Friday, August 26, 2005
http://lwn.net/Articles/148007/#Comments presents an interesting picture into the users and developers of a free software project. I don't want to overstate anything, or suggest that KDE is all roses and sweets. But what I read sounded alarms in my head. Here is a group of potential contributors displaying deep frustration, which at least will prevent contribution.
The structure and economics of free software are based on participation as opposed to consumption. The continued progress of the software depends on a growing body of contributors. The goal of producing a useful desktop requires immense resources. Where will these resources come from? Individuals and commercial interests who see a benefit from participating. Hence, anyone who wants to build a community around a project needs to cater to those who will participate and contribute.
This is so basic I wonder why I wrote it. But what if your business plan is providing product for consumers? Won't that color your approach to fostering contribution?
And before someone suggests that we need to write for our grandmothers, just remember that it is the rare grandmother who can write a desktop application, let alone environment. Powerful flexible and simple tools are the result of engineering. Removing the power and flexibility isn't the answer. The answer is design through many iterations which requires manpower.
Speaking of contribution and community, we hope to produce the KDE Commit-Digest this weekend. Watch for the announcement on the Dot.
Monday, August 15, 2005
I am overwhelmed with the support that has been offered to produce the Digest. I have three individuals, Razmi Ferchichi, Jonathan Lee and Sam Weber who are subscribed to kde-commits and going to help out. Still very preliminary, but very gratifying nonetheless. And I must mention Nuno Pinheiro who is helping with a graphic redesign.
We'll keep everyone apprised of our progress.
Friday, August 12, 2005
Ugh. Sometimes things don't go as planned. I'm unable to produce the Digest for the next while.
Hopefully things can be arranged so that either I or someone else can satisfy the thirst for information about this amazing project.
Saturday, August 06, 2005
Aaron makes the point that all of the technologies that make up KDE would be used in a file browser/manager. In fact, these technologies make it possible to come up with a spectacular file manager.
Usability is often misunderstood as simple adjustments in menus, dialogs etc. Those things are necessary of course. What makes the complicated systems that we use usable at all are the numerous technologies that abstract the complexities into managable pieces. Think web addresses. Instead of 126.96.36.199:80, you can enter http://commit-digest.org. The workings of that system are quite complex, and require server maintenance, security and all the magic that makes up the dns system. For the user, just enter the address. KDE has a whole stack of technologies that permit easy access to complex systems. The next challenge is to scare out the remaining unnecessary complexities, further abstracting the abstractions.
The improvements we are seeing in the 3. KDE releases are a result of the maturing of these technologies. There is much more to come. The pace of development over the last couple of years has been torrid. I think we ain't seen nothing yet. Hang on tight. It's gonna be fun.
Now that I've got you excited, I would like to ask for assistance. The KDE Commit-Digest has been a success by any measure, and I think contributed to the KDE project. The problem I'm having is keeping up with the above described torrid pace of development. There is too much happening for me to keep familiar with, on top of trying to maintain an increasingly complex application and server. If someone would like to help, drop me a line. You can have the unique and satisfying opportunity of serving a growing developer base. Remember though, the primary feature of the Digest is it's regularity.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Gnome vs. KDE Round ?
Here we go again. Another round. But this time seems lacking a certain je ne sais quoi. Where are the ad hominem attacks? No one questioning the other's sanity, morality, manhood or coding ability? Is this what it has come to; whining about column inches?
Maybe a realization is sinking in. There are and will be two major free desktops. Wishing KDE/Gnome would go away isn't going to make it happen. Choosing favorites is fine as a developer or user, but anyone who depends on developers and users can't afford to piss off half the developer/user base. We have two healthy development communities actively improving their software. The userbase for both desktops are growing. Both are maturing into useful and full featured desktops. They both represent different visions, development styles, organisational and infrastructure styles. Both attract different sponsors and users. And both communities churn out amazing quantities of good quality code. And both are providing employment opportunities for developers.
This is good.
We are seeing another instance where accepted wisdom is being turned on it's head. Everyone knows that we need one desktop API. Everyone knows that it is a dead end to choose the loser. Software is a natural monopoly, so we have to choose the winner. Otherwise we have confusion and orphaned software. Microsoft has astutely placed itself to benefit from this wisdom. They defined the api, defined the software suites that would be everywhere. And the result has been bliss, peace and layoffs of admin people everywhere.
Wrong. The monopoly on the desktop has meant stagnation and an insecure mess.
What we see with the free desktop would never even be contemplated. Anyone suggesting or planning such an outcome would be certified as nuts. Take note. If I run KDE, I can run Gnome applications quite well. Not only that, but if I run KDE on 'BSD, Solaris or Linux, I can run Gnome applications. If I run Gnome on any of these platforms, I can run KDE applications. It isn't perfect, but it works. It can get complicated, but when it doesn't work it is a bug, not a feature.
The free desktop has become larger than any one person or even organisation. Linus still defines the kernel, but who defines the desktop? Novell? Redhat? Trolltech? Sun? How about all of the above. No one person can speak for everyone. This is a reflection of its strength. Too many developers, users, sponsors, distributions, consultants are benefitting in too many different ways for one person or vision to fit. The combined strengths are greater than any individual, encouraging collaboration when necessary, and only when necessary.
This is all for the good and bodes well for the future. I guess we'll all have to find something else to fight about.
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