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Conflicting Goals Create Tension in OSS Community 135

Posted by Zonk
from the clearing-the-air dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Mark Shuttleworth, of Ubuntu, has a post up meant to clear the air and clarify the project's place in the Debian community. He's specifically referring to comments made by Matthew Garrett earlier this month." From the post: "A little introspection is healthy, and Debian will benefit from the discussion. Matt is to be credited for his open commentary - a lesser person would simply have disengaged, quietly. I hope that Matt will in fact stay involved in Debian, either directly or through Ubuntu, because his talent and humour are both of enormous benefit to the project. I also hope that Debian developers will make better use of the work we do in Ubuntu, integrating relevant bits of it back into Debian so as to help uplift some of those other peaks - Xandros, Linspire, Maemo, Skolelinux and of course Etch."
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Conflicting Goals Create Tension in OSS Community

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  • Please (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sofar (317980) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @02:00AM (#16074586) Homepage
    Don't confuse debian with "The OSS Community". They are really not the same, and there is no such thing as "The OSS Community".
    • Re:Please (Score:5, Insightful)

      by The Bungi (221687) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Sunday September 10, 2006 @02:44AM (#16074686) Homepage
      Interesting. Whenever there's a trace of disagreement or problem then there is no such thing as a "community". When everything is going great and there's a "common enemy" like Microsoft or whatever, then the "community" comes together and fights like a team.

      You really can't have it both ways.

      And not to imply that this is "bad" in any way - I was just struck by this comment attached to this particular story. The next time Slashdork posts the usual "what does the community think?" or "the community must do something about this!!" I wonder if I'll see a post making this same point. Probably not.

      • When everything is going great and there's a "common enemy" like Microsoft or whatever, then the "community" comes together and fights like a team.

        I must have been out when that was going on. Can you give an example of when it's happened?

      • by Selanit (192811)

        You really can't have it both ways.

        Sure he can. People regularly live with multiple, contradictory definitions of important concepts.

        The definition of "community" seems to be what's at stake here. One possible definition would be something like "a group of people who always think in exactly the same way as one another." If everybody always thinks the same, then there's never any conflict, and everyone is happy. Hooray, bounce bounce.

        This is an unworkable definition, but there are people who sincerely be

      • by screenrc (670781)
        You are playing with words. The claim was
        that there is no OSS community; which you
        have turned it into just "community". In effect,
        it is like claiming that the Blue community
        exists simply because (any) community exists.
      • by killjoe (766577)
        That's because you are not thinking about this correctly. It' s more like a coalition of the willing type of thing. People come together for a cause, then drift apart only to come together again at some other time.
      • by lawpoop (604919)
        "Interesting. Whenever there's a trace of disagreement or problem then there is no such thing as a "community". When everything is going great and there's a "common enemy" like Microsoft or whatever, then the "community" comes together and fights like a team.

        You really can't have it both ways.
        "

        Why can't we have it both ways? When faced with a common enemy, people put aside their petty differences and work co-operatively towards a common goal. Then, when there is no longer a larger threat, they return to
      • The thing is, the Debian "community" is utterly unlike all the other Open Source and Free Software "communities".

        There is no tension in the OSS community, but there certainly is in Debian's.
      • Take care that you're not falling prey to the
        Unity Fallacy [r30.net]. It's quite possible this particular poster is consistent in asserting there's no such thing as the OSS community in cases where it's squaring off against proprietarian vendors. Just because such a view is unusual on Slashdot doesn't necessarily mean there's any personal inconsistency in thinking.

        Inconsistent views from one person is hypocrisy, but inconsistent views among people is just disagreement.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by clacke (214199)
      Don't overinterpret the headline. Debian is, in fact, a OSS Community...
      • by littlem (807099)

        Surely an OSS Community...

