Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Canonical takes another step against the Community

In a posting to the Sounder mailing list earlier today, Ubuntu Linux maker Canonical announced that the long running mailing list would be shuttered. The decision followed a recent heated political discussion on the list and a proposal to close the list the Community Council by Alan Pope.

Even though the Sounder list might seem like an insignificant (and out of place) part of the community, I see this as yet another step that Canonical is taking against the very community that's made Ubuntu so successful. With the debacle that is Ubuntu's switch to Unity already polarizing users and driving many away and now the closing of a social list, it's slowly becoming obvious that Canonical is taking a step away from the happy community project that could take over the desktop and taking one towards corporatism. The community, unless it tows the corporate line, doesn't really matter to them anymore and that's truly sad since it's that very community that helped put the company where it is today.

Personally, I'm feeling more and more torn within the Ubuntu ecosystem. As a developer, I'm thrilled to see the company focus more on growing the business and making Ubuntu more suitable for business (though I'm convinced Unity will derail this effort). But as a user, I'm saddened to see that my voice is no more heard by Canonical than it is by Microsoft or Apple. I am, to them, just a user. They know what's best for us.

I fear Ubuntu is about to meet a fate worse than death: abandonment. By ignoring the community the company is risking losing the community. There are other options out there and some of them are pretty damn good. So users leaving Ubuntu to a more community focused distro (read: Debian) don't need to sacrifice anything to stay cutting edge and relevant. Gone or the days where it was Ubuntu or you might as well go back to Mac or Windows. We have choices now and I'm afraid Canonical is about to see their users start to explore those choices. The company, once the darling of the Linux world, is quickly losing the community's good will and, once that's gone, there's no turning back.

So, while the final chapter in this story is yet to be written, I fear that chapter may be nothing more than a eulogy of what could have been.

Fare thee well, Ubuntu. You will be missed.
Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

24 comments:

T-Bone said...

I think your concerns are valid, although I hate it when companies that embrace opensource are compared to Microsoft or Apple- I think you do Canonical a disservice there. Yes, they are not the most community-based distro, but they are not slaves to the share-holder corporate culture like Apple and Microsoft.

Like most long-time Linux users, I have concerns over Unity and Gnome 3, but I have not used either enough to judge them well. All linux distros have to walk that fine line between attracting new users with simplicity and keeping us old users happy by keeping linux functional/configurable/transparent. Unity and Gnome 3 seem to be a big step towards the former at the expense of the latter.

As far as cutting off communication with the community, I can't speak much on that. I'm mostly just a user.

sakuramboo said...

I already talked about this in greater detail on my blog.

http://sakuramboo.com/blog/2010/03/ubuntu-and-the-community/

tl;dr - Canonical is a company that needs to make money. If making money means doing what the community does not like, deal with it.

DOM said...

When will bloggers like you and the Linux community in general realize that no matter which direction you look at it, CHANGE for the Linux desktop is HERE! Even Gnome is moving forward and may soon give up support for it's 2.X series of desktop. Nowadays, "classic" is just another term for "safe" and "familiar". Canonical tried to work with Gnome Upstream but they essentially thumbed their noses at THEM. Canonical did what they had to do and moved forward. I for one am excited for our future in Linux. Chang CAN be uncomfortable, but we have to adapt. I prefer Unity over Classic style Gnome and Gnome 3. Please, stop your gloom-and-doom blogs and reviews and allow the dust to finally settle.

nixternal said...

FYI, Alan is not Canonical, the Community Council is not Canonical. The CC voted to shut the sounder down. When I was on the CC 2 years ago for the first issue, we almost shut it down then. So the community council chose to shut this down, not Canonical.

Greg said...

Xubuntu 11.04 is awesome. This is not to answer your concerns about Canonical and it's direction, but for everyone who is unhappy with Unity. The alternative can be just another variant of Ubuntu. The devs have done a great job of creating a viable alternative to Unity and Gnome3, complete with a floating launcher along the bottom of the screen, but still familiar and comfortable. So far i can have Xubuntu and Unity both installed without problems, but frankly Xubuntu is more than enough for most people.

Stephen said...

Say what. Get off your ego. Yes, deal with the fact: YOU ARE A USER.

You get your feelings hurt and now you want to take the ball and go home. Except in this case we still have the ball and we will play without you.

