I've got some good news and some bad news

Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Aug 21, 2011 GMT
Bruce Byfield

Recently, I wrote an article about the lack of acceptance of GNOME 3. I received a private email from Aaron Seigo of KDE in which he took me to task, politely, thoughtfully, and with his usual thoroughness, for focusing on negative news. Since I often debate this issue with myself, with Seigo's permission, I'm summarizing the discussion here.

Seigo begins by asking, "Is it useful to spend time concentrating on the negatives in FOSS when we have not only a tremendous number of positive events occurring but many detractors who are willing to do the negativity thing for us? Why do we reward failure and negative reactions with press coverage when thriving and positive efforts struggle for valuable attention?"

According to Seigo, the major stories of the past year include such items as users being disappointed in Unity and GNOME 3, the danger in Project Harmony's copyright assignment templates, the need for anti-harassment policies at conferences, and Android's patent issues.

By contrast, Seigo says, "What positive stories are heralded are usually future things (which I'm sure will be criticized more heavily once they are in the present tense) such as Wayland," the potential replacement for the X Window System.

Seigo continues, "This lack of balance is frustrating and demoralizing to our community. I spent a lot of time at the Desktop Summit listening to and talking with people who were struggling with this."

It's not that Seigo wants FOSS media to avoid criticism. But he does suggest that criticism should be offered in "ways in which one can acknowledge a situation that gives various people a doorway through which to step" (that is, a way that doesn't make people defensive and maybe suggests constructive solutions).

Since he was traveling during the discussion, he concludes temporarily with, "I'm really striving this and next year to help our community find a better balance and a better way to approach our challenges that lead to constructive results."

In response

These comments hit home with me, because I do make some efforts to report upbeat news. For example, in the past few months on this blog, I've praised a local Maker Faire, Google Web Fonts, The Ada Initiative (which is not just talking about anti-harassment policies, but helping to create them), Tim O'Reilly, and the ebook manager calibre.

At the same time, I'm very much aware that what the media chooses not to write about risks getting lost. Although, sometimes, bloggers may take up the slack, this power to make decisions implies (or should imply) a responsibility to ensure that all stories receive coverage.

If positive stories are not being told, then those of us who write are not doing our job. And when I consider that all the positive stories I mentioned above receive far fewer comments than any of the negative ones that I write, I can only conclude that negative stories are more popular. Since page hits are important to sites, that means that pressure exists to write negative stories.

Yet it is equally true that, if negative stores are not being told -- perhaps out of a concern like Seigo's that they harm the community -- then the problem is just as great. As I have said before, the free software journalists are not just fan-boys whose role is to support the free software community uncritically.

Instead, the free software supports the community by trying to offer the truth. If that means writing about a negative subject, then I believe that as a journalist I have a responsibility to do so. If I deliberately suppress a story because it might damage the community, I'm not serving the community, but betraying it by not properly fulfilling my function of providing the closest possible approximation of the truth. In other words, I am lying by omission.

The most I can do in all conscience is to soften my expression of inconvenient truths. I might further soften a negative story by offering some concrete solutions, but the story is no less useful if I don't. Truthful description has a value by itself -- and, at any rate, my suggested solutions are likely to be too uninformed in many areas to be worth the attention of a programmer or project planner.

Seigo's comments can't help but interest a journalist who wants to write responsibly. Yet even though journalists and editors decide what is newsworthy by selecting what they write about, neither is in full control of the potential news that comes along. If most of the news in a general period is negative, part of the reason is random chance. Although obvious exceptions exist, much of the time, a journalist writing negative stories is not shaping the news so much as reflecting it.

What do you think?

My discussion with Seigo broke off just as it was getting interesting, and I look forward to returning to it.

Meanwhile, what do you think? Is the free software media too negative? How should reporting balance what's good for the community with the obligation to reflect what is on people's minds, and to comment intelligently upon issues?

The comments are open for your opinions.


  • the whole truth please, both good and bad

    Just telling the truth about the good *and* the bad is the best long-term policy. Doesn't mean a person has to go overboard, either in the negative or the positive direction. Anyone who tells me only good things without acknowledging well-known issues sounds like a marketer and some one I am inclined to distrust.
  • Hubris

    @Hans Bezemer

    I agree with Hans AND Carla. To quote Aaron Seigo from a comment he made at this site back in January of 2011

    "I think: many people bonded quite deeply with KDE 3. Which is nice and cool. They began to consider themselves as stakeholders. In a meritocracy, that's a pretty shaky claim to make"

    At best Open Source development is a meritocracy. Aaron has the right to accept or reject any patch based on the quality of the code produced and what he things of me as a programmer from what I have contributed in the past. That is NOT the case for Open Source software usage.

    I am a shareholder in KDE because I choose to use it Saying that is a shaky claim to make is hubris. I found the comment to be very arrogant.

    Hans is right, this will eventually marginalize a software project. Features that are missing because "uesrs don't need them" or "because we know better' Or a proejct just ticking off the users. Is the wrong way to do things.

    The folks at Canoical and Gnome are doing just about as well. We either headed to Linux becoming very mainstream, and us old time Linux users not liking it. Or we are heading to an exodus from Unity/Gnome/KDE.

    Count my voice as one of dissent. I did not ask for a cell phone interface. At least KDE did not design for one size fit all. All the parts plug in so you can have a desktop interface or a cell phone interface.
  • I agree with Aaron Seigo

    I fully agree with Aaron Seigo in his efforts to get some balanced news out. And frankly, Carla Schroder's dual response has disqualified her forever as a serious journalist, and labelled her as a vocal naysayer from the blogosphere.

    When KDE 4 came out, admittedly it could have been made clearer that it was not for everyday use for all users, although I feel it was sufficiently emphasized. What happened however was that some distros and users jumped on the hyped up bandwagon and started issuing / adopting KDE4 desktops without properly evaluating whether it was the right thing to do. Once the early adopters found out that KDE4 lacked functionality, some of them banged the loudest drum they could find in order to express their annoyance. To all those self-acclaimed critics and reporters, including miss Schroder, I would like to say: serves you right! You cannot have the cake and eat it. You cannot have the latest and greatest and expect it to be stable, fully featured, mature and what have you. If you were so concerned about your productivity, you could have resorted to distros like Debian, Mepis or PCLOS to keep on using KDE3 until KDE4 was more up to par. But no, KDE 4 was a steaming pile of dump that had been unloaded onto your collective heads when you least expected it. It's so easy to play the victim and blame someone else....

    Again, I am sure the KDE team made mistakes, and I am sure they learned from it. But nobody forced it onto you and nobody wiped your KDE3 installation from your drive.

    One more thing to miss Schroder. Your qualification of KDE4 as 'a resource-heavy inefficient exercise in eye candy' is a very good illustration of the shallowness of your criticism. If you cannot see beyond that remark, that is a big shame...
  • Keep on dissin

    One problem is if I can tell an article is NOT negative, I am afraid I am just going to be reading a simple introduction to the FOSS topic. "Watch video online with MiniTube" sounds like an article that is going to give me a link to their site, the PPA where I can get the software, and show me how to fire it up, search for a video and play it. Whereas "MiniTube does it violate the GPL?" sounds like I am going to actually learn something, and weather I like or dislike MiniTube, I need to read it to cheer on the detractors OR to deride them for being wrong.

    So negative articles get my attention. I have often seen articles where constructive feedback has been given by the author. From where I set, I do not expect feedback will help with regard to Gnome 3. You are either on board with it, and any criticism will be about items that are already on the drawing board to be implemented. OR your criticism is of the nature of "lets move back to looking like Gnome 2", in which case, you can talk till you are blue in the face, that is NOT the direction they are willing to head.

