Free Software is a democracy, Mark Shuttleworth! Comments

We've read the article at with Mark Shuttleworth, and here is our opinion on the matter. Mark Shuttleworth wrote:

    "We all make Ubuntu, but we do not all make all of it. In other words, we delegate well. We have a kernel team, and they make kernel decisions. You don't get to make kernel decisions unless you're in that kernel team. You can file bugs and comment, and engage, but you don't get to second-guess their decisions. We have a security team. They get to make decisions about security. You don't get to see a lot of what they see unless you're on that team. We have processes to help make sure we're doing a good job of delegation, but being an open community is not the same as saying everybody has a say in everything."

No. Ubuntu has a kernel team because Canonical thinks it needs one, Canonical feels the need to change the kernel. How many serious security flaws have there been in Ubuntu? And how many were specific to Ubuntu? Linus Torvalds makes the kernel decisions, not Ubuntu's kernel team. Ubuntu's kernel team should only be there to make appropriate changes, like which modules are included, swappiness, hard disk parameters, and which kernel version should be used.

Linus makes these decisions because he started the kernel. Ubuntu's kernel team's messing with it has only caused problems. And because Linus believes in democracy he doesn't complain when Ubuntu's kernel team messes with it. He wouldn't have any right to anyway, because the GPL is designed to allow open development and democracy of software development.

Open development is what Linus sees as Linux's greatest advantage, where anyone can contribute and everyone's opinion counts, he believes this makes for better software. For Canonical to develop Ubuntu and gather such a large community around it, only to deny them this collaboration, is just wrong.

Havoc Pennington and the GNOME Team as authors of Metacity, make the decisions of how the window manager works, not Ubuntu's design team. Metacity may be designed to be configurable, but Metacity defaults to "Minimize, Maximize, Close" respectively, all to the right of each window, this design has worked for a long time, and still works today, why change something that isn't broken?

Remember, Windows 7 still uses this button placement, and as Microsoft Windows is the dominant operating system, Windows users should feel familiar with Metacity. There's no reason to make Mac OS X users feel familiar with Metacity, and as it sits now they don't even. So who feels familiar with it now? No one. Not even Ubuntu's own users.

An open community is just that, the community has a say in everything. If the community at large doesn't like something, you don't do it. This is what 'open' means, open to discussion, open-minded.

Open-minded discussion and developer compromise has been part of Free Software development since the beginning. If Ubuntu users wanted to be ignored they'd be using Windows 7 or Mac OS X.

    "This is a difference between Ubuntu and several other community distributions. It may feel less democratic, but it's more meritocratic, and most importantly it means (a) we should have the best people making any given decision, and (b) it's worth investing your time to become the best person to make certain decisions, because you should have that competence recognised and rewarded with the freedom to make hard decisions and not get second-guessed all the time."

    "This is not a democracy. Good feedback, good data, are welcome. But we are not voting on design decisions."

So bad feedback, and normal data, is not welcome?

It is less democratic, and it is not any more meritocratic, because a decision is only a good decision if it is beneficial to the community. And so far the community isn't liking certain decisions Ubuntu's "decision makers" are making. Tomboy, F-Spot, Mono, kernel binary blobs; a proprietary repository and terminology ("Linux For The Rest of Us" and "Open Source") are also bad decisions to Free Software advocates.

Democracy is more than just the final decision, it's also about the open discussion of an idea, good or bad. Government legislation is discussed before it's voted on. So is Free Software; even if the people who end up voting on it are Ubuntu's design team, it should be discussed with the community beforehand. Just as legislation is discussed amongst the public and media before it's voted on by the U.S. Senate or Congress.

    "It's fair comment that this was a big change, and landed without warning. There aren't any good reasons for that, but it's also true that no amount of warning would produce consensus about a decision like this."

We have been warned, the alpha release is the best place for the warning, we've seen what your trying to do in action. And the community so far isn't liking it, and that is the community's warning for you, make it work or change it back. That's all the community is saying.

To readers: Remember, it's alpha software, it's in its stage where things change. Test the software, judge the software, and voice your judgments, otherwise Ubuntu will never improve.

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