Decadence of the Enterprise Desktop
I’ve been following the “Decadence Thread” on Planet Gnome with great interest. It all started with Andy Wingo’s blog post “gnome in the age of decadence”.
The blog posts are getting harder to track so for my own and hopefully other’s interest I’ve written down a resumé of what has been said so far. Note that the resumes are totally my own perception of the individual blog posts and to pay respect to this discussion you should really read the originals.
Here, newest at the top, earlier at the bottom.
- Luis Villa – (new) Has talked about this subject before and drops a handful still-relevant links to his old posts.
- Havoc Pennington – (new) By sticking to the desktop metaphor we will not innovate or gain significant amounts of new users. We must know the audience which we try to address. Do not look at old Gnome 2.0 heroes for inspiration or confirmation.
- Rodney Dawes – Thinks that we should not trap our (and potential user’s) minds into a “Desktop Metaphor”, but focus on empowering users.
- Richard Hughes – Thinks that it is nonsensical to argue that we need a Gnome 3.0 to develop big new features. He emphasizes that people “use GNOME to actually do things”, not to look at wiffy effects. We should not develop fancy effects just because we can.
- Jono Bacon – His own words “predictable and reliable, but has ceased to be exciting and innovative”. Points out there are a lot of people hashing out visions and new ideas, but very few backing that up with real code. Gnome 2.0 owes a lot to our Rock-Star Coders and we need buy-in from them for anything to take off. A way to get something going was to put a select handful of our finest masterminds into a room, and when the white smoke emerges we have a battle plan.
- Thomas Thurman – Does not want change for the sake of change. Does not like cold meals because of broken applications and would like apps to asymptotically approach perfection.
- Alberto Ruiz – Wants closer integration with the OS and not just let Gnome sit on top of it. Instead of us adapting to each and every OS, Gnome should supply its own interfaces for integration, taking PackageKit as a good example here.
- LinuxHater – (new, warning explicit content ) Thinks that all Gnome developers are a bunch of wankers. There are tons of things left to do for Gnome, like tackling all the enterprise features of the desktop.
- Johannes Schmid – Thinks that it is the right time to start thinking about our next-gen desktop. We should focus more on writing code instead of just talking about visions. Effects should enhance user interaction, not just be flashy.
- Andy Wingo – Chimes back in with some concrete ideas (his initial post did not have any “solutions”). Mentions the possibility of a Gnome “skunkworks” where experimentation is encouraged. Talks about enhanced user interaction, use of GL, and talks about Pyro.
- Owen Williams – (new) (Only syndicated on Planet OLPC) Has a three point line-up of why we need to break API and ABI of gtk+ and argues for a Gnome sandbox project.
- Lucas Rocha – Belives that we reached the original goal for Gnome – a desktop that just works. Acknowledges that Gnome has some problems. Writes up a list of all the things we have achieved in the Gnome community and project as a whole.
- Christian Schaller – Points out that there have been a few whole hearted attempts at writing the code to implement some orignal ideas for a next-gen desktop. The current stable iterative process has given us great buy-in from distros and users.
- Calum Benson – Tends to agree with Andy. While Clutter is cool it will not solve our problem with “vague lack of coherence and integration on some parts of our desktop”.
Me? My opinion about this matter is that Gnome has indeed painted it self into a corner in some way. In the office we usually refer to Gnome colloquially as “The Enterprise Desktop” (a term I believe to be coined by the internet’s Luis Villa). It is very mature and stable, and indeed ready for the enterprise. But it is also seems to be mature and stable in a way that was more fitting several years back.
It is getting increasingly hard to get new stuff into Gnome, and when someone approaches with something that is slightly controversial huge flamewars erupt. Consider Tracker and Empathy on the desktop-devel list and the recent “incident” on the gtk-devel list.
On one side we have distros with very high bars for stability, and the others we have a very grumpy but vocal minority of users and developers who like to bash on anything unknown. Tight spot.
On top of technical problems with outdated semi-deprecated libs, and missing core funtionality, we also have a community issue. Sure “Gnome is people” and we have a rocking community and all that, but I am also seeing growing internal tensions and frustrations turning into poison, more and more often. I, for one, have closed my laptop lid with a bad feeling too many times.
I really have a lot on my heart about this issue, but I am too tired to write down the details for now. I will write it up tomorrow. To drop a clue of my intentions I don’t care much about the visual or interaction parts of a renewed platform, more about making a modern, extensible, maintainable, and cohesive platform (buzzword count alarm goes off). Doing all sorts of fancy visual tricks should be a lot easier when we have a solid platform to do it on, if it is properly extensible we wouldn’t have to break anything in the process. Anyway, I already posted some related thoughts a while ago.
UPDATE 1: I added Havoc Pennington’s and Owen Williams’ replies to the list. Somehow Havoc’s post did not show up in Liferea. I wonder how many PGO posts I’ve missed this way. Owen is interesting because he is not syndicated on PGO.
UPDATE 2: Added Luis Villa.
UPDATE 3: Add LinuxHater