Plans for Oneiric: Playing with Brains

While I was at LGM I got into an interesting discussion about communities and how much they are like biological organisms. When the organism is doing well and all the parts are working on their own little jobs, the rest of the organism doesn’t have to pay much attention. But if something goes wrong then all sorts of attention is paid to the damage/infection.

The conjecture I tested this morning was that “negative posts in a community will attract more comments and longer comments than positive posts” this in essence was a critical look at weather it’s hard work to praise but easy to complain on a unit level. So, apologies to all my test subjects below, I turned a fairly positive post into a fairly negative post to see what would happen.

Conclusion: There was a strong community reaction to the negativity, taking data from a number of older positive posts I’m able to confirm that communities do act like complex organisms focusing on damage.

My post is this: I had a good time at LGM and though I missed UDS in Budapest last week, I have some plans of my own for Oneiric:

  • I’m running a community Center for Boston Housing Authority (ubuntu 10.10)
  • I’ve got a community greeter login project to allow users to register at login.
  • A new deviantArt upload library using their new stash API (OAuth 2.0 draft 10).
  • Some new plugins using said library for inkscape, gimp and nautilus.
  • Edubuntu wallpaper refinement for the next release.
  • More free culture artwork and posters promoting use of creative tools.
  • Getting more involved with Inkscape bug fixing (already fixed one bug).
  • Worrying about the release of baby 1.0 in October, new father syndrome.

Apologies again for playing with your collective. Thanks for posting comments 🙂

33 thoughts on “Plans for Oneiric: Playing with Brains

  1. How exactly does Ubuntu move away from programmers, comedians and dancers?

    I always knew that if a particular tool is not installed by default, I can always install it. Take build-essential for example – not installed by default, VERY easy to get. It’s not quite clear to me how this changed in the last release.

    How is Ubuntu exclusively focused on OEMs? How many participants in Ubuntu do you reckon think about OEMs primarily?

    While your choice is yours, I think your summary of thoughts is largely unfair to a lot of people who contribute to Ubuntu.

  2. Switch to DVD images, bundle Blender, GIMP, Alchemy, Inkscape, and Cheese….

    Can you IMAGINE people’s reactions when they’d see that kind of awesomeness ready to go from the beginning?

  3. I wonder if some Canonical insiders have felt the same way and that may be the unspoken reason a lot of them have quit over the past 6-12 months. Several of the ones who have quit have also noticeably been Debian Developers or ex-DD’s.

  4. Well, what is it that you DO actually? As far as I can tell you just write blog posts rather than doing any work, so I suppose that it doesn’t matter what distribution you use or “move away from”. Lots of whining, zero lines of code…

  5. Woah! This is a surprise for me, because I always though you were aligned with the point of view of Canonical. My mistake.

    Did something happen in LGM that make you take this decision? I’m not involved directly in the Ubuntu community, but I’m an user and a open source advocate, and ‘d like to understand what’s going to happen with Oneiric.

  6. It’s your call in the end, though I wonder if losing voices advocating sanity in the mainline distribution will result is the rug getting pulled out from under the respins in a few years.

    Unity made me remember all the reasons I dislike working with MS Windows so if Canonical keeps polishing that turd, I might find myself wandering away too.

    Note to any Unity devs reading, I love Unity on my netbook, aces all the way, but it falls far short as a general purpose desktop replacement, at least for me.

  7. Daniel – I think the assumption that users know of tools is unfair, I think the assumption that users have an fast internet connection is still unfair. Overall I think that we do only a bare minimum to engage users and invite them into being more than consumers.

    I think a lot of people contribute to Ubuntu for their own reasons, my reasons are gone. But I welcome your disagreement.

    a – I think you are a troll.

    Juanjo – Not always, hardly ever even 😉

  8. Your choice, Martin, but I think your assessment of the situation is unreasonable and unfair.

    A few points:

    “Basically I’ve reached the end of my patience with the Ubuntu direction as it further and further rolls away from creative people and more and more towards Apple passive consumers”.

    Ubuntu in much more than what is on the disc, in the same way that you don’t judge an Android phone by the default software that comes with it – you judge it by the wonderful catalog of software available. This has been a particular focus of our investment – empowering the Ubuntu Software Center so that it is easier for creative and other people to make informed decisions and make it simple to download tools. I would argue today Ubuntu is even more attractive a platform for creative people as this wealth of software is more accessible than ever.

    Secondly, I find it ironic that you criticize Apple but you want to empower creative users. The reason Apple have been successful for creatives is the simplicity of their desktop combined with great creative tools – we are focusing on the simplicity of the desktop experience and showcasing the cream of Open Source creative tools.

