Mark Shuttleworth Responds To The Ubuntu Community Drama
I’ll do my best to refrain from inserting my own opinion into this. Why? Well, for one, I’m “sort of” new to the Ubuntu community and don’t feel I’ve been around long enough to have enough insight into the matter to have a relevant opinion one way or the other. I’m also not a developer, designer, or anyone who has truly contributed to the Ubuntu project in any meaningful way over the years. I’m just a guy who likes Ubuntu, is a mobile freak, and is really excited about Ubuntu Touch and what it could mean for the future of the gadgetverse.
As for Ubuntu itself, I use it on my home systems. I even convinced my wife to try it out because, well, she’s the biggest Windows malware magnet I have ever met in my life, and I’ve met plenty senior citizens who still don’t fully understand what this email thing is all about.
So sure, I’m not a long standing citizen of Ubuntuville and should probably shut my silly face on the matter. I am however, someone who has been building and administrating online communities since 2004. So, though I cant’ speak to the history behind this weeks drama outbreak within the Ubuntu community, I can say without the bit of doubt that I have absolutely seen this episode before. In fact, I’ve seen it from both sides and I think both sides have legitimate grievances.
In a blog post titled Not convinced by rolling releases, Mark Shuttleworth expressed how much he understands and values the community, but at the same time did hint at a little frustration with people who are leaving what I like to call “accounticide” notes all over the web. That’s to say that people are posting angry tirades on online communities like reddit and slashdot as well as their own personal blogs alerting the media that they can no longer continue to watch their beloved Ubuntu being violated by Canonical so they are leaving… forever…. no seriously, forever…!
Mark, among other things that the “crowd” within the Ubuntu community that wants Linux, and therefore Ubuntu, to remain “Leet” or hard so that it can remain exclusive. I’m assuming by that he means people are wanting Ubuntu to remain within the realm of nerd land wherein only the technically inclined are allowed to bask in all its glory.
Like I said, some community members have legitimate gripes too. Some people are concerned that all of the contributions they’ve made over the years will slowly fade away into obscurity; and that the amount of things that they are allowed to work on within Ubuntu is a slowly declining.number. For most, it seems it’s not necessarily the changes themselves that are cause all of the discontent, but the uncertainty that they bring. That, along with Canonical’s apparently growing boldness with presenting them seems to have veteran community contributors spooked that even larger, more unsettling decisions have been made and that the other shoe is not far from dropping. Tension is definitely in the air.
Let’s step back for a second though, and look at this from an outsider’s perspective. By outsider, of course, I mean anyone who isn’t knee-deep in code and design elements or a leader within the community. You see, for the rest of us this is simple. We just want to see Ubuntu evolve into all the promise we see in it today. Now you’d think that people involved in the community would want that too but apparently for some, eh, not so much. So therein lies the dilemma. For some, the word commercialize means dirty things. It means someone is going to try and make money off their hard work and dedication, period. The rest of us understand that the other meaning of commercialization is the idea of bringing something to the masses. Ubuntu can’t change the world if only 4.8% (as of March 2013) of internet users are running it.
People are often adverse to change for whatever their own personal reasons. Sometimes unreasonably so. I once owned a forum that suffered an almost catastrophic revolt by long time members because they didn’t like the colors of the forum redesign. Harsh things were said, feelings were hurt, people left. But it didn’t have to be that way. When emotions are high, people tend to err on the side of melodrama when trying to express their opinions instead of logically and concisely laying out the reasons they believe what they do.
Little advice from a veteran community administrator and moderator. When having a discussion about something that you are passionate about, if you find yourself explaining how you feel about something instead of what you think about it and why, step back, take a deep breath, and perhaps reconsider what you’re saying. Decide whether or not you’re getting your point across in a constructive manner or if you’re simply venting.
Not saying that there’s anything wrong with being passionate or maybe even using a few interesting analogies to help make your case. Just saying that sometimes not thinking through what you’re saying may lead to you saying something you might later regret. So Canonical, perhaps you can be a bit more open with trusted community members, and community members, maybe it’s time to decide whether or not you want to be a part of Ubuntu and, if you do, figure out where you fit in the puzzle.
Now let’s all have a group hug and swear to never hurt each other again. Because, believe it or not, you’re all superheroes and the world needs you.[cartoon image source credit: dilbert.com]