Appropriateness of posts to this list (Was Re: evince crash)

Neal McBurnett neal at
Thu Dec 6 20:13:44 UTC 2007

On Thu, Dec 06, 2007 at 11:55:40AM -0700, Kevin Fries wrote:
> On Thu, 2007-12-06 at 12:03 -0500, Scott Kitterman wrote:
> > I think you misunderstand my point.
> No I got it.  And I think that that thinking is wrong and dangerous to
> Linux in general, and Ubuntu in specific.

Kevin - howdy!  I know you're doing cool stuff for Ubuntu and the
market, and you bring some good business perspectives to Ubuntu as a
product.  And I want Ubuntu to be a great product!  But Ubuntu is more
than that.  Please recognize that there are many different sorts of
people involved in Ubuntu, and respect everyone's right to do what
they feel called to do.  Scott speaks for many of us who are not paid.
In fact seminal essays on Free Software sociology have demonstrated
that this is not an uncommon position - the old "scratching an itch"

Telling people who you're not paying what to do using inflamatory
language is just not very helpful IMHO :-)

> > My concern is the idea that "because a user said they want it" is
> > a meaninful metric in a largely volunteer project.  In Free
> > software projects, the meaningful metric for what gets done is
> > what the people doing the work think needs doing (and this applies
> > to all types of work, not just development, in the project).
> > Volunteers can't be ordered.  They have to be convinced.
> If I don't get my steak the way I ordered it.  I buy my steak from
> elsewhere.  Ubuntu with no users, is not anything but an exercise in
> ego.  What the customer wants is the only real metric.  You need to
> understand that as a developer, and I live with that every day as a
> Consultant, Designer, and Implementer.

You can indeed pay someone to do work related to Ubuntu, just like in
the commercial software world.  You can pay Canonical, or another
Ubuntu support firm, or folks that do upstream development, or vendors
that sell software or hardware that runs on Ubuntu.  And then you get
to specify what you'll pay for.

But Ubuntu is MORE than a commercial project.  It is also a rich,
diverse community of contributors.  Some developers, some writers some
bug triagers, etc etc.  They contribute in ways that are very
different from the way the business world works.  And we benefit in
wonderful and unexpected ways from the diversity of their motivations.

I agree that excellent attention to customers is hugely important to
bug #1.  But [gasp] not everyone is doing this because of bug #1.
Some are just having fun, and still contributing in excellent ways.
Free software projects flourish when everyone is respected for how
they want to contribute.

> Which of those priorities you wish to work on, however, is completely
> your own decision.  But the customer MUST set the priorities of what
> needs done in the bigger picture. And, the customer MUST set the list of
> features that need to be implemented.
> Rule #1 of Business: Its not about you.
> If you do not make your customers wishes and desires #1 on your priority
> list, your competition will.

For the folks that are paid, right on.  For the volunteers - maybe
that isn't what floats their boat.  Let them choose how to contribute.
Remember, they're letting YOU choose how to leverage the result of
their work, after all.  That is part of the magic of free software.

> Lets not forget, Ubuntu is a business product, distributed by a real
> business.  Therefore, its not about you... or me.  Its about the
> customer.  Making the customer feel like they have to talk you into
> something, is just not good business.  This is why I spend so many hours
> providing help to ANYONE who asks.  Even people I would rather not.  Its
> not about me, its about Ubuntu, and what is best for the project.
> Even more so in an all volunteer endeavor, egos must be checked at the
> door.  Developer's egos, designer's egos, and consultant's egos.  We as
> the people trying to make this a success, need to listen to the customer
> so that there will be more of them.  Its the one true advantage we have
> over Microsoft which is notorious for blowing off their customer to do
> what is in their best interest (Can we say Windows Genuine Advantage, or
> Digital Rights Management... I knew we could).

Right on about checking egos at the door.  And I think ego is all
about telling someone else how to do something.  So I delight in your
energy and way of contributing to the Ubuntu ecosystem.  But recognize
that there is more than one way, and that is to our benefit, and
please don't project your views onto others.

> You allow the customers wishes to be the only real metric because you
> place Ubuntu and Linux's needs before your own.  Otherwise, are you
> really helping?

This conversation started off (in October!) with a non-developer
trying to find out if a post to the list about a "favorite bug" was
appropriate.  Unfortunately we've now regressed into a non-so-pretty
internal argument.  What an inappropriate waste!!

In summary I think we will make a lot more progress if we recognize
there are many ways of helping.  Treating each other with respect is
one of the most important.  And figuring out creative new ways to
contribute is another.  My own suggestions for contributors, both
developers and non-developers, is in a talk I did last month for the
Boulder Linux Users Group:


Neal McBurnett       

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