Negative Community Reaction Development

I’ve been thinking about what it is that cultivates a negative reaction from people who use your software and who are invested in it’s success. This line of thinking has obviously been brought about by the new Ubuntu Unity interface and the strong reactions to both technical implementation and implementation method.

Firstly I want to separate out the general masses and the competition (no offence Jeff), there are plenty of people on the internet who just love to troll and there are plenty of people in other distro that talk nonsense based on tribal affiliation. Ignore them, I’m talking about negative reactions from people who make up the fixtures and fittings in the community, for Ubuntu, this would be Ubuntu Members (but not MOTU).

I’m sure we’ve all seen comments such as:

I really liked Maverick, but now with this new Unity thing that Mark has dictated will will all be using, I guess I’ll stick around for 11.04 but then move when 11.10 comes out and we have no choice but to use Unity.

The user in the quote is frustrated that development on Unity has seemingly come out of nowhere to crush all the familiarity they used to have and in order to continue to use the latest and greatest Firefox and OpenOffice they’ll be forced to put up with design decisions that will be against their own personal internal aesthetic. They’re not wrong in their concern, but of course this is a risky move that their distribution is attempting; a massive coarse correction which delves deep into the bowls of the ship we’re all sailing in and is tinkering with the engine and reshaping the hull to see if it’ll make the thing go faster.

Much like someone below deck messing about, we can’t see what the hell is going on, all we can see is the speed of the boat. So for a while the ship starts to slow down and we start to wonder if our friendly hacker is down there hitting the engine with a wrench and drilling holes in the hull. Of course the truth is that they’re risking everything on thought out designs will the same goals as most on deck, that part needs trust.

Alternatively we read official messages like:

Unity is a new interface to attract new users to Ubuntu and to attempt to jump the chasm, not everyone will be happy with the design direction; but we can’t hold back developing a user friendly desktop operating system waiting for a consensus that will never arrive.

And this too is true, but again is missing bits of the puzzle. Nothing about this kind of press release calms the fears of users, in fact it may only work with casual users and those that really trust where the ideas are coming from. It’s just as nutty to ask everyone in a committed community to trust you while you ignore the majority of what they say in order to get on with the herculean job before you as it is for users to suggest developers are deliberately planning to remove functionally just to hear the sweet screams of users.

The key is probably trust. The community members can trust the corporate development because we’re all in the same boat and they’re hardly likely to throw us overboard and corporates need to trust their community more, they’re not as design blind as we like to think, sometimes they’re just really bad at describing why they’re having trouble. This is especially true when a community member looks after lots of ubuntu user’s computers. We as developers just need to be better at reading/translating them.

I drew this graph to try and illustrate what it is about the development method that annoys people and provokes them into irrational opposition or productive support for any given project:

What are your thoughts?

Ubuntu’s Golden Ring

I’m been catching up to TedTalks from last year (2009) and last week I got to Simon Sinek’s talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action, in the talk he describes what he calls “The golden ring” which is his representation of how to communicate ideas in order to inspire and influence buying decisions.

So I figured I’d mix up the ideas on my blog and see if they can improve the communication and advertising of Ubuntu and Free and Open Source in general. The results are below but first I’ll quickly go over the ideas for those who skipped the above link and haven’t seen the video yet.

What Simon illustrates is the method in which traditional marketing messages work and he does so with a single circular diagram. Traditionally the messages move from the outside of the circle to the inside, from the What (the product), to the how (awesome features) and then finally sometimes to the Why (why should I care?). This outside in method is described as being logical and rationale by firstly showing what your selling and then explaining why people should buy into it.

The alternative method is illustrated with Apple’s marketing, where they predominantly communicate the opposite way round. First explaining the Why then the How then finally the product it’s self the What. This allows Apple to grab people by their emotive feelings which most of the time will override their logical deliberation and you’ll find people buying Apple products and making up rationale in order to justify their emotive decision making.

So I figured it might be possible to apply the same ideas to Ubuntu right, the problem is the complexity and confusion of the kind of message we want to promote. Apparently Ubuntu and FOSS means lots of different things to different people. So what I’ve done is pick out three different marketing messages and how we should communicate them effectively:

What are your thoughts?