Home > Jono Bacon, Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu, Unity > Was it something I said?

Was it something I said?

October 18, 2012

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.)

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  1. Milozzy
    October 19, 2012 at 4:34 am

    Standing ovation, Larry!
    Did you read the latest post fro MarkS?
    “Ubuntu set the standard for transparency a long time ago”
    Are you kidding me?

  2. October 19, 2012 at 5:11 am

    You are always welcome at Fuduntu. 🙂

    • October 19, 2012 at 8:34 am

      Thanks, Andrew — I’m already a CrunchBang user, and that’s my distro of choice. However, other readers who might want a change from Ubuntu might want to try Fuduntu.

  3. colonelpanikColonel Panik
    October 19, 2012 at 7:51 am

    Second that nomination of Jono.

    • October 19, 2012 at 8:38 am

      All in favor . . . ? 🙂

  4. October 19, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    With all due respect, this article is a joke, because it doesn’t take any of the arguments Shuttleworth points out on his blog into consideration. How can you have a serious discussion if you not even listen to what the other side has to say?

    Fact is, Ubuntu will allow people to shape its further development more than they were allowed until this day. In case you didn’t notice: the keyword is “more”. What they ask for, however, is a silent development, which doesn’t provoke FUD like yours.

    When I read your blog entry, I cannot help but think that this is exactly the right choice to do: Wait until you have something functional to present to the public, so that new ideas won’t immediately talked to death by angry people, who are willing to discredit the developers and their efforts on the base of half-sentences taken out of context.

    I’d rather have a distribution make controversial decisions and work out first solutions in private than tradionalists hinder any progress at all by making bold and malicious accusations in public, poisoning the debate in the first place.

    • October 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      As an Ubuntu apologist, you’re entitled to your opinion, too. Good luck being one of the “chosen ones.” As for Ubuntu/Canonical, it is marching away from Free/Open Source Software and may end up as the Microsoft of the 21st Century. Good luck rationalizing that going forward.

  5. goossbears
    October 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    Hi larry,
    I got wind of this article too.
    Two of the key Ubuntu people here in the SF Bay Area, besides Jono Bacon of course, are pleia2 and grantbow.
    While pleia2 is out of this area for at least another week or so, grantbow is still advocating this latest and greatest Ubuntu release at online places like the BerkeleyLUG website, url http://www.berkeleylug.com/ .
    Would definitely be interesting to see what grantbow’s and others’ responses to Shuttleworth’s betrayal would be both at the BerkeleyLUG website and at other Ubuntu advocacy sites.

    • October 19, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      I’d welcome Grant’s and Liz’s views on this, too.

  6. goossbears
    October 19, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    A question-of-sorts, too, is this: Didn’t Canonical just pull some controversial Amazon-search scheme from its latest Ubuntu offering?? Reasons for asking are that I may be looking in the wrong places to find further info on this Ubuntu bug+fix, and I see no reference to this in your blog (or even in the TechCrunch article you quote).
    TY again.

    • October 19, 2012 at 5:45 pm

      Did you try using Google?

  7. joe
    October 19, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    apt-get install debian

  8. istok
    October 20, 2012 at 4:34 am

    Oh that poor tortured soul wouldn’t he just like to pillage the Debian code and close source it like his dead hero did with BSD… damn that GPL. Or maybe I’m wrong, that would actually require some real work. Anyway ubuntu’s heading to obscurity, in more ways than one. Pity, because it *was* the best hope of Linux to make it in the mainstream PC market. Now I guess let’s hope Red Hat starts taking Fedora seriously…

  9. Jonas Bright
    October 20, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    “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? ”

    Reminds me of Jehovah’s witnesses which believe Jesus will soon reign above humanity and to do so will be choosing some 144000 governors to help him rule. It is not clear who is eligible.