    Truth be told. Bad or good, the only people reading this stuff are linux junkies. Almost no-one else cares. Just walk up to someone in the grocery store and start telling them how upset you are that they changed the way you theme Amarok or you don't care for where the pager is at in Gnome 3....and watch their eyes glaze over and look at you like you are speaking a foreign language.

    We can complain all we want...we just need to not demoralize those who are doing the heavy lifting in the community. I don't like Gnome 3. But I believe those who are working on it should continue to do so and contribute how they see fit, even if I will never run their code.
  • not balanced -- fair!

    I don't care if promote Linux and cheerlead a bit just be careful to be honest with me. I want to trust you. You know more than I do. I promote Linux to my friends and don't mind if you do too but we both have to maintain credibility. Neither is it fair to vendors and providers to withhold fair criticism. And PLEASE don't be "balanced". Don't go looking for bad news just to balance out the good news. Be accurate, be complete, and be fair.
  • FOSS and risk

    FOSS always starts by scratching your own itch - if not, you're simply a hired gun. Shrug your shoulders, make your eight hours and go home. It's not your responsibility, you simply filled in the blanks of a requirements list. So, assuming that is not the case, Seigo is not a hired gun. He calls the shots, he made the decisions.

    KDE3 may not have had all bells and whistles, it may not have been a bold paradigm shift, it was simply an effort to make a usable workhorse. And since Seigo is still pursued by its legacy, one may say it work out pretty well. KDE4 was a big paradigm shift: Seigo called KDE3 fans "old skool". If you make that kind of decisions you're taking a risk and you know - or at least should know - that it may not work out for you. People may say it is the best thing since sliced bread or people may say you're a genius. It can go both ways. If you stay on a familiar track, you may get criticism that it is not bold enough. Any which way, you can lose the game. That's how it is.

    One may not know that I'm hardly a GNOME fan, but when I looked at the way GNOME3 took the Windows Minimize/Maximize paradigm a step further I thought "this is simple, this is logical, I like it". Whether I can bring myself to getting used to it is a whole other ballgame. Well done - but it doesn't work for me. Great idea, but I get I'm too old a dog for learning new tricks.

    Since I'm a small scale software developer as well I know quite well that is discouraging. You made a lot of effort to please your users and it doesn't work out. At least not for them: your own itch may be scratched, of course. Bad press is not nice as well, ask any restaurant owner, movie maker, actor, performing artist or theater agent. If the hall is empty again, you may blame them for it, but in the end when you put it all together you might come to the conclusion it is simply the product that sucks. Not the press.

    The main objective of the press is to honestly inform its readers in the best possible way, since they are the ones that pay the bill. In the GDR the readers paid for the cigarettes of the paperboy (about 5 cents, when you use the official exchange rates). The rest was paid for by the party and consequently the press played cheerleader for the communist regime.

    If a product sucks, the primary obligation of a journalist is to inform his readers honestly of that fact or opinion. Not to play nice to the developer - any developer, me included. If he doesn't get his facts right, he ought to correct that (for the readers sake), but apart from that.. anything goes.

    If I think a journalist doesn't honestly report on the issues involved, I stop reading it, simply because I'm wasting my time. That is neither in my interest (because I need that information) nor in the interest of a journalist who wants to be read in order to sell magazines. If I'm a developer I'd be primarily interested in what issues are found - not in how it's written. I can say "Ok, I heard you, I don't like the direction, but if that's what you want..".

    Seigo obviously still has a problem that people (users and journalists) don't subscribe to his new ideas and paradigms. That's tough, but the choice is clear: continue on your path and be marginalized or adapt and be used. You can't force people to walk the path you've chosen.

    I'm still sticking with KDE3 and I still don't know if KDE4 will ever make it to my desktop. Maybe I'll TRY GNOME3 or pick the safe choice and do Enlightenment or Trinity. Even if the press would significantly improve on KDE4 and I would be temped to give it a go, there would still be the chance that I wouldn't like it and make that safe choice anyway. If your food sucks, a good review simply gives you one wasted meal, before your client seeks another caterer.

