry, I appreciate your wading into this issue.

    I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I find sticking to one distribution/project for every box and every task to be something that’s not terribly productive.

    Right now I have active installations with Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu and OpenBSD, and I’ve recently increased my use of live distros Puppy and TinyCore.

    Every distro has its strengths and weaknesses, and in my case I find it easier to keep an open mind (and hard drive) when setting up a system.

    • August 5, 2010 at 11:40 am

      Open mind and hard drive — good policies! 🙂 Thanks, Steven, and you’re right — there is no one true distro that’s a holy grail for all. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and this variety is what makes FOSS great.

  1. August 5, 2010 at 11:20 am
  2. December 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm
  3. May 17, 2011 at 7:43 am
  4. March 27, 2012 at 6:24 pm
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