        (sorry)

        • by byolinux (535260) *
          Surely a FLOSS community, anyway? Debian hardly make the role of free software [debian.org] seem insignificant against its media friendly cousin, 'open source' - in fact, Debian is one of the few distributions out there that actively recognises the system as GNU with Linux.
    • The problem is vague headlines, a carryover from newspapers where there was limited room for a headline; they tend to drop words that don't carry lots of meaning. In this case, the full headline should be "Conflicting Goals Create Tension in an OSS Community". You have interpreted it to mean "Conflicting Goals Create Tension in the OSS Community"; the headline leaves both interpretations open. They're designed as a draw to read the article, which prevents the real facts, not to actually prevent facts themse
    • Hmmmm....what you have in most projects are:
      * Brilliant Talent. The same brilliant talent may be completely disorganised and hence requires a helping hand. Sometimes great thinkers and sometimes great ideas.
      * Supporters. Early adopters, like-minded individuals.
      * Acumen - Usually in business. Hole plugging, streamlining, organisational and communication skills.

      Even the "OSS Community" is fickle. Sometimes it is just stubborn and sometimes it is the old-dog that won't learn the new trick. You get out of
  • a mile away (Score:5, Interesting)

    by macadamia_harold (947445) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @02:11AM (#16074616) Homepage
    Conflicting Goals Create Tension in OSS Community

    Yeah, anyone who's ever gotten even remotely involved in wikipedia could have seen this one coming a mile away. This is why, at work, you have "project managers", that have final say (and yet, also take the burden and responsibility of making decisions).
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Windows seems to be the answer!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Nuff Said.
      • LOL
        I have to say I have never found Ubuntu easier to install than Debian. (Well I guess Ubuntu has a live cd installer but for me that just takes longer. If I am going to install it, I don't need to good into a full KDE or Gnome environment to do it.)
        • by Slithe (894946)
          So install it using the Failsafe (I think that is the term) option. It boots into an ncurses menu program, just like Debian.
    • Re:a mile away (Score:5, Informative)

      by Penguin Programmer (241752) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @02:38AM (#16074670) Homepage
      Of course, most open-source projects also have project managers. Of course, usually we call them maintainers, but they essentially serve the same purpose: review submitted code/content and decide whether it should be included in the production version of the product.
      • by ClosedSource (238333) * on Sunday September 10, 2006 @03:28AM (#16074743)
        Project managers do a lot more than "review submitted code/content and decide whether it should be included in the production version of the product." They drive the process, not just filter it.
        • by Dan Ost (415913)
          Is that what they're supposed to do? It seems like they mostly call meetings so that
          they can have something to report up the chain.
          • If you work at a company where requirements and schedule are entrirely defined by the developers, I envy you.
        • by swillden (191260) *

          Project managers do a lot more than "review submitted code/content and decide whether it should be included in the production version of the product." They drive the process, not just filter it.

          Maintainers drive the process, not just filter it. In most cases that's because the maintainers are also the primary developers on the project. The only project I know of where the maintainers act simply as filters is the Linux kernel, and in the kernel the volume of submissions is so large and so many are rejec

          • If you are the primary developer, you can drive yourself, but it's difficult to drive volunteers because you don't have much leverage over them. So I think it's valid to say that it's more of a filtering process than a driving process at least when compared to conventional development.
      • by Tim C (15259)
        That's not what a project manager does - if anything, that's a subset of what a lead programmer or technical lead would do. Project managers generally know nothing about code.
    • I can only repeat what I've already said for NetBSD (see http://linux.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=195449& c id=16013982 [slashdot.org]), leadership is the key point of the success/failure of a project. Debian and Ubuntu are two extremes of leadership, while Debian none leaders most probably will fail the outcome of Ubuntu isn't clear. Mark has all the powers of a dictator, lets see if he's able to circumvent the threads this imposes.

      O. Wyss
  • So far the system has worked well for the end user.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      If it falls apart because of unresolvable conflicts at the top, it won't keep working so well for the end user.
      • by popsicle67 (929681) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @02:48AM (#16074692)
        No such thing as an unresolvable conflict, there are only unresolvable egos
        • by Arimus (198136) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @03:29AM (#16074746)
          Unresolvable egos have killed many a commercial project stone dead (especially when the subcontractor thinks it knows what the prime contractor wants rather than actually doing what they're told by the relevant subject metter experts).

          Unfortunatly along with outstanding coding skills the OSS comunity has its share of egos, and as with an OSS project your job (usually) isn't on the line you can make your point more forceably and with less tact than in a work situation. The only problem is alot of the time both sides of a row are right - just unable to see the common ground and resolve their egos for the good of the project.

