Currently, we can see that one talk lot about the brown distribution in the FOSS community and around here too, like in the following posts :
openSUSE less aimed at consumers than Ubuntu? - openSUSE Forums
Let’s invade Ubuntu Forums!!! - openSUSE Forums
People usually wants openSUSE to be the same as Ubuntu, because :
- Ubuntu have lot of user, and thus a big community
- Ubuntu have great marketing, and is targeted on the “desktop” user
However, we don’t really talk about the quality of the community.
Yesterday, I found an interesting post on a french Linux forums. Ubuntu community have some (big) weakness, and in the other hand… openSUSE (and mostly other Linux community, of course) is much more organized and viable on long-term.
Should openSUSE community really be like Ubuntu community ? No, of course. Both have some weakness, and if one look at both community, we will perhaps find that the worst is not the one everone is thinking about.:\
Please note that I didn’t write this post, I only mostly agreed with the original author and translate his speech in (bad) english. I’ve rewrote some (little) part of it, because I was unable to translate it correctly.
Post of arnaudus, an experienced Ubuntu user.
Have Some of you an experience to share about the quality of Ubuntu community? For my part, I was hallucinating at the lack of contributors to trivial tasks, given the grassroots of the distrib. Most discussion forums are extremely deserts, even the official forums, and issues in launchpad are mostly not consulted. Basically, with a general problem (such as “My X server doesn’tt start with Ubuntu 8.10”), there is about 80% probability that you will not receive any answer whatever the media is (I havn’t tried IRC, I confesses).
It’s same desert in bug reports, there appears to have between 200 and 300 per day and it lagged seriously in the filtering; bugs are not confirmed, no one answers to request more information and so on. Maintaining the number of open bugs to ~ 50 000 seems to be quite miraculous, and as a miracle, mostly practical, which are not really good, are used (changing the status of the bug in “NEEDINFO” for a trifle, and the it will transform itself in “invalid” after 3 weeks, closing of bugs rather than go to NEEDINFO, marking abusive “triaged” without comment, etc etc). In passing anyway, when we read here and there is criticism of Ubuntu for not contributing upstream, it depends what is meant by “help”. In number of lines of code, I don’t know, but in number of bugs report, it’s pretty impressive, especially for Gnome.
I just feel that the team paid by Canonical is totally overwhelmed, develop the tools to communicate (such as launchpad, brainstorm …) and is counting on a miracle for it to self-organize. … And in fact, it organizes itself randomly, especially on Brainstorm where there is very little feedback from Canonical and where newbies tend to ask stupid things (ideas like “Let Ubuntu can start .exe” are countless). It still gives the impression that Canonical uses these things as a place to have a little peace and to focus itself on development. Suddenly, the labor force “proposed by the community” is used to administer these tools, and is not used constructively. Everything is done to give the public’s impression of a Mr Ubuntu contact, to complain, to propose ideas, or to ask questions. There are no incentives or no explanation about the functioning of a free community, people “need” things, "I want, I want it, and nobody tells them that if they want something, they can do it alone and propose improvements to the rest of the community. Is that the real way that Free communities are progressing ?
In any case, the first impression one has when you look to bug reports and questions, it’s that the distrib has still frankly bogs in its most basic part : installation, boot, X server, its servers… + Evolution, which alone accounts for much of bugs (is this a really stable thing? Bug reports are full of automatic segfaults), with a lot of reports of regression between versions, which is not very serious (it is already difficult to manage new hardward support, but if it breaks the old …). What is certain is that the cycle of releases every 6 months breaks a lot of stuff, especially when the release of the distribution is forced (8.10 was released on October 30, and it is clear that it was too early, there were plenty of patches pending). I do not have enough hindsight to know if things tend to get better or worse, but in any case I find all this a well chaos. It’s great if we eventually replace Windows, but if it is to replace it with something as volatile and messy managed, it’s not really my ideal future …
(Then other users said that the KDE4 implementation of Kubuntu is chaotic, with lot of bugs which are only specific to kubuntu release, and not even present in upstream branch
Another one said that the bugs reports in Launchpad seems not to be even read, because the patches exists, but are simply not applied in the next release…).
After some other interesting comments, our experimented Ubuntu’s user talk again :
Despite all that has been said above, including myself, Ubuntu works. And it works really well even most of the time. Frankly, for ease of installation, I think it is quite unique. In all cases, even if you do not agree with that, I think it is incomparable in its advertising and media coverage. Of course one can remain geek and think that it’s buzz, colorful widgets for n00b, etc… But it’s not with Gentoo that we’ll have Linux on 80% of PCs supermarket. If you want to compare the ambition of Ubuntu what was done before, the first example that comes to mind is Lindows / spire. I still think it is dishonest to compare Ubuntu with this non-free dung.
The community is probably the weak point of Ubuntu, I recognize that this is a problem. Ubuntu is primarily directed at non-technical user, and therefore the community is composed mainly of non-geeks. That means that on the forums, you won’t find anyone to explain you how to patch your kernel, but only people to tell you to click here and there and start over again. This is obviously a problem, but it was almost predictable.
Canonical is the big question mark of this story. Nobody really knows how this enterprise will eventually make money. Either it remains a financial abyss and then disappear, or they’ll invent a new business model in the next 3 years, or they’ll changed their system and start trying to charge people (CD ISOs, updates …). I guess this is a problem to start working in this community, I don’t really like to have this phantom enterprise behind all of this, without knowing on what they really work, or which keeps the decision-making authority.
Shuttleworth is a megalomaniac idealistic, but eh oh, aren’t we still not accustomed? Grumble because Shuttleworth pushes upstream projects to adapt to Ubuntu is like grumble because RMS’s driving license changes. FOSS was also (and especially) built around charismatic personalities who are also controversial. Shuttleworth has money, a lot of money, more money that maybe nobody will ever have in FOSS; he believed that in exchange he may require some things and he tries, but he is not serious in itself. He has reason to believe he can get some things. Gnome and KDE do what they want, they accept or refuse, there is no knife under their throat in this history.
Reference : DLFP: Test d’Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid