Sunday, 3 March 2013

My Impression of Gnome Situation

To me it seems, and with the Gnome Shell release this has become even more pronounced, that the situation around Gnome is like the situation around political parties in Czech Republic. They mostly lost touch with reality and majority of people either lost their interest in them, became their haters or their (almost) unconditional adorers. Pointing out an issue equals hating now (and yes there are some exceptions). I have lost faith. Sadly. In both. Does it need to happen to Fedora as well? If we gnomeifficate anaconda, we might end-up like this as well. Users aren't as dumb as we tend to make them. People don't want grey lives with nothing to look forward to, with nothing to choose from. With computers treating them as monkeys. I don't want an environment where I cannot choose between grey two-colour symbolic icons and colorful normal ones. Is reaching out specifically to women making them feel equal?

No, I'm not promoting choice in general. Linux is not about choice. I realize there are lines you should not cross. We cannot sensibly support two parallel audio stacks in Fedora. We cannot sensibly support Hurd or BSD kernel in Fedora. We cannot sensibly support any random combination of system libraries. But we can let user customize their HDD layout when installing. We can show them nice professional looking installer (don't get me wrong, I agree that the installer needed rewrite of its internals, I just don't agree with many of the UI changes that went along with the code redesign). We can show them KDE quality design. We can promote open standards while not setting the hurdle too high for using proprietary or patent encumbered. We can let them choose desktop background by clicking on desktop. We can let them turn off their computer. We can let them install OpenOffice without breaking LibreOffice. Are we?

21 comments:

Nicu Buculei said...

the political situation in my country is quite similar and intelligent people got feed-up with it. what they do? they leave the country in droves and move to better place (for some even the Czech Republic is a better place). this happens with FOSS users too.

Martin said...

Well, yes. We're bad but still not worst ;-) After next elections I expect much worse situation than is now, but it will still be probably much better than in Eastern Europe and part of Western Europe... IMHO the problem is global. Recently I read a couple of posts about Japan and they seem to suffer from the same kind of issues.

Nicu Buculei said...

from my understanding, the politics are the same everywhere, since the political scene will reflect the human society and humans are all the same. so you accept the same political shit for a better standard of life (duh! the latest "genius" statement of my corrupt government is "after all, we don't need Schengen" when the western states ask for less corruption and more democracy).
going to the parallel with software, yes, you will see some political infights between groups seeking powers both in a community project like Fedora and a corporation like Microsoft.
however, for a software user, the number of choices are smaller.

Juanjo Marín said...

Anaconda has some bugs that make me think that maybe is wasn't ready for production. It only needs some more polish and I think it will one the best installers.

I think that the political situation of your country is making you feel pessimist about how the things are going on.

And I don't know what you exactly mean about your comment about women, but it sounds nonsense to me.

Martin said...

@Juanjo Marín: Yes, but the bugs probably could not be helped with half-a-year release cycle. The intestines are IMHO rewritten generally rather well and I applaud the effort and result. What I have doubts about is the UI. It's non-linear, it pretends you are dumb, and it has symbolic icons everywhere. But Mo is much more open to discussion than gnome devs so this might change for the better for fedora 20.

As for the women comment – don't think too deep into it. It's a semi-random association. There's some kind of women outreach program in OSS, which isn't IMHO the best way (why we're singling out a group of people specifically? Aren't we telling by that that we consider them different, maybe even less able?) and there's some EU nonsense about women having to pay same insurance as men (i.e. higher than before), even though they're statistically considerably less likely to need the insurance. I call this pretended, forced or false equality.

Antoni Segura Puimedon said...

Good parallel between FOSS and politics. With Czech politics (and to less degree GNOME) the problem is that the people don't care enough, don't protest and just complain and give up.

If we'd all care more about things and were more vocal where it matters. If we'd try harder to convey the importance of our positions to those that are must but are not predisposed to understand (cause they have their own agendas), everything would go, IMHO, better.

Indicator Veritatis said...

@Antoni - Don't press the analogy between politics and Gnome too far. The problem with the latter is NOT that "people don't care". It is that key decision makers in the Gnome release process don't care. Users do care, which is why they are leaving Gnome after the incredibly bad decisions made.

In my own case, I was so disappointed when I saw what had been done with Gnome in F17, I switched over to KDE and have not looked back. I did not have to read Martin's posts to realize that many other users are at least as disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the UI of anaconda published and discussed for more than 1 year ?