    And that it what Seigo doesn't see. He is so convinced of his product that he doesn't understand that some people SIMPLY DON'T LIKE IT. I warned him of that some years ago, but obviously he hasn't listened. And if you don't learn from your mistakes, you're likely to make them again.

    It's not your fault, guys. It makes you a good journalist that you contemplate on it, but in the end, we, the readers want your honest stories. Whether developers (including me) like it or not.

  • unecessary and ultimately dishonest insult

    Ah, again we see the ASeigo slant:

    It's not necessary to say all those nasty things, unlike all the nasty things our team has said about spoiled, lazy users who resist change and are stuck in the past.

    Carla's comment may have been more expressive than Aron likes, but the only dishonesty is his pretense that it isn't true. They hijacked a project relied on for day-to-day use, delivered a big steaming pile, and then whined because so many users got upset about having to wipe their faces clean.

    The worst part is that they have repeatedly retreated into the "but it's free - how dare you complain" mantra, demonstrating a complete and utter lack of understanding of what free software really is.

    I'm glad that they seem chastened by the experience. I'm glad that some of them may be catching on the idea that freedom is not the same as license, that responsibility is part of the picture, too.

    I wish that trust weren't such a hard thing to gain back once it's been broken because KDE has come a long way since 4.0 and I might like it now.

    If only I didn't need my workstation too much to take a chance on developers I can't trust.

  • Look at the whole coverage

    Why asking whether the FOSS media is negative? By just looking at the whole coverage of the FOSS we can see lots of positive topics. In fact, often overoptimistic ones.

    To understand the true source of negativity in this particular context - GNOME 3 - check one the GNOME 2 introduction news. It is the history repeating itself. Radical decision of few - pissing off many?

    You can't help but be negative about that non-FOSS like behavior of GNOME's core(*) developers.

    There is nothing wrong with coverage of GNOME 3. It is the very same situation which was observed during transition to GNOME 2, when they have left behind lion share of their users.

    KDE4 was tad bit different story. In part it was the PR mistake of release team. Developers thought that they can celebrate freeze of internal APIs by calling it KDE4 - the all new platform for application development. Yet, most bloggers and reviewers (worse: and many distro packagers) simply ignored the red sign and jumped on expecting full fledged replacement of KDE3. Which it obviously was not. That also showed how few in fact do understand to what extent KDE is a product of the entire community: KDE team works only on a small part of the whole, the rest (what makes KDE a KDE in our eyes) is developed by 3rd party/independent developers. Communication might have been better on the both sides: KDE team and the media. But since I, I who watch the development from afar, somehow managed to see the explicit mention that KDE4 is the internal API freeze release, I tend to blame the media for the KDE4 debacle: they have in haste simply skimped over the release notes attached to the KDE 4.0 and jumped on it as if it was a production ready release. Instead of spreading word that developers can start porting their apps to KDE4, we got the endless stream of negativity since KDE4 wasn't what journalists have expected it to be.

    (*) "Core" is a derogatory term, originating from *BSD development process, characterized by elitism, closed room decisions and general disregard toward those who are outside of the "core" team.
  • The truth

    I have to write about the truths - may they be positive or negative. It's just the way it is, and the way it's going to be.
  • Listening to users

    Hi Aaron (and others),

    We've had the discussion about KDE4 over and over again on our website LXer, up to the point where we had Stuart Jarvis being interviewed by one of our frequent commenters, and answering to 'our readers' concerns in a series of articles.

    What is most important in my opinion, is the following: There's always a small but vocal minority (or is it the majority?) who dislikes change. Though, many KDE devs (but we also see this currently at Ubuntu) claim there's a _larger_ number of users who asked for this changes.