    “I’m also not happy with the lack of support for Free Software philosophies, it’s gone from the heart of Canonical and where I do not know”.

    This is nonsense. Canonical still has a strong sense of Free Software ethics and focus, as exhibited by the continual investment in Free Software, the continued growth of open governance, and as an example the recent TB decision to always ship Free Software and not allow non-free codecs to be installed by default. I know you don’t like Copyright Assignment, but don’t let it cloud your judgment of the bigger commitment to Free Software from Canonical.

    If you decide to move to another system, no worries and I wish you all the best, but based on the thoughts you present here, I think your rationale seems pretty weak. We are in a period of change with Ubuntu and Free Software, but I have absolute confidence in our ability to break down some boundaries in how we take Free Software to the masses – I would advise that you don’t let a few obstacles cloud the bigger opportunity before us.


  9. I could not agree more. I used to shout “Ubuntu” from the rooftops and encouraged all my friends and family to use it. However, Natty has been the worst ever distro, and I’m not just talking about Ubuntu releases, that I’ve ever tested or used. Buggy does not even begin to describe it. Ugly, well it is a matter of opinion, but the fact that you can’t change anything without the whole Unity interface come crashing down on you, is completely against everything I always used to say was good about Ubuntu. I will never in a million years recommend and of my friends or family to use it. Not only is it my reputation/face but my time afterwards to help them solve problems. From now on it will be other Ubuntu spin offs like Mint I’ll use and recommend. Good luck Canonical competing with Mac, Windose and now Google Chrome!

  10. I can certainly relate to some of the things you wrote.

    There is a general feeling that Canonical is driving away from the community (or driving the community away).

    Best of luck wherever you are heading and keep up the good work!

  11. Jono – I did some updates to take more of the unfairness out, perhaps.

    There is one thing that you can do for me to reaffirm that “Canonical has a strong sense of Free Software ethics”, put the free software definition and description back on Fix that minor problem (which I believe was caused by redoing the website) prove your point.

    Ubuntu has always been as much about showing users right there on the disk that there were possibilities, each release did something to encourage using and experimenting with new tools. People miss the point, you guys think I’m complaining about specifics when in fact I’m complaining about an apparent shift in focus.

  12. As a graphic designer, I whole heartedly agree with you. I have dropped unity in favor of xubuntu and for the last month really enjoy it. I would love to see you work with this spin as well as the buntu graphics spin. The biggest gripe I have with both Unity and Gnome3 is all the stuff is on the left. MacOSX got the UI perfect with the dock at the bottom.

  13. “There is one thing that you can do for me to reaffirm that “Canonical has a strong sense of Free Software ethics”, put the free software definition and description back on Fix that minor problem (which I believe was caused by redoing the website) prove your point”.

    I don’t recall what used to be on that page – can you advise? I see no reason why we can’t put what content used to be there back up.

    “Ubuntu has always been as much about showing users right there on the disk that there were possibilities, each release did something to encourage using and experimenting with new tools. People miss the point, you guys think I’m complaining about specifics when in fact I’m complaining about an apparent shift in focus”.

    Agreed that we always strive to showcase what can be done with Ubuntu, but bear in mind that we have practical limitations with CD space and in the case of PiTiVi the reason it was removed was because of quality concerns. As we continue to invest in the Ubuntu Software Center there will be increased focus on highlighting the possibilities offered with software there which I think will satisfy these needs too.

    As for the perception about you complaining about specifics as opposed to general direction, where I think you miss the point is that the direction we are taking is quite possibly the most beneficial direction we could take with regards to empowering creative users – we are building a desktop that is focused on simplicity and optimizing the use of screen real-estate, thus providing a strong platform in which the OS doesn’t “get in the way” of creative people creating interesting content. This combined with our focus of highlighting incredible creative software in the Ubuntu Software Center with ratings and reviews and other focus, and our continued investment in touch, should make Ubuntu the ideal Free Software platform for creatives.

    I would have assumed you would have wanted to be riding this train.


  14. A couple of thoughts.

    Regarding existing installations. As a general rule, I would not push existing users into using Unity. There are going to be inevitable costs in terms of performance, compatibility and training when changing a system as dramatically as Unity does. For users of 11.04, Ubuntu Classic can be used as a stepping stone to help bridge the gap as Unity continues to mature and incompatible systems are replaced. Eventually Unity or some other desktop such as XFCE will be inevitable and there will be inevitable training costs to this transition. Blaming Ubuntu for all of this is almost silly since a transition to Gnome 3’s default shell would lead you down essentially the same road in terms of end-user problems.