  10. October 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Mark could have managed it better, but there’s nothing particularly wrong with doing some work in-house to prepare some jobs-esque ‘big reveal’ – he should have just said nothing at all, and then wow’d the flock at some conference with his teams awesomeness. And everyone would’ve said how bloody excellent he was and be even happier about their choice to install Ubuntu. Ubuntu already has a bit of an apple-like following, in that many of the things they announce are showered in undeserved praise as everyone jumps on the group-think bandwagon to bask in the after-glow. They’re not quite at the ‘can do no wrong’ level of apple who have somehow managed to develop a level of cogitative dissonance in their customers that would make an evangelical preacher blush!

    If that was all, it would be a bit of a storm in a tea-cup. However the whole ‘in-crowd’ thing is a really bad idea. You can’t have people working on ‘free software’ together with a ‘free software company’ in some exclusive private club.

    However, ‘exclusive’ clubs are everywhere, and the false-scarcity they play on gets people excited. It’s everywhere on the internets, from faecebook to twatter, slashdot, even forum software now has ‘xp’ which is used as a ‘cred’ measure. On groklaw there is a clear divide between those who post with accounts and who choose to ignore all anonymous comments, preferring to be ensconced in their warm fuzzy `collective’ of think-alikes. By definition ‘communities’ are groupings which separate ‘insiders’ from ‘outsiders’. Personally I despise the term.

    The big problem for Ubuntu is that the whole notion of exclusivity goes directly against their stated philosophy (which i found eventually, via their bug 1). However there are many in the ‘ubuntu community’ who seem to think their mission is simply to make it as popular as possible, and for them exclusivity is no problem at all if it helps Canonical add more `WOW’ for them to roll in.

    So i’m sure you can bet top dollar that there are plenty in the ubuntu community salivating at the prospect of being given ‘exclusive’ rights above their fellows and the opportunity to make their own mark on history via altering the product. And plenty of others who are excited of the prospect of learning what this `A-team’ are up to along the way as they are fed PR-controlled tid-bits, as well as speculating on the wonders such an uber-leet super-group will produce. You don’t even need NDAs or legal enforcement to keep it in-house, expulsion from the group is punishment enough for the people who would jump at the chance in the first place (?hello cult!).

    The only group who will be offended are the ones who would probably just be using Debian if it were more up to date and sorry to say it, but Ubuntu doesn’t particularly need those. They’re the people that get offended the most and make a lot of noise and then forget about it when the next issue comes along. I definitely suffer from that …

    And Jono Bacon? I’m sure he’s a nice enough lad, but you need to take everything he says with a huge grain of salt. He’s PAID to say and write stuff that will MAKE EVERYONE FEEL GOOD ABOUT things this employer does – today that is Canonical and by extension Ubuntu. Part of that is making sure people trust and like him otherwise they wouldn’t listen to anything he says. He’s just a PR flack – it’s right there in his job title – to ‘manage’ [the perceptions of the] `community’. He’s obviously doing a very good job! I personally found some of recent articles a bit sour – he simply redirected people away from the core issues and started a different discussion.

    Having Mark as a front to the company which runs Ubuntu is actually a very good thing and closely aligns with their philosophy. Do you really want the head of a free software company filtered through PR and marketing? And being the head of the company makes a big difference – anything he says makes news. And in the commercial world, it’s no news that is bad news, and making Ubuntu “the news” through controversial statements is just great marketing for Ubuntu and Canonical.

    Hmm, I didn’t intend to but I think i’ve even convinced myself this is actually a good idea for Canonical now … and even the clumsy way it was done wont hurt in the long run.

    So long the source comes out in the end I don’t think it’s even a particularly bad deal for the free software world (a word i much prefer over ‘community’, it’s all-ecompassing, warts and all), and not being an ubuntu user it is unlikely to make any difference to me regardless.

    • October 20, 2012 at 3:35 pm

      I don’t entirely agree, but you make some interesting points. I am clearly convinced that Mark Shuttleworth doesn’t exhibit the leadership skills it takes to lead a distro — obviously he has the money to spend to create one and he has the intentions, arguably misguided as far as I’m concerned, to carry out what he’s doing. But there’s something there that’s lacking. When you make miscue after miscue, with the latest one being, “Um, we have root,” to go with the history of foot-in-mouth disease there, you have to wonder if he’s the right person.

