Long term goals of Xubuntu contributors (or "What users do we want and what do we want to do of our time")

Steve Dodier sidnioulz at gmail.com
Sun Aug 16 21:01:20 UTC 2009

Hello everyone,
I am writing this mail in order to pursue the discussion that began on the
IRC channel a few weeks ago, because I have the feeling that some questions
need to be answered by the core Xubuntu developers in order to make it
possible for everyone to use one's free time efficiently, by all walking on
the same direction (it's the goal, indeed, of the strategy document). The
reason that drives me to write this email is that I have the impression that
we are having more conflicts than other FLOSS development communities I
know, and that we are all mature and responsible enough to be able to sort
things out and agree on what Xubuntu is, and who we want our work to profit
to (which I believe are the key points where everyone has a different
answer, thus a different approach).

The strategy document is, imo, too vague concerning the target audience. We
can't say that we don't target any particular kind of user, but that we want
an easy-to-use distro. Gentoo is easy-to-use for some users too. The
question is : which users ? My opinion is that XFCE is not targeted to end
users who don't _want_ to understand what a DE is. XFCE is targeted to
people who want to build a desktop that fits their own needs, which is why
it is so modular. People who want everything-out-of-the-box and
no-confusing-settings-at-all are imo better served with GNOME. People who
want a simple, light, and modular DE will prefer XFCE (even if they don't
know it :p). We have this chance to be much lighter (in terms of amount of
components and selection of features, but not as much as before about
ressource usage) than GNOME and KDE, and to be based on a DE that is much
easier to adapt to the needs of an average linux user, and of a power user.
I think this is where we should focus. I'm using Xubuntu because i'm a lazy
power user, it just does almost everything I need, it does it well, and
adding what I lack is a piece of cake. I wouldn't recommend XFCE to a
typical windows end-user, and I would like to know what you guys think about
this : what kind of people do you expect to mostly use Xubuntu, how to fit
their particular needs, how to let them know about why Xubuntu is the OS of
choice for them.

I would also like to state that I don't believe at all Xubuntu is, as of
today, still the best distro for very old computers. It will run slightly
better than Ubuntu for machines with ~256/512 MB of RAM (and XFCE 4.6 can be
greatly improved on this scope; several apps badly leak memory), but
Lubuntu, Damn Small Linux and PuppyLinux are better choices for very very
limited computers. I'm not confident with recommanding Xubuntu as a first
Linux distro to end-users with old computers, since we do not actually do
anything to improve the experience of this particular kind of users (but
there are possible improvements : making sure things like "no menu editor"
don't happen - by coding them, obviously -, shipping more drivers for
obsolete hardware - and for netbooks :p -, improving the CPU and RAM usage
of desktop apps - which is something devs should do alongside bugfixing
after feature freezes, imo)...

Anyway, it looks obvious to me that without clearly stating how to achieve
our focuses on kind of users we want to have, we won't be as efficient as we
could; We need to state who we want as users, and what we have to do if we
want Xubuntu to be the best OS for them. And focusing on too many kinds of
users (or not focusing on anyone at all), with the extremely poor manpower
we have, is in my opinion going to make us fail to achieve any goal.

But we don't only need to know how to make our users happy. Don't you find
it strange that, regardless of the number of developers of GNOME vs KDE vs
XFCE, our "community" is about 20 people when Ubuntu and Kubuntu have
hundreds if not thousands ? The reason of this is, for me, extremely simple
: we don't communicate enough. Well, we don't have much to communicate
about, too, and that's a shame. But there are imo two things that need to be
done, if we want to see the emergence of a Xubuntu community (which will
happily contribute to documentation, support, artwork and translations, and
even to coding for some of them) :
 * get an userbase that is satisfied enough of what we, Xubuntu, do in order
to feel indebted to give something back.
 * communicate about what we do and where we need help. Some people are very
happy with Xubuntu but don't know how to get started. And wiki pages and
desert mailing lists are not as warm and welcoming as blogs, forums, and an
active and welcoming IRC channel.

This email is already quite big, but there is a last point I would like to
talk about. The strategy document mentions our goals, but doesn't clearly
state our strategy in order to reach them :) Should we merely package Ubuntu
+ XFCE + some GTK apps, or should we define what needs to be done in order
to better integrate GTK desktop apps inside an XFCE based distro, what needs
to be done in XFCE components to get rid of the last GNOME components
(because having them doesn't help to lightweightness, and brings much much
more complaints from our users than they make them happy. Check out external
forums if you don't believe it, but most of our users expect XFCE where it's
possible, and nothing - or something non
GNOME/KDE/Qt/Mono/PulseAudio/<anything polemic or heavy or causing
compatibility problems, whether it can be blamed for it or not> where there
is no XFCE component available). This is a reality. Some XFCE components are
not worth much compared to their GTK/GNOME equivalents, but when the feature
parity can be reached within one or two release cycles, we should opt for
XFCE components on a systematic basis, because :
 * the fact that it will keep working in Xubuntu is much more predictable as
it is maintained by people who work on XFCE based distros, and since some of
these people use Fedora, Debian, and other "end-user" distros, so that they
make sure it works on such distros.
 * the community will be less pissing about the "bastard gnome"
distribution, and more willing to contribute, as they usually opt for
Xubuntu because it is the XFCE Ubuntu (at the notable exception of people
who are told to use it because their hardware is old, while sometimes Ubuntu
or a really small Linux would be better for them).
 * we will be more helpful to the XFCE devs, making them have more time for
features since we can help them on testing, bug fixing, user feedback. They
will also have a better opinion of us, as we will not be the guys that use
their code without giving back anymore.

I think this is something we should agree on. My understanding of the reason
why Xubuntu exists is that we think Ubuntu's core is the most solid and
likely to fit users' needs of all distro cores, and XFCE is a great desktop
environment. But I may be wrong, and I'm curious about the reasons that make
you people make Xubuntu live.

I know this is a quite long message, but I think it needs to be said,
because I have the feeling that along the questions I'm asking here, lie
some of the disagreements between the people who contribute to Xubuntu and
make it exist, and because I don't think we will go anywhere without
choosing the direction to follow.

With much respect, SD.

Steve Dodier
OpenPGP : 1B6B1670
IRC : SiDi on irc.freenode.net
Jabber : sidi at im.apinc.org
steve.dodier at gmail.com
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://lists.ubuntu.com/archives/xubuntu-devel/attachments/20090816/eaabcf52/attachment.html>

More information about the xubuntu-devel mailing list