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Nov 09 2011

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dis-unity

The reaction to Ubuntu’s move to Unity seems to be getting wider coverage. Over at LWN, Bruce Byfield blogged recently about the rift between the Ubuntu developers and its users. In particular he highlights Tal Liron’s entry to the Ubuntu launchpad bug wiki under bug number 882274. In that entry, entitled “Community engagement is broken” Liron gently rebukes the developers for their apparent lack of enegagement with the community, saying:

“The bug is easy to reproduce: open a Launchpad bug about how Unity breaks a common usage pattern, and you get a “won’t fix” status and then radio silence. The results of this bug are what seems to be a sizable community of disgruntled, dismayed and disappointed users, who go on to spread their discontent and ill will.”

Both Liron’s bug entry (and the subsequent commentary) and Byfield’s analysis of that discussion bear reading. I found myself frustrated by the obvious lack of understanding of (and impatience with) Liron’s position apparent in Mark Shuttleworth’s responses. Byfield concludes that:

“[Suttleworth] sounds impatient, resorting to personal attacks and invoking his personal authority or the necessities of design or standard practice instead of offering explanations. At times, he seems to address issues that at best approximate what others in the discussion are saying. Exactly why this change has happened is uncertain, but it adds a sting to Shuttleworth’s once-humorous title of Benevolent Dictator for Life.”

Meanwhile, over at El Reg, Liam Proven offers his analysis of the Ubuntu upheaval. In that article, Proven describes the differences between GNOME 3, GNOME 2 and Unity and explains how these changes (or more properly, the management of these changes) have led to the difficulties now facing a wide range of users. Proven concludes:

“Ubuntu is gambling that Unity will attract floods of new Linux users in such numbers as to outweigh those abandoning it for its spin-offs and rivals. If it’s correct, then Ubuntu will continue its rise to near-total dominance of the Linux desktop. But if it’s wrong, it will leave the Linux world more fragmented than ever.”

In my view Ubuntu (or more precisely Canonical and Shuttleworth himself) is wrong and will regret this decision not to properly engage with its user base. I don’t blame them for changing the desktop, after all, the GNOME developers have forced that change upon them. But I do agree strongly with Liron’s position. Ubuntu could do well to listen more.

And in a nice summary of Xfce, Scott Gilbertson today explains why previous GNOME users are moving to that desktop in the wake of the GNOME 3 and Unity changes. It seems I’m in the company of a growing number of other users.

Permanent link to this article: http://baldric.net/2011/11/09/dis-unity/