      As far as I’m concerned, I think the future of FOSS is too important to leave in the hands of one person, to say nothing of leaving it in the proverbial hands of a terribly egotistical one at that.

      My suggestion that Jono take the reins is just one option to get Mark out of a position where he’s hurting himself, his company and his distro. There are probably others.

      Having said this, I think Ubuntu/Canonical could stand to use a marketing/PR filter. It would probably avoid a lot of misunderstandings that have hamstrung them in the past, and will inevitably serve as hurdles going forward.

    • October 24, 2012 at 8:50 pm

      “And Jono Bacon? I’m sure he’s a nice enough lad, but you need to take everything he says with a huge grain of salt. He’s PAID to say and write stuff that will MAKE EVERYONE FEEL GOOD ABOUT things this employer does – today that is Canonical and by extension Ubuntu. Part of that is making sure people trust and like him otherwise they wouldn’t listen to anything he says. He’s just a PR flack – it’s right there in his job title – to ‘manage’ [the perceptions of the] `community’. He’s obviously doing a very good job! I personally found some of recent articles a bit sour – he simply redirected people away from the core issues and started a different discussion”.

      I am not a PR flack. I am not paid and write stuff that will make everyone feel good about what my employer does. That is simply not true.

      My job is to build a fun, productive, and inviting community. Yes, I write positively about that community and part of my role is getting people excited about being part of it. My role is not to spout braindead rhetoric about every decision that Canonical makes like some kind Canonical bot. You might think that that is the case, but I assure you that is not true.

      As I responded to Larry, I stand by my words, and I stand by my conviction that I would stand up to Canonical if I felt the company was violated our values in the community. Indeed, there have been times in the past when I have expressed concern over particular decisions, and I have raised these concerns at the highest levels of the company. Now, does this mean I am going to air dirty laundry? No. But does this mean that I publicly advocate something I don’t believe in? No.

      What we need in our community is a little less FUD. We are all on the same side…we are all Free Software and Linux folks. Let’s have a little more solidarity instead and pointless infighting.

  11. Vasco
    October 22, 2012 at 7:16 am

    The Free Software foundation develops code behind closed doors all the time. In fact, they were the model for the Cathedral in The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Free Software is about licensing, not development methodology.

  12. October 22, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Hey Mark Shuttleworth, Lance Armstrong Foundation has a job opening.

  13. October 24, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Hi Larry,

    Many thanks for the kind words in the article. Much as I appreciate the sentiment, I am not sure I would be the best person to lead the Ubuntu community. Like any Free Software project, I think we need different personalities who each bring something unique and fit into a jigsaw that delivers something bigger than any individual piece.

    It is interesting reading the comments about Mark from many folks who have never met him and seem to judge him more by the commentary about him rather than his measure as a person. No one is going to deny that he is demanding, he expects results, and he can sometimes be controvertial. What many folks don’t see in him is an incredible balance of technical leadership and business accumen. Of course, Mark is not unique, there are many leaders in software who share similar traits, but I would argue that Mark has the DNA to help raise Ubuntu to a whole new level.

    I don’t think I possess that kind of technical leadership and business accumen; my expertise (at least I hope it is 🙂 ) is in helping to build inviting, fun, and rewarding communities, and I am more than happy to be that piece in the puzzle.

    Now, is Mark perfect and infallable, of course not. Am I perfect and infallable? You can bet your cotton socks that I am not, but what I do believe both Mark, myself, and the others leaders in Ubuntu possess is good intentions to do the right things by our project and our community. Now, some of these decisions may be controvertial, but sometimes you have to be controvertial to break outside of the box and explore new ground.

    Of course, I am not expecting anyone to trust me on this. The haters are gonna still think that I am just a PR shill who is paid to spout whatever Mark wants, but I can assure our hateful friends that that is a big ‘ol pile of bollocks. I am my own person, and I stand by my words. If I disagree with something, or something violates my values, I will stand by my values too.

  1. October 20, 2012 at 7:00 am
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