    It would be interesting to hear / read more about how the KDE developers decide(d) what 'the majority of their users' want. How did they come to believe KDE4 (or Unity or Gnome 3) is what their users want? Was there a user survey? Are many people happy with the changes?

    Right now, for me as some kind of blogger / amateur journalist, there's no way at all to find out. Maybe there's only 3% of the users dissatisfied with the new products, but they're very vocal and fill up all the blogs and whole internet, and it reflects on journalists/bloggers as well. Or maybe those people complaining are representative for the group of users as a whole? How does KDE (and other projects) find out? Do they have user surveys? Do they have groups of "new Linux users" (probably current Mac/Win users) enter a room, let them use KDE4 and then depending on their criticism change the design? On what basis do projects think they know what their users want?

    I think it's important projects such as KDE do a better job at explaining why certain things happened that way. I know you tiredlessly did so, and Stuart did a great job as well. But somehow, that story doesn't reach lots of users. More insight into the decision process would be a great way for users to find out "why" things are happening. If they know why things are happening, they will complain less.

    You only have to look at road-construction works or train delays to see how that's true: People are more OK with them if they know _what_ is going on, even though that information doesn't decrease the delay time.
  • engagement works both ways

    Aaron, you speak again of a 'sense of entitlement', which has come up often in KDE and Gnome discussions. Of course users have a sense of entitlement-- who do devs write software for? Obviously you can't please everyone, but it seems that the KDE4 team is only interested in users who like what you're already doing, and the rest are treated as nuisances. That guarantees continued unhappiness and criticism, and there isn't much that the tech press can do about that. It also seems you are lumping news articles, reviews, and reader and user comments together. They are not the same. Not reporting bad news doesn't make it go away, not when everyone with Internet access is their own publisher. Bruce's 'Gnome 3 Meltdown' article was thoughtful and insightful, especially regarding the chasm between developers and users, and the great influx of new Linux users who do not yet understand how free software works.

    "Steaming dump" is accurate, if vulgar. I would not use it a news story or review, but as an unhappy KDE3 user who lost an efficient and configurable productivity tool that was head and shoulders above any alternatives, it expresses exactly how I feel. When people feel like they are not heard, which has been a chronic problem with KDE3 > KDE4, then they tend to get louder and more pointed. Users cannot be forced to like something-- either it meets their needs or it doesn't, and KDE4 suffers from comparisons to KDE3. If it were an unrelated project most of the complaining would not exist.

    I sympathize with being on the receiving end of so much negativity, and a lot of it is excessive and ill-informed. I appreciate that free software developers, both paid and unpaid, work hard and put up with a lot of unkindness. So here is a constructive suggestion. Getting positive news out requires the right kind of expertise. KDE4 (and many FOSS projects) would benefit from a savvy media relations person. This places a buffer between devs and the public, and a skilled person makes sure that important news reaches the right people. We can't keep up with everything, and even a tech-savvy writer like me or Bruce isn't always knowledgeable about new developments and technologies, and needs someone who can explain what they are and what they do. You want more good news published, make sure it reaches tech reporters.

  • Cheerleaders... and the Sisyphus syndrome

    The great german poet/philosopher Lessing once said something which can be translated roughly in these terms: if you don't lose your head in some circumstances, then maybe you don't have a head in the first place. I'm a regular (and enthusiastic) reader of Carla Schroder's books, articles and comments, and I must say, I fully second her choice of expression for KDE developers taking a "steamy dump on KDE3 users". I've been a KDE3 user until, well, 3.5.10. Right now I'm using 4.5.5 (on Slackware 13.37) "faute de mieux" as we say here in France. Because it seems the least evil.