          I do wonder whether some of this is down to lack of face to face in person meetings between the various parties...

      • The two opposite sides of the scale appeared in consecutive posts.

        The thorough discussions apparently remove the risk of mistakes associated with conformity, called "groupspeak" by some consulting firms.

        However, when all is said and done, the code for a function needs to be stable. At what point does the free-for-all become a liability?

        *nix projects a somewhat splintered image. There is a group of users who are unhappy with the other two closed OS vendors, and are surveying the state of affairs. I at least
        • by Darundal (891860)

          Personally, I recommend Ubuntu 6.06. I myself recently switched over to it, and have found it to be a very pleasant experiance. I even managed to convince a friend that he should totally switch after, within the space of about 20 minutes, everything "worked." Unlike in previous distos, he was able to get 3d acceleration working properly, dvd+MP3+Other Proprietary codecs, ut2k4, and he just loves the simplicity of apt-get and synaptic. Immediatly before running Ubuntu, he tried running openSUSE, which didn't

          • by c_forq (924234)
            openSUSE is the project I want to love, but so far can't. I think if it were the same as the Enterprise version, then I would love it. But since I couldn't get YaST to do almost anything I had to drop it, and now love the Ubuntu set up I have with XGL, Compiz, and Slab. I think one of the most important factors in Ubutuntu is its active forums filled with hacks, scripts, and help.
  • by karlk79 (604866) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @02:17AM (#16074632)
    And that is a good thing. Linux is moving along at a great pace, even with the little spats here and there. I love that there is alot of different ideas, with people to push them through.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      we are never going to agree on how to do things... And that is a good thing.
      Yeah, that's also why we have dozens of different versions of TCP/IP and HTTP, for example. Freedom of choice!

      Oh wait...
  • by grylnsmn (460178) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @02:27AM (#16074647)
    I posted this first to Mark's blog, but I'll repeat it here:

    This is a very well-written summation of the issues.

    To paraphrase a comment from a message board I visit, "[Debian|Ubuntu] can't be everything to everyone."

    Debian provides a wonderful base for many other distributions, not just Ubuntu, and it is a rock-solid platform for servers. It runs on many different architectures, and can be used on machines from a handheld up to a massive server. This is one of its greatest strengths, but also one of its greatest weaknesses.

    Ubuntu, on the other hand, is far more focused than Debian is. Starting with the general base (the plateau, as Mark called it), it builds a strong distribution targeted to only 3-4 architectures (counting SPARC), which opens many more options. This is no different than many other distributions have done. For example, Knoppix is another version of Debian with customizations on top of it for a specific platform (or platforms).

    Ubuntu can't be everything to everyone, because everyone has different needs and goals, and Ubuntu has a specific focus. Similarly, Debian can't be everything to everyone, because it is a more general distribution, a jack of all trades (and master of none).
    • by Deb-fanboy (959444) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @03:01AM (#16074711)
      Although [Debian|Ubuntu] can't be everything to everyone, I am amazed by the breadth of Debian. If I set-up a standard linux PC for a friend then I would use Ubuntu but there are so many niches that can be filled by Debian and huge choice for the user. For example I recently set up Debian testing on a laptop with no cdrom by using a couple of floppy instal disks and an ethernet connection to an internet connected router. On the web there are a huge number of friendly resources and articles to help set-up your debian system.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by grylnsmn (460178)
        I fully agree. Like I said, that's one of Debian's biggest strengths. It is a wonderful general distribution, and that is the reason why it is the starting point for so many other distributions (like Ubuntu, Knoppix, and Linspire). It is extremely versitile and customizable (sp?).

