Being an avid reader of blogs in the Free Software world, and especially in the Free Desktop
world, lately, I see there is an increased amount of blogs that try to put KDE in a bad light.
Today’s example on
Iain Holmes blog made me realise that it’s time to
publicly ask people to stop exhibiting this pattern in the public.
community (GNOME in this case, but it universally also applies to KDE, the Freedesktop and the
Free Software community) as a whole in bad light. While it’s probably fine to
make an ass out of yourself, please don’t apply the same logic to others. Therefore, if you
consider bitching about The Other Desktop (be it KDE, GNOME or whoever else’s offering) in
public forums, please keep the following in mind (and don’t expect me to list new things here):
- Trying to ridicule other Free Software people’s work is counter-productive to
the cause of getting more people to use Free Software.
- Stating bad things and forgetting about the background for convenience reasons shows
only one thing well: You’re too narrow-minded to see the big picture, and you don’t do any
effort to try to really understand the thing you’re bitching about. In 99.9% of the cases,
the world is not as black-and-white as you are so conveniently trying to put it.
- It also puts your community into bad light, and it makes collaborating for those who
are less narrow-minded much harder. Don’t throw sticks between your own people’s legs.
- It doesn’t help the adoption of Free Software and the Free Desktop at all,
in fact, it shows that you’re immature.
- It might provoke the same kind of reaction from the other side, leading to a vicious circle
of mud-slingering with the consequences I’m outlining in this post.
- Diversity is one of the principles of Free Software, your pattern of behaviour shows a deep
lack of understanding of this concept.
- Remember what today might be a funny and smart post, it can be tomorrow’s reason for an employer
to not consider your application because of a lack of vision, understanding and diplomacy in dealing with
diversity. (Replace “employer” with “potential girl-friend” at will.) Don’t shoot yourself in the
- The Free Software cause is best served by being open-minded, collaborating with each other and
being honest and positive about your own and other’s achievements.
Those who look behind this kind of posts wonder about the real reasons for this
immature and harmful behaviour. My personal guess is that there’s a fear of others outrunning your
pace of innovation (which is absolutely normal in competitive innovation, sometimes A leads,
sometimes B does, in total both win in terms of speeds compared to being the only player).
Then, there’s an uncertainty how to cope with this in a collaborative fashion (there’s a lot of
potentially shared technology in KDE4, you know?). The net result is doubt for those who
consider trying a Free Desktop — they’ll just wait until the community shows it’s mature and
working as one on a good user experience.
That’s the people you’re scaring away, yet it’s by far largest part of the desktop market. Remember,
there’s one vendor monopolising the market, by concentrating your effort on
the other Free Desktop, you’re trying to fight for a 3% – 6% slice of the market (which probably
aligns much better with your offering, and thereby it has much less of a competitive advantage.
That is “interesting”, “unique” and “challenged”, but probably not very “smart” from a marketing
point of view.).
On a positive note, I do know that this kind of behaviour is not the common
People of the Free Software community, discourage this kind of counter-productive behaviour
and fight for a wide community of freedom-lovers that grows beyond trying to downplay other’s
case in either community. In fact, I’ve worked together really well with people from other Free
Software projects (including GNOME) in the recent past. Unfortunately, only bad news is news, so
this is what gets picked up by the media. And unfortunately, it needs a lot of people not peeing
in the pool to see a pattern of a nice bunch to make up for one rotten apple.