    I've been using GNU/Linux and FOSS exclusively for the last ten years, and I sense there's something going on which I would describe as the Sisyphus syndrome. You know, that guy from greek mythology, condemned to push a rock up a hill, only to see it roll down the other side. You can't help feeling that most FOSS projects behave like this mythological projection of compulsive obsessional behaviour. GNOME2 was a fine, usable and stable project. What happens? The developers let everything go down the drain/hill and start all over with something next to unusable. Something similar happened with KDE, where 3.5.10 was a near-perfect desktop (well, for my workflow, it was). KDE 4.0 (and the next releases until well into the 4.4 series) was buggy, anti-intuitive, well, you know the song from the thousands of messages who vented their frustration in the forums. Amarok 1.x was a fine music player for KDE, Amarok 2.x decided to reinvent the wheel and made me switch back to XMMS (of all things).

    So is there something like a "Sisyphus syndrome" going on in development? When something is rock-solid, let it roll down the hill and start all over?
  • wow. its clear now

    ... who in Foss journalism is interested in cooperation and development of the community, and who is a callous (thinks she) knows it all, sensationalist, yellow journalist. And proud of it, apparently. Good clear evidence for a new author in the trusty blacklist. Thx C!
  • Future A.K.A. To Mr. Siego (In a good way)

    I was personally disappointed with KDE 4.0 as a desktop user, but found it to be a joyful playground as a developer. Some people don't appreciate broken features or glitches, but to be honest they are features in a totally different way. One users bad mem-leak can be a fortune in memory management elsewhere. I find the overall experience of the 4.0 you envisioned a few years ago to not only bear fruit, but provide the best most feature complete experience you can have on a desktop. GNOME users often times complain that the options are too complicated maybe a 'simplify' box for option menus would be helpful or in user preferences a slider from 1 to whatever to describe the users computer skills in assigning what options are presented. Maybe a questionnaire like the personality ones you see everywhere can do this for the user on initial boot with the simple option to defer at a later time. The only thing I might ask for is complete parody with 3.X as well as hitting targets missed in each 4.X release. As a system you provide a lot more to users through a window manager than any system I know, that's for sure.

    I think your plans for modularity in 5.X are awesome. Perhaps it would be cool offer more memory and speed options. Maybe deeper integration with QT and possibly creating your own X-server like system to become completely independent. A more structured and unified direction is what people are wanting right now.
  • RE: we are not cheerleaders

    @Carla: "Our job not to cheerlead."

    I agree. This implies at the least a ballanced approach. At the best, we'd be *constructively* critical of problem issues (potential or real), engaging with each other (rather than tearing each other down) and we'd give time and even more energy to the positive stories (as they are, indeed, many). While your job is not to be a cheerleader, I do find that many in F/OSS who interact publicly with others in the community (not just journalists) tend to behave like crabs in a bucket. We focus on pumping energy into negatives and very little focus on pumping energy into the positive efforts, stories and teams.

    "Mr. Seigo and the KDE4 team took a big steaming dump on KDE3 users,"

    That's a great example of being an anti-cheerleader. It's full of emotional invective and, to be frank, unecessary and ultimately dishonest insult. It's no better than being a chealeader, yet our community tends to be just fine with that sort of behaviour. This, in a nutshell, is my issue with how we handle public discourse.

    "and I do not recall any of them ever acknowledging that they terribly mishandled the transition to KDE4."

    I did acknowledge the issue many times, publicly, including taking responsibility for what we could have done better. I also examined the other aspects of the issue, since my goal was not to placate you (and the sense of entitlement many seem to feel) with mea culpas, but to truly learn from the affair. Which is more important to you?

    However, the acknowledgement and ownership of issues was rarely in turn acknolwedged. Why? Because our public discourse to often hyper-focusses on negative events, ignores positive settings and concentrates on ways to pick each other apart. As a result, despite people trying to do good things, at times it is utterly ignored such that people miss out on knowing about those things, causing further grief.

    .. as can be see in the sentence you wrote above. It's very unfortunate and sad.