        There's absolutely no reason for there to be any antagonism between Debian and any of the Debian-derived distributions. Debian can't be everything for everyone, but it certainly provides a wonderful starting point for others to
  • by HRbnjR (12398) <chris@hubick.com> on Sunday September 10, 2006 @02:41AM (#16074679) Homepage
    IMHO, Gnu/Linux on the desktop still kinda sucks right now, but it is advancing rapidly. This makes me want to upgrade my distribution to get the latest and greatest, because it fixes features I really want (multimedia these days). We are quickly getting to a place where most the needs of average users will be well met. Then I won't mind if Debian is a little behind. It's like Windows XP being good enough that most people don't really care about upgrading to Vista. I can't wait until we are in that place, and I hope that then, the impedus to move forward so rapidly is lightened enough to relieve some of the stress on the Debian devs, allowing them more time to work through some of these issues.
    • by c_forq (924234)
      I think Linux on the desktop is finally exciting. I have started using Compiz and Slab, and I now think it is the best choice for any desktop that can't run OS-X. I will concede the Compiz needs a bit more polish before this becomes and option for Joe Sixpack, but Compiz is a very young project and updating rapidly.
  • by MostAwesomeDude (980382) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @03:42AM (#16074764) Homepage
    I would say that the line, "Ubuntu could not exist without Debian," is not an opinion. It is fact. Does this mean that Ubuntu owes anything to Debian? Not really. Other than the GPL obligations, there really isn't anything that Debian could or should ask for in return from Ubuntu.

    Anybody who has worked with Debian already should have a deep and profound respect for the fact that Debian is plain and broad. When you sit down at a Debian computer, you are seated before a gateway to what might be the most customizable distribution in existence. All of the packages are roughly as far away as "$ sudo aptitude", and it is all but guaranteed that no matter how complicated or convoluted the package you want is, it will be downloaded and installed, along with dependencies, and you don't have to worry about a damn thing. (If you've ever compiled your own VLC or GIMP, you know what I'm talking about.)

    The problem is that people would like to see specialization in Debian. Debian is not for specialization. It's for everybody to make what they want. Taking that away from Debian compromises the entire goal of the project...
    • by jsebrech (525647)
      The problem is that people would like to see specialization in Debian. Debian is not for specialization. It's for everybody to make what they want. Taking that away from Debian compromises the entire goal of the project...

      The problem with debian is not that there is too much choice, it's that there is too much required choice. You HAVE to put in all the effort of selecting what you want from the package database. And you HAVE to mix and match apps, themes and add-ons until you get a consistent and usable de
      • You HAVE to put in all the effort of selecting what you want from the package database.

        Perhaps you should actually try installing a recent version of Debian sometime soon. In the meantime, these screenshots [osdir.com] of Debian Etch's installer should reassure anyone who might be feeling a bit nervous after reading so much FUD.

        • It is a Beta. It will be nice when it is released but shouldn't compare apples to apples.
          This is one of the problems with Debian. Stable while very stable tends to be lag every other distro. Heck most people I know use the testing and often unstable.
          I don't call beta software a recent version. I call it a future version.
          • It will be nice when it is released but shouldn't compare apples to apples.

            Etch is what I'm using, which is why I posted those screenshots. Even so, Sarge [debian.org] has task-based package selection as well, so the parent's comment is still just FUD.

        • What widget set is that? It strongly reminds me of another operating system. Creating a graphical installer is one thing, but there's no need to ape the competition that much. ;)
    • I would say that the line, "Ubuntu could not exist without Debian," is not an opinion. It is fact.

      A fact, maybe, but I think only from a limited perspective. Maybe it could not exist exactly as it is in its current form without Debian. If Debian didn't exist, they might have used another distribution as its base.
    • "Debian is not for specialization. It's for everybody to make what they want."

      This touches the keystone of Debian's virtue. There's a kind of rock solid inevitability about it. I've been running Ubuntu for some time now but plan on switching back to Debian precicely because it is "plain and broad" as you say.

  • by njdj (458173) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @04:14AM (#16074805)

    You take a straightforward, uncontroversial statement (Shuttleworth's blog entry) that practically everyone agrees with. Then you publish a headline saying there's a "conflict", and pretend there's a huge row going on.

    Pretty soon you've got a heated argument going on, mostly between people who haven't read the statement that allegedly started it all.

    What does it all prove? That Slashdot isn't "stuff that matters" any more, it's stuff that draws mass readership. Just what we were trying to get away from when we first started reading Slashdot ...

    • by Turn-X Alphonse (789240) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @04:58AM (#16074881) Journal
      Intresting post, but may I point out that Slashdot doesn't need to pander to people any more? They can post more or less anything they want and they'll find it very difficult to drive the fanbase off. Slashdot is just a really large forum to most people, we come here for the latest (ahem) news/waste a bit of time and take part in the commenting. Slashdot isn't a news site in the traditional sense, it's a blog with thousands of people reading it.

