Ubuntu and bikeshedding

I’ve been using ubuntu as my primary operating system for over a year now, but I haven’t ever gotten involved in the development of it. Well, there is a difference between the distribution and the underlying software – I’ve filed bugs wherever I’ve found them, and I keep track of various projects that all make up parts of ubuntu.
Either way, there is a separate project that is ubuntu (packaging and branding all these different elements), which I’ve never gotten into.

Errol of Antarctica I do read the ubuntu forums once in a while, and I’ve been subscribing to the planet feed. There’s not really anything interesting being said in either place though, the forums being more of a tech support resource and the planet just being… boring. There is something utterly dull and boring about the distribution project itself. It just looks like this big mess of people who don’t know much of what they are doing, bikeshedding endlessly over minuscule details like the look of notification pop-ups.

One hilarious news item I read recently was that Mark Shuttleworth was stepping down as CEO of Canonical to focus on “product design, partnerships and customers”. Now partnerships and customers, that makes perfect sense to me. I’m not commenting on that. However, I have gotten a glimpse of what kind of product design goes on at Canonical. since I’ve been using their distro for a while.

First of all, every single release as far back as I can remember has promised a major visual overhaul, and nothing like that has ever emerged. This in itself is a minor indictment, but it is indicative of the state of the project – for some reason, not much really seems to be happening.

Secondly, I stumbled into the Ayatana mailing list where Shuttleworth seems to be hanging out quite a lot. Ayatana is apparently the user interface design project of ubuntu. It’s where all the UI and ID people get together and mix simplicity with art to get stuff like this, or this. Oh, wait.

From a cursory glance (no one said this blag was well researched – but then what is these days), this looks like a perfect paradise for people can’t think and can’t act, but who loves to talk about meaningless details until the original idea is so buried in dravel and bad ideas that no one can even begin to think of implementing something. The reason I link to this particular post is not because the poster embodies this concept in particular, but because the issue he brings up is clearly one due to excessive bikeshedding in the past – and it is again subjected to intense debate over nothing until nothing seems to come of it.


Anyhoo, ubuntu remains a very nice repackaging of debian sid and I’ll keep using it, but I’m not really expecting much in the way of innovation to emerge from ubuntu itself. Unless you count notification popups as innovation. Personally, things that pop and slide and blink and pulsate on my screen while I’m trying to read something kind of pisses me off, but each to his own.

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