    By the by, if you don't believe we learned anything, you should look at how we're handling the transition to 5.0 with Frameworks, including how we've noted that the methods being used are in large part due to the troubles we experienced with the 4.0 process. The cynic in me wants to write: "Not that you'd give us credit for that, as positive efforts are not rewarded in the same way mistakes and failings are ..."; it's that cynical response that makes me so worried: it's a response which is based on deep seeted mistrust based on years of poor performance in public discourse within the F/OSS community.

    "I don't agree that we have any obligation to sugar-coat or ignore the truth."

    Yet we ignore many positive events, or at least given them far, far less shrift than the "fun" and "exciting" bruhahas such as Harmony or the latest software disaster. Which is just as much a failure. And yes, things don't need to be sugar coated, but they also don't need to be unecessarily mean and non-constructive. The latter is what the public discourse in F/OSS is best at these days, and that's a horrible way to be.

    "It's interesting that Mr. Seigo took you to task, Bruce, as you are one of the top FOSS journalists."

    I wrote to Bruce because I consider him a friend and because I knew that I could talk to him about this and he would do three important things: a) listen, b) think critically and openly about it, c) offer me his honest viewpoint back, pulling no punches but also doing so with thought and care. That's important as it helps me shape my positions and opinions in return.

    As an interesting thought experiment: had I written to you, Carla, would you have chosen to engage in that way? Or would you have simply responded as you did here?

    "Your pieces are always thorough, thoughtful, well-balanced, and have a sound basis."

    I said as much in my email to Bruce. In his usual humble way he didn't print my praise and support for his efforts.

    "He should be carping at ZDNet and other publications that go for the cheap, sensationalistic clicks."

    Indeed, yet I have little hope of improving that scene. I do think that those who are personally involved due to truly appreciating what F/OSS is striving for and why its important can, however, work together to improve how we handle our parts of the public discourse. Bruce falls into that category. I hope you do, too.

    See, my goal is not to carp, but to work together with those in our community to improve what we're dong.

    "Don't change what you're doing; it's excellent and necessary."

    I didn't ask Bruce to change what he's doing; I asked Bruce to engage in a (constructively) critical look with me at how public discourse happens in F/OSS today. That we can do so is why I engage with Bruce in ways I do with few other F/OSS writers.
  • Re: We are not cheerleaders

    To be fair, Carla, I think that Aaron talked to me because a.) he was commenting on other aspects of the article as well, and b.) we are friendly acquaintances (even if we never did manage to get together for coffee when we lived in the same city). He also had some very complimentary things to say about my writing, which I've omitted here because they weren't relevant to the issue.
  • we are not cheerleaders

    Our job not to cheerlead. Mr. Seigo and the KDE4 team took a big steaming dump on KDE3 users, and I do not recall any of them ever acknowledging that they terribly mishandled the transition to KDE4. Instead all I've heard is a non-stop stream of defensiveness and deflection of criticism, and a fair bit of scorn for users. KDE3 was a fine, important, established desktop environment that thousands of users depended on, and the KDE4 team discarded it all without a backwards look, which to me is inexcusably irresponsible. I don't care who is paid or unpaid, and a number of KDE devs are paid, if developers don't want users touching and having opinions about their beautiful creations, if they are designing software without the needs of users being their first and foremost consideration, then they should not release it. Just keep it in their private clubhouse so it will receive only admiration.

    Mr. Seigo and whoever else leads KDE4 seem to have a strong vision of what it should do and look like, and there is no place in this vision for user input. It may be a wonderful vision, it may be chock-full of cool stuff. As far as I am concerned such a disregard for users marks them as unreliable. KDE4 is still far behind KDE3 in efficiency; a resource-heavy inefficient exercise in eye candy. KDE4 bears only a faint resemblance to KDE3, and the KDE4's team irrational insistence that KDE3 lovers are wrong for not enthusiastically liking KDE4 is tiresome. I can see a lot of potential in KDE4; expecting users to happily discard something as wonderful and functional as KDE3 and struggle with KDE4 through several years of growing pains is delusional.