      Does all this matter in all honesty? To most people probably not. We're a bunch of nerds discussing things from America's movement into a police state like society to the latest gimmick software. Both cannot be "news for nerds" and "stuff that matters" in all cases.

      As for addressing the article it's self. OSS does have 3 sides and we have to remember this. As long as we keep everyones goal in sight (good free software with the freedom to do whatever we like to it) then our paths may cross at times but we'll work together for the greater good. My biggest worry for OSS is when it gets too big and it's flooded by people who think they can make money out of it instead of the love of good software as we have now.
  • The moral of all this is that to make the front page of /. it's better to have a conflict (which are unavoidable with any project the size of Debian) than to have thousands of hours of hard work.

    --
    Go Debian!
    • by kestasjk (933987)
      If you like to read about good news and hard work you can read the other OSTG site freshmeat.net [freshmeat.net], but personally I don't find it very interesting.

      I come here to read interesting points of view (even if /. makes up debates that don't exist, as here, interesting comments usually come up).
  • I read the blog post (yes, I know reading the actual articles is unusual for Slashdot, I'm sorry), and as I see it Shuttleworth's point is mostly that Debian should focus on the work on the unstable branch because, plainly, that's what working best.

    Maybe he's right. Debian's never been succesful at meeting the scheduled release dates. If Ubuntu is capable of delivering better desktop releases, and in soon perhaps also better server releases, then what's the point of struggling and perpertually flamewaring t
    • by deek (22697)
      (yes, I know reading the actual articles is unusual for Slashdot, I'm sorry)


      I know you said this in jest, but I can't help wondering that The Slashdot Effect and the Above Sentiment, are mutually exclusive. Either that, or many Slashdotters just give up on reading the article, if it still hasn't loaded in 5 minutes.

      In any case, you are forgiven.
      • by olau (314197)
        There's a difference between viewing articles (as in seeing that there's lots of text and looking at the pictures) and reading articles. :-)
  • The main - and subtlely articulated - point that I gathered from this:
    Shuttleworth is ackowledging that many of the Ubuntu users/booster club members are thinking out of their ass. Cruise over to the Uubuntu forums (or any of the unbearable "I just installed Ubuntu" threads on Digg) and you'll see a blatant ignorance of Debian. Not of its existence necessarily, but of Debian's immense role in the Linux world for all of these years. Mark knows it, the Slackware folks know it (but don't want to deal with th
    • by Trinn (523103)
      (note, I registered before I took the handle QuinnStorm) I think I should install a pbuilder for debian etch and start emitting compiz packages for that too... maybe then people will stop associating that with ubuntu, as it works just as well with debian if you have the right packages
    • Except that Debian has no role in Slackware. Never has.
  • by xinu (64069)
    Just makes the meme pool that much larger to draw from I suppose
  • Mark Shuttleworth is not in a position to tell other projects how to manage a project without conflicts. I recall that just before the Dapper release some German Kubuntu developers threatened to leave the project because Canonical refused to communicate with them. One of these rebelling German guys was the main developer of K/Ubuntu's new live-cd.

    Part of the problem seemed to be that these Kubuntu developers were not paid employees. There was one paid employee in the lead of the Kubuntu project and this em

  • by louzerr (97449) <Mr DOT Pete DOT Nelson AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday September 10, 2006 @03:16PM (#16076948) Homepage
    What's wrong with a little tension? It's all about how you handle the tension.

    It really seems to me that Ubuntu really is more of a community than a just a distro. Packages appear to be carefully selected based on what the community is asking for, and the effect of the community forums for support make it a great distro for the newbie (be nice to the newbie! when properly nurtured, they can grow into gurus!).

    I think that if Debian total fell apart for any reason, Ubuntu would continue to move forward. If the community found another distro to serve as a base, I think they would just use that base.

    It's all about community, the people. Without that, software really doesn't matter much.
    • by Shadyman (939863)
      I agree with you that Ubuntu is more than a distro, it is more of a community.

      If Debian fell apart, Ubuntu would have to pick up the development side of all the debian packages it relies on.

I owe the public nothing. -- J.P. Morgan

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