Canonical has taken Linux mainstream.

Don Hardaway, Ph.D. said...

As an end user and a person that interacts with enterprise users I think Canonical is making the right changes. Unity is definitively an improvement over Gnome in my opinion. Although the open source community are wonderful people---many of whom I know---they do not always understand the behavioral aspects of the casual user community and this is what Shuttleworth and company are addressing with their changes from my view.

jp said...

Unfortunately this sensational title has it all wrong. The decision to shutter the sounder mailing list was obviously a community decision, not a Canonical one. The detractors who felt the list needed to stay never even showed up at the meeting to sound off it appears. I can't see where Canonical had anything to do with that.

niala said...

Familiarity and not knowing about other OSs is what is keeping a lot of people on windows systems. The step Canonical has taken to develop Unity is a change from classic gnome v2.xx system. But if you give it a try, than soon you find out that Unity is a very good interface. I got rid of the clutter in my top gnome bar, I still see what applications are open (so no need for the bottom gnome bar), etc. By learning just a couple of chortcuts you are far more productive than with gnome v2. I keep supporting Canonical and, as I have done in the last couple of weeks, when I return to gnome 2 I feel lost. Give Unity a fair chance and one more release and it will certainly rock and make Ubuntu more mainstream than ever.

PatsComputerServices said...

You might want to check at this blog for some information also http://www.nixternal.com/canonical-shut-down-sounder/ He points out that 75% of the people who voted to shut down the Sounder Mailing List are NOT Canonical employees.

So, with that information, how can you say that it's Canonical doing this (and that Canonical is taking another step against the community)?

Have a great day:)
Patrick.

Sam said...

This post saddens me, Canonical is doing whatever it can to be open source and popular as well. I think they know what they are doing, and their popularity will no doubt benefit us too, so just leave them to it.

Shelby said...

You are being completely ridiculous. If you don't like the decisions they are making, why not go ahead and create your own company, with your own OS, etc.? We'll see how well that goes.

Manish said...

Ubuntu Linux maker Canonical announced that the long running mailing list would be shuttered
Daniel Holbach on behalf of Community Council announced it. You need to learn how to read.

With the debacle that is Ubuntu's switch to Unity already polarizing users and driving many away
I have seen this statement for last 3-4 years. Every clueless Ubuntu hating blogger uses words like this. "There is going to be a mass exodus from Ubuntu". There hasn't been any till now.

Personally, I'm feeling more and more torn within the Ubuntu ecosystem
Since when did open source projects aim to satisfy the egos and pacify the emotions of random people?

though I'm convinced Unity will derail this effort
Live in your own world.

I fear Ubuntu is about to meet a fate worse than death: abandonment
You know what? In 1999 experts predicted that anyone who buys Amazon shares would go bankrupt. That company is just a vapourware. Your comment is very similar to them - "Random predictions with no base"

TheZorch said...

As a former member of Sounder you are spot on. The closing of Sounder was a political decision by the Community and Canonical. We're relocated to http://groups.google.com/group/bikeshed where we are still having meaningful discussions about Linux, open source, and the direction Ubuntu is going.

coder543 said...

Seriously, Ubuntu is the best there is. And Unity makes it truly amazing. Your comments are bitter and illogical.

Manish said...

We're relocated to http://groups.google.com/group/bikeshed where we are still having meaningful discussions about Linux, open source, and the direction Ubuntu is going.
By bikeshed you mean bikeshedding? Do I still need to read the description of the list or the title is enough to understand what it is meant for?

Brian Masinick said...

Canonical is a business, and businesses are created to earn money for their owners and other stakeholders, they are not primarily created to satisfy each and every user request, though they certainly should, and will do so, provided the request has a payback and meets the strategy of the business.

There are plenty of community-only oriented distributions. A new one called Mageia was formed only last Fall, diverging from Mandriva when the business terminated many employees. Businesses come and go; businesses change priorities. The only way to achieve the objectives of the author is to use a community-ONLY, non commercial distribution. You can use some Ubuntu derivatives and get many of the benefits of Ubuntu, and you can even fork Ubuntu yourself if you wish to do so. That is a benefit of FREE software that you CANNOT get in commercial proprietary systems!

Hubert Pereira said...