    Mr. Seigo is right that negativity tends to dominate tech journalism, just as it does all journalism, and I agree that it is important to highlight cool stuff as well as report on negative things. I don't agree that we have any obligation to sugar-coat or ignore the truth. It's interesting that Mr. Seigo took you to task, Bruce, as you are one of the top FOSS journalists. Your pieces are always thorough, thoughtful, well-balanced, and have a sound basis. He should be carping at ZDNet and other publications that go for the cheap, sensationalistic clicks. Don't change what you're doing; it's excellent and necessary.
  • more positive?

    agreed with both you and Aaron blunk

    I know you and many other Free Software journalists try to get out the good _and_ bad news. There is indeed plenty of both. I do share Aaron's occasional frustration when some good news gets burried in the bad - but I also share your concerns for things like the Copyright Assignment and think those do deserve attention. It's a fine line to walk and I appreciate the thought you (and I'm sure many other journalists) put in it, trying to find the proper balance.
  • Negative News

    Let us not forget that Vista was imposed on the Windows environment no matter what the users thought of it. It was a case of too bad but Mr Balmer has decided that you are stuck with Vista.

    Those of us in Linux land get a chance to have a say in the matter when change is about to take place. Do we really have criticism or a multitude of ideas as to the way we should move forward? Perhaps this is the first time that a major change is being felt across multiple distributions, and we just have not experienced something like this before.

    Unity and gnome3 reflects the change that we are seeing in hardware and the way that many people may want to interact with it. This change could/will happen and the Linux community is going to have to deal with it or continue to be the little niche segment of the desktop market.

    As unhappy Linus Torvalds is with gnome3 he at least has a choice in desktops. None of us are going back to Windows.

    At least we should remember is that everyone wants what is best for Linux, and to be polite.

    Best regards,

    John Kerr
    Guelph, Ontario
  • Change looks negative alone

    Change is going to happen and when it does it almost always has negative consequences. But clear an present positives in this are around many of the products and projects you have mentioned. The simple fact that so many of these issues are now made aware to more general media and common users is a huge positive.

    Your earlier articles mention about some of these just as you briefly wrote about. I do not see these issues as negative for this some what newbish yet some what geekish end user, at least not in the end game. Each one is a viable project moving forward and each one is providing options and choice for desktop systems and user interface on any number of architectures and form-factors.

    One other way to look at or talk about all if this is that I am a heavy reader of Groklaw. So reading about litigation in the over all IP area is a hobby of mine. Anyway as bad as all the text seems to be according to some. I do not see that the whole thing is negative in the grand scheme of things. What is negative is the ideal or pipe dream of the closed incumbent monoliths keeping the status quo.
  • Criteria for evaluation

    I think that the answer to your question depends on how we understand the community, what it is, and what its values and goals are. I completely agree with you that, as a journalist, you have a responsibility to tell the truth. Yet is it possible to be an honest journalist and at the same time a member of the FOSS community who contributes to its goals instead of harming them? This requires an understanding of the community, how it works, and where it wants to go. I take Aaron's email to you as a reminder that the FOSS community lives in a context in which powerful forces want to see it fail. These forces criticize FOSS from a certain perspective and by using the type of criteria that are used, for instance, to assess commercial proprietary software. The FOSS community, working as it does under different principles, is vulnerable to those kinds of judgments, and part of the work that we have to do is to push for the view that we are all together as a group building something (that is why we are a community), and that the way we should evaluate our efforts should be different from those of the proprietary software that people access only as customers. It is in this sense that I think that Aaron's comments are spot on. I believe that a journalist such as yourself should tell the truth, but as a member of the community a reporter should not just adopt standard criteria to evaluate software. His/her work should propose new criteria which are better suited to assess the work of the community and to contribute to advance its goals, and the journalist should play a role in educating people on the adequacy and value of those criteria.
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