I can understand that some people do not like it ( like most changes ) and are unable to clearly express the problem they have, and there is still some bugs and stuff to polish, but there was plenty of time to raise concern for contributors. The anaconda rewrite have been already pushed by one release, so unless you lived in a igloo, there was plenty of time to work on it _before_. So anybody complaining should start by recognizing that their complain was too late due to their own fault instead of saying "this was not ready". People ask for feedback, give time to let everybody say something, if no one react, then that's just pure lazyness and blaming those that do the work for the feedbac that was not given is wrong on many levels.

And if some people want a installer that do not think you are a "idiot" ( despite ironically demonstrating it by framing the discussion with the point "streamlined stuff == for idiots" ), just go for the Debian one. Of course, then you may start to wonder why it ask questions like "what mirror do you want to use" ( while a smart system would just do it for you, I do not feel stupid to letting the computer take care of the details for me, nor I do not feel smart by having a some kind of OCD up to the point of changing this ) or if you want to use a shared cache for man pages, as it happened on the last install of debian-testing that I did.

Ankur Sinha said...

I'm sorry Martin but I disagree with your post entirely. I am not aware of the politics that goes on, nor do I care to about it. I care about the software that I use and it works amazingly well for me.

The anaconda installer does let you customize your HDD. Not sure what you're referring to. The design decisions for the anaconda UI have also been discussed at length, with the developers posting a lot of information about why each decision was made. The developers were very very open about what they were doing.

On to gnome. I feel like ranting about the changes in gnome3 has become fashion. I use gnome3. It works amazingly well for me. It's way more efficient in my work-flow than gnome2 was. The developers do care and if you bring up issues with them (not just berate them), they are more than willing to discuss their decisions.

I'd also like to point out that Mairin and the UI design team folks are pros at what they do. While it doesn't mean everything they do will necessarily be right, I can assure you that every design they come up with has a lot of thought and logic behind it.

You can change icon themes in gnome3. Not sure what you're referring to. No clue what the statement about women means.

Martin said...

@Anonymous 02:23 CET: Well, while I was not talking specifically about streamlined UI, I don't think that streamlined UI can work for everything. The thing I hate most when using computers is when applications pretend to know what I want to do and how. They simply don't. Everyone is different and unless you customize UI for each and every person in the world individually it will never be truly streamlined. Anaconda definitely does *not* have streamlined UI as many users are confused and things are *not* where they expect them to be.

And, no, I was not living in a cave, in the initial design phase I even offered some feedback. Still, I was rather surprised to see how the final anaconda looks. You should also realize that unless you're a UI genius, designing a UI off the table won't ever make a *really* good UI. That's what *testing* and actual users feedback is for. That can happen only with working UI. That's what Fedora 19's anaconda is. So I'm expecting lots of improvements in Fedora 20, hopefully.

Nicu Buculei said...

FOSS projects are communities of people, like are countries or corporations. if you gather a community of people, politics and play for power will come in, is not a matter of IF but of WHEN. we are people, we act like people.

Anonymous said...

Dear Martin,
as I happen to share your ideas on UIs, I just want to let you know you're not alone! ;)
Let's Keep on pushing for UI sanity!!!

Davide Repetto

Jaroslav Reznik said...

Btw. during DevConf we had an Anaconda usability lab (and another round a few days later) and I think we gathered quite a lot of information. And what was the most valuable - the whole Anaconda team (except Mizmo but she will process and analyze recordings) were in the same room and watching real users using installer. From beginners to experts in tested area.

Quick summary - people usually like the new interface, fortunately it's far away from Gnome one :) but it needs polishing. One common complain was - what's going to happen with my disk? I'm not sure I did it correctly - well, guys are already designing the overview. That's the feedback I'd like to see.

Anonymous said...

People don't become dumber or less intelligent if their software becomes (at least superficially) simpler or less powerful. People like us define ourselves by the software we use and by our capacity to manipulate said software (especially if it's hard and requires the good memory we've all got). We forget that in the past, long before bits and bytes people were perfectly intelligent and didn't require challenging or powerful software to jolt them into enlightenment. Even now, there are people who aren't heavily involved in the production and use of software who are still pretty intelligent (though I can't think of any just at this moment. :P).

Einstein said that "A scientific theory should be as simple as possible, but no simpler." - the same goes for software, and I don't think you or I or the gnome design team or the KDE developers would disagree. We presumably all draw a different line at what we call "simple as possible", so we should debate and discuss where that line lies, rather than talk about ideas like software interfaces dumbing down people, which is fallacious as they come.