I don't believe that Ubuntu is going to be deserted. Abandonment is a very hard word, and I'm not putting my last two bucks supporting it. People like me ( read basic users) are not affected, and will enjoy it's long as we can.

jvin248 said...

The reason for Unity is to chase the ever elusive "cool UI". Ubuntu surpassed Windows with the 6. through 8. releases. The 10. releases threw the gauntlet down across Apple OSX.

The problem now with the potential to get out front of the appearance trends is you have to guess right or be flexible. Unity is an initial guess.

shastry said...

This comment is about 'unity'.
I have not used the above said interface. I am a happy user of lucid with GNOME. At the same time I have no reason to be conservative. Testing and experimenting should be encouraged no matter what ever may be the out come(if we know the out come in the before hand why should we indulge in experimentation?). We should go for change if it is not working then change it again. ;).

Some on told "Nothing is permanent in the universe other than change"

regards

Clockwork PC said...

As a passionate supporter of FOSS in all shapes and sizes, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and actually sell computers that dual-boot and personally provide technical support to new users. I also encourage non-Linux users to use LibreOffice and Firefox, etc. Unfortunately, if someone doesn't mind spending loads of money, there isn't a single packaged rival to Apple's user experience -- not to say there couldn't be, there just isn't. By this I mean from the moment you walk into an Apple store (there is no "Ubuntu" store, although there should be), to the user interface, to the technical support at the so-called Genius Bar, Apple users are irritatingly proud of being so. And a HUGE component is Apple's careful attention to DESIGN. Personally, I think Apple's design is limiting and a little cold, but at least it's consistent and it evidently appeals to lots of people. And Apple achieved this with experts and *some* user feedback. Apple's goal was to attract disgruntled Windows users, and what do you know? It actually worked. Mark Shuttleworth is unfairly lambasted on blogs like this one for staring reality in the face and not blinking. If we want Ubuntu to be the preserve of tinkerers, then no change is needed, but Ubuntu was NEVER intended to be yet another community distro -- its aim was always at the mainstream. And I find it ironic that the same Linux users who are so open to change in almost every other respect behave like the most childish M$ Windows users as soon as very important, well thought out changes to the UI are introduced. There won't be a mass exodus from Ubuntu, because it strikes the best balance between the needs of experts and novices. If you want to get your hands dirty, do so by all means with Gentoo or Arch or even Fedora (which you can bet will be crash prone), if 11.04 isn't to your liking then OK stick with 10.04 or 10.10 if you must. But stop whining about not being heard. There are millions of Ubuntu users: we can't all be listened to.

larrythefreesoftwareguy said...

Quoting sakuramboo:

"Canonical is a company that needs to make money. If making money means doing what the community does not like, deal with it."

He's absolutely right. Deal with it, dude: Like move on to another distro. If that's the prevailing attitude -- if that's even a common attitude, though not one of the majority of members -- at Canonical/Ubuntu, then good riddance.

Interesting that Red Hat is also a company that needs to make money -- does a pretty good job of it, too -- and has the smarts to fully support the Fedora Project because it knows the value of that community to its product and to the company.

The same can probably be said of the relationship between Novell and OpenSUSE.

So deal with it.

Santiago said...

@larrythefreesoftwareguy
"Interesting that Red Hat is also a company that needs to make money -- does a pretty good job of it, too -- and has the smarts to fully support the Fedora Project because it knows the value of that community to its product and to the company."

Fucking True. I still don't understand why the ubuntu community doesn't react.

I mean, it's clear that Canonical is over his community and the name "ubuntu" it's just a marketing brand.

This is a general argument, I'm not pointing out what happened here but what happened in this years. I write about it a lot in my blog, unfortunately it's in Italian.

The main point, anyway, is that Canonical started a distro with the "human OS" motus and doesn't make difference between a community distro and an enterprice distro. This fact permits Canonical to gathered a big community, but now the intentions and the conseguences are comming out.

PS: sorry for my english, is a bit rusty

tracy said...

quote::Gone or the days where it was Ubuntu or you might as well go back to Mac or Windows.::quote

Those days never existed. At least where Ubuntu is concerned there has always been the choice of another Linux Distribution.

Judging by your words I'd guess you'd be surprised to learn that I started my Linux journey on Mandrake now Mandriva, and even then (2000) there were plenty of other choices, such as Lycoris, which I also tried, and who eventually were bought out by Mandriva.