2010-03-22

Arguments Symptomatic of Occasional Linux Community Dysfunction

This latest argument (Brian Proffitt, IT World) is part of a larger problem within the Linux community: members of the community get too caught up and too angry about the little details - GNOME vs. KDE vs. Xfce, Firefox vs. Konqueror, DEB vs. RPM, GRUB vs. LILO, etc.
This particular argument is even worse in terms of pettiness. It has to do with the fact that while before the window buttons (maximize, minimize, close) were on the right side of the top window bar, now in Ubuntu 10.04 (though (former) Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth insists that the change may not carry over to the production release) the window buttons are moved to the left (à la Mac OS X). It started out as a minor discussion before morphing into a vicious online war of words. Finally, Mark Shuttleworth had to end the argument, but not before saying, "This is not a democracy."
Follow the jump for my take.

I do agree with IT World's assessment that open source projects would be in very bad states if they truly were democracies; open source development is a meritocracy, in that those skilled enough to make the decisions (programming-wise) are the ones calling the shots, and while individual users can make their own changes to their own copies of the programs and OS, they are not the ones calling the shots.
However, I think that at the same time, Mark Shuttleworth, having been the CEO of Canonical (the corporation funding Ubuntu), should not have his statements taken as the "word of $deity" (I like that - I saw it in the IT World article) or as representative the view of all of the open source developers.
You may just think that I'm bitter.
While that is slightly true, it's not just me. For example, the #! (see my article on this, though it doesn't talk about news specifically) developers have announced that they will move to a Debian base (from the Ubuntu base) for #! 10 (no longer 10.04 like Ubuntu) not only due to the stabler nature of the Debian base but because Canonical is calling too many shots with regard to projects deriving from Ubuntu. Similarly, MEPIS experimented with an Ubuntu base but moved back to [its original base] Debian due to increased code stability and less oversight from Canonical.
Oh, and my stance on the change (in button layout)? While I like the thing, I take the view that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". While the brown theme definitely sucked, the movement of the buttons was a needless change. That said, it does look a little more like Mac OS X (I won't say if this is good or bad), especially in the "Light" theme.

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