Martin said...

@Jaroslav Reznik: It's great to hear the Anaconda usability lab went well :-) Looking forward the improvements ;-)

Adam Williamson said...

The comment about women was incorrect and out of line, quite frankly.

As to the GNOME outreach program: well, F/OSS has been using the 'we'll just say we're treating everyone equally and then there's nothing to worry about' approach for 20+ years, and it has resulted in the state we are in now, where female participation is 1% or 2% or whatever the precise tiny, tiny number is. It's clearly a bad approach.

The outreach program has nothing to do with "telling by that that we consider them different, maybe even less able", it is simply about saying 'we would like to have more women involved in F/OSS so instead of umming and ahhing and agonizing about how to do it, let's just go and find some women and get them involved in GNOME'. It seems like a sensible approach.

Martin said...

@Adam Williamson: You might be partly correct, but I consider my comment neither incorrect nor out of line. Especially since it was formulated as a (rhetorical) question. I don't know if the gnome outreach program is good or not. Short term it definitely works, but what about long term results? Will they stay? Will they feel equal? And why outreaching to women specifically? Why not old people? Mongolian people? Muslims? Buddhists? Japanese? There are zillions of groups of people that are not participating or participating too little to FLOSS. I don't believe in the reach-out-to-specific group program. I don't know how women feel, *I* would feel bad if software company would hire me because I have blue eyes and blond hair. Either reach out to everyone, or no one. That's my policy. Remove barriers that make feel specific groups unhappy as long as its sane. I believe we should remove negative discrimination but not by doing positive discrimination. I might be wrong, but this is my point of view.

gscarborough said...

I have given up on Gnome. When developers work to keep others from modifying the overall look of the environment so that the "branding" of Gnome is preserved, they have crossed a line. Its my bloody desktop, I get to choose how it looks. And what I want is not "wrong".

My main issue with anaconda at this point is the lack of package selection and repo addition. While the anaconda team disagrees, I see little point in having a large install dvd without these features. It is more efficient to use a spin that gets updated regularly that the original install disk in that case. Considering that all the technology is already there to support it, I don't see why the Packagekit interface couldn't also be added to anaconda.

As for all the testing that goes on, keep in mind most of your users don't read planet fedora, don't go to DevConfs, and didn't know much about the new anaconda until they tried out the install disk. Most of your developers are users, but most users are NOT developers.

Andreas Nilsson said...

"And why outreaching to women specifically? Why not old people? Mongolian people? Muslims? Buddhists? Japanese?"

If you want to create a program for these groups, feel free!
Reaching out to women is a good deal because they make up half of the population the earth and it could make sense for a project to tap into that resource. The goal of the program is of course to become irrelevant in the long term.

- Andreas Nilsson

Nicu Buculei said...

even if he had the material resources, i doubt he would create outreach programs for those groups (i wouldn't) since the return of investment is low. they are pretty much PR and 'feel good', if you want code done, there are more effective ways to sponsor development. but is not our money, not our decision.

Anonymous said...

Gnome is off the rails. Sadly it is not a political problem, it is an ego problem.

Like many I do not hate Gnome--I loath and despised the Gnome designers because they evidence the same father knows best paternalistic arrogance about the interface that Microsoft and Apple have always had.

If we are lucky the Gnome designers will get jobs with real monopolies and stop messing up our operating system and desktop with their stubborn insistence that there is only one simple and cretinous way to use a computer.

The political problem arises out of mediocre intellect combined with arrogance attempting to simplify a complex and useful system so it can be used by the masses to consume rather than create.

We have Windows 8 for that.

I too am troubled by the "simplicity" that is creeping into the installer. It again speaks of arrogance, intolerance, and, yes, intellectual deficits--village idiots are simple, too, but not in a good way.

If the installer worked flawlessly we would forgive the arrogance, or at least some of us would. But a defective product with an designer interface is still a defective product.

The folks at Gnome should go back to styling hair and designing frocks and stop messing around with things they do not and will never comprehend.

Fedora is being disrupted and destroyed by designers and the programming is falling by the wayside.

Like many I've moved on to KDE and will not be using Gnome again. Not because I hate Gnome, but because I hate the people who "designed" it. They need to go. If they creep into the core then I will abandon Fedora, too.