    On my own systems though, I have found Unity to be an interesting and engaging desktop. I also think Ubuntu should drop creative tools from the default installation and let users install the tools that are best for them.

    I would like to see a default installation that focuses on being the best desktop OS possible and let me (the user) decide what applications I want to run on it. I see no reason to install LibreOffice, Gimp, Inkscape, Audacity or development tools by default on ever single computer I own or use.

    I have a system at home that I use for artistic pursuits. I also have a netbook that I use for general surfing and traveling. I don’t want or need the same applications installed on these two machines. LibreOffice is painfully slow on my netbook, but I use it almost daily on the laptop I use for work. Having Ubuntu on all of these systems gives the consistency but I don’t need to install The Gimp or LibreOffice on all of them by default.

    Besides, there are so many good artistic tools and different artists have different interests. The Ubuntu Software Center is now quite capable of helping new users find the tools that best meet their needs, without weighing down the default installation with tools that many users may never need.

  15. None of that makes sense to me.

    IMO, Ubuntu is even closer to me especially with Unity.

  16. “In Oneric, there will be … no creative tools installed by default.” What does that mean? What creative tools were in Maverick that won’t be in Oneiric? What creative software does Ubuntu need by default for all users? I’d argue that all creative people are not the same, and the software they add-on to the Ubuntu base can be quite different.

    One example of creativity: Ubuntu includes Gedit and Python by default so you can make apps that way. And writers who are creative people can use Gedit or LibreOffice Writer just fine. I guess it’s because you still mourn Gimp’s absence from the default install. Gimp is unsuitable for most users. If another graphics app has wide appeal and fits in Ubuntu, you can campaign for it at the next UDS in Orlando.

    Why use the excuse of limited bandwidth to advocate for a DVD install of Ubuntu? Don’t you know that takes bandwidth? In fact, that’s probably the dominant reason why Ubuntu has limited itself to a 700MB ISO. Perhaps there will be a DVD remix as obviously the DVD version of Ubuntu doesn’t add much value.

    You don’t have to help out with Unity to help Ubuntu; Ubuntu/Debian is a big ecosystem.

  17. Oh, and everyone should have already been aware that 11.04 Natty was going to be a more difficult release (some say the “worst” but there are large numbers of happy users too). I believe 11.10 will be pretty nice though with the Gnome 3 improvements (and the 3.2 stability & enhancements), and Unity getting a refresh and more polish.

  18. Whoa, You’ve blown my mind with your “test.”

    I’m not sure I totally get what you were doing.. but I will say that completely removing the original blog content and replacing it with your explanation of the test goals leaves the existing comments attached to the article without proper context. The comment reactions to your original post are just sort of hanging out there disconnected from the new explanatory content. That sort of content change feels a bit overly revisionist and distorts the conversation you were having with others in the comment thread.

    You should perhaps provide a link back to the original content as a reference inside the new content which explains the test so the comments written in response to the original content will make sense to readers.


  19. I wish you hadn’t deleted your previous blog post; perhaps a blurb as to “this was only a test” would have been better, as it’s not much of a test to remove the part we were all replying to.

  20. Jef – I think you might be right. Relinking… (done) see main article for link.

  21. While not denying the work Richard Stallman and the FSF has done, I think “open source” means a lot more than “free software” to those who haven’t taken GNU/Linux History 101.

    Furthermore, the FSF still doesn’t think Debian is free enough even though there is no non-free software on the CD. This is the distro that won’t even ship the Firefox trademarks as they are not fully redistributable and modifiable without restrictions. So if the FSF won’t approve of Ubuntu, why should Ubuntu approve of the FSF?

  22. Jeremy – Because there is more to Free Software than just what the FSF are saying. And if the answer is clearly only egotistical tit-for-tat, then we’ve really lost sight of what it is we’re talking about. Open Source is okay, but it’s not as useful as “Free and Open Source”, it’s weak on the social and political importance of software.

  23. Negativity is not a sin, it is not some kind of disease, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of, Martin. I installed latest Ubuntu with Unity on it just out of curiosity. I thought they would allow to easily switch back and forth between classic GNOME interface everybody is used to and Unity, but no, not there. Why? Was it that difficult to add it? They got rid of Rhythmbox and replaced it with Banshee. is it that much better? Why not QuodLibet, which is much superior and way too much more configurable?.. Banshee doesn’t even allow export/import of radio stations, chokes and crashes a lot and its ease of use is over-hyped. Am I the only one there that notices this? Maybe something’s wrong with me, but I get a feeling that the main Canonical crowd must be using Ubuntu for something completely different than I do. Drag-and-drop functionality sucks across multiple applications. Buttons are in the wrong corner. New launcher is half cooked. The motivation behind all these changes is completely obscure. So the only questions in my mind are “why all this? what is their definition of ‘useful’ and ‘functional’ and ‘ready’ and ‘intuitive’? is my computer my tool or my master?” Again, I didn’t pay anything for it, but if so there are tons of other linux distributions which don’t claim to be “the tool for humankind” and yet run quite nicely.

    Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, right? Well, they are drifting away slowly but surely from Ubuntu towards mainstream Debian, and for a good reason. I wish them well.

  24. I’m not really sure how you can say there is more to “free software” than what the FSF says there is, given that the FSF is who decides what “free software” means exactly.

    And I think the problem is that the FSF and a lot of people put too much importance on the software, rather than on the people who use and develop it. In the end, it’s not about the software at all, it’s about the people. Software is just a means to enable those people to do what they do. And the truly important bits on the software side are the connections between people and their data.

  25. Ubuntu should be shipping Pinta. It is mature and really tiny (because all the Mono stuff is already there)

    I think restricting Ubuntus default to 700 MB is healthy, because it fights bloat and makes the distro revisits old decisions and assumptions.

    Maybe with the inclusion of Qt Calligra might get be included in 14.04. Dropping LibreOffice would free A LOT of space.

  26. Hi Martin,

    This was a surprising read to say the least, even after seeing your “brain game” update. Regardless of your intentions for the first post, it was certainly stimulating.

    Your first post used a variation of a criticism recently leveled against Ubuntu with increasing frequency, namely that it is moving away from the community and its ideals. To some extent, this is true, but it is almost a tautology. By definition, Canonical espouses a pragmatic view toward the free software model, courting the mainstream, and licensing — that has been its raison d’etre since 2004. Mark Shuttleworth always believed traditional Linux development paradigms were sub-optimal for growth. Canonical supports bringing corporate investment into Linux, and is doing what it can to facilitate that, through whatever means necessary. In theory, I support this view and wish them success. The only difference now vs before is that Canonical has more resources to bring about its vision.

    However, I do not think that the majority of dissent comes from people who object to the ethics of Ubuntu’s actions, but rather from the fact that the new UI is less usable than several available alternatives. Ubuntu is making a lot of great choices (IMHO) about advocating inclusion of drivers and plugins by default (keep pushing!), and gravitating towards QT. Nonetheless, UI decisions like hidden menus and accordion docks seem fundamentally flawed (more so for a touch UI), no matter how perfectly they are implemented. Imagine a screen widget that moved every time you got near it, and you had to chase it around the screen and corner it — no matter how smooth the animations, it would be annoying as hell. Seriously, no trolling, but I prefer Gnome-shell. I wish Ubuntu would copy the Gnome-shell UI in QT. See Ryan Paul’s review of Unity for a more detailed critique. [1]

    I hope Ubuntu’s “immune system” is paying close attention and is ready to make the tough decisions it will have to to make its environment more usable again. Users are fickle — just compare the response to Windows Vista vs Win7. I am sure if Ubuntu takes a prodigal son approach and walks back some of its more egregious UI regressions, people will calm down.


  27. Oh, that’s interesting. I don’t think it’s good for your credibility, but interesting anyway.

  28. @Juanjo – Yes, that’s the cost. But then again I don’t think I have a particularly high credibility anyway. I post blog entries of random things, art etc all the time.

  29. Uh, no. But if you think so, please enlighten me as to what “more” there is to free software, beyond how the FSF has defined it?

  30. dobey – I am != FSF and I also have an idea of Free Software. Therefore there is such a thing as Free Software outside of the FSF.

  31. What are you, Martin Luther?

    I’m pretty sure what you’re thinking of here is called “Open Source.”

  32. dobey – Heh, Am I? No I think you misunderstand what I’m saying, because your responses mismatch. I guess I didn’t explain myself. The assertion was that that only the reputation of the FSF can back the Free Software definition, when the FSF does bad (or just nothing at all) then the Free Software definition shouldn’t be linked to, used, discussed etc.

    I was attempting to explain that the Free Software philosophies extend beyond the reputation of a single foundation and are in fact something much more fundamental to our culture and ecosystem and we shouldn’t really let bad reputations get in the way of embracing and supporting the actual ability to describe well what it is we do.

    My personal opinion is that the FSF definition is fairly good, the OSS definition is mediocre and the best definition I’ve heard is probably from Cory Doctorow or Benjamin ‘Mako’ Hill. I forget which tweaked the FSF definition into a better clarity. The choice of wording is important when I create posters and such, maybe not so important to the average hacker.

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