followup to yesterday’s post on GNOME 10.0×10.0

There were some good comments on yesterday’s post; I was going to respond there but I figure they deserve more visibility than they’d get buried in my comments.

I should note that I should not have said ‘GNOME 3.0’ yesterday. GNOME 3.0 implies that we need a successor to GNOME 2.x; I don’t think that is the best way to think about the next GNOME. It might be better to say that GNOME 2.x is Enterprise Desktop GNOME, just like Maemo is (approximately) Handheld GNOME and OLPC is (approximately) Education GNOME. What we probably need is ‘radical user experience improvement GNOME’ in parallel with all those other efforts- GNOME 10.0 x 10.0 is a joke, but you get the idea.

I agree, but more practically the choice of an appropriate BDFL [for the next GNOME] is between what, 6-10 people? –John

The choice of the BDFL is between whoever does the work to generate new ideas and new code. If you have a list of 6-10 people already in mind, you’re looking at whoever has, in the past, generated code or ideas. This isn’t to dump on those people- they have by definition done great work, and good leaders- but leadership for The Next Generation has to come from those doing the work in the Next Generation. Might be the same people, but my guess is that it won’t be, and we certainly can’t know who they are until the work has started- we can’t appoint them beforehand.

Wouldn’t be a start to agree on a GNOME 3.0 mission statement?–Quim

That is exactly the kind of group-planning stuff that Kathy predicts makes for boring, predictable products. The mission statement for what I should call GNOME NG (the relationship with GNOME 2.x (aka the Enterprise Desktop) is tenuous at best, so 3.x is the wrong term to use) is ‘create a radically new and improved user experience’. You can’t plan it much more than that. If it can be planned, it isn’t radically new; it is still an extension of the Enterprise Desktop. I’d be happy to be proven wrong on this one, since it relies on serendipity instead of planning- but I’m pretty confident I’ll be right.

There shouldn’t be this continual hand-wringing about how we get to 3.0. We should be strong enough to say that right now, 3.0 doesn’t matter.–Alex

So, I like GNOME 2.x. I think it is really useful for a lot of people; we likely have at least a million users of various stripes, probably more. But I don’t think we get to 10×10 (or anything like it) without radically changing the user experience. We just don’t have a persuasive reason for Windows users or Windows developers to switch without radical change and improvement. (My posts in early July have some thinking along those lines, and in April of 2005 I listed some potential directions experimenters could go.) So yeah, I think a new gnome software paradigm (almost certainly in parallel with, not as a replacement for Enterprise GNOME, aka 2.x) is important for the long-term health of gnome, the community and the project. (The overarching project for Enterprise GNOME, OLPC, Maemo, etc., being ‘make free software the primary computer interface of the masses’, more or less.)

In short, most people’s current visions can be implemented using the available libraries. –Rob

Almost certainly. Given the continued support Enterprise Desktop GNOME (2.x) will have for many years to come, I’d expect to see something like what the maemo folks are doing- occasionally having temporary forks to work out differences in functionality, but generally working together to enhance a core platform.

There is one area where this might not hold true, or at least, where a large amount of work needs to be done- the competition/integration with (or perhaps cooption of) web apps. See my post from July on this. This problem absolutely must be solved for our platform to have any chance at long-term relevance, and the solutions might be radical enough that they might require substantial divergence from the Enterprise Platform. (Solving the problem might, for example, suggest just wholesale adoption of XUL, or something similarly radical.)

9 thoughts on “followup to yesterday’s post on GNOME 10.0×10.0”

  1. Gnome could hold a UI contest. Other projects seem to have had decent luck with it. Something with as much exposure as Gnome would likely attract a number of good ideas.

  2. “We just don’t have a persuasive reason for Windows users or Windows developers to switch without radical change and improvement.”

    I still believe that the best chance for GNOME – or any other competitive desktop – to achieve mainstream recognition is to radically embrace the network. Take widgets one step further, and make, Flickr, Gmail, or anything else with an API a part of the desktop, not just a plugin. The Firefox bookmarks replacement hints at this, imperfectly.

    GNOME can do this without worrying about competitive angles, whereas both Windows and OS X have web services of their own.

  3. Just a suggestion for a direction.

    If OLPC is for education and GNOME 2 is for the corporate desktop (optimized for office work)
    GNOME NG should be for the network.

    Keeping with the wave of Web 2.0, social production, networking society, P2P and decentralization produce a system optimzed for this audience.

  4. Web 2.0 and the Desktop

    I’m not so sure just how tied to the web 2.0 stuff the desktop needs to be. Anything that’s a more “intense” use of the desktop like art or music might be too much… unless you could just skin sites and apps with the same skin (XUL?) so that the web feels like a coherent part of the desktop experience.

  5. You are right about how boring mission statements can be and are in terms of planning innovation. I still think though that they are useful as a reference, specially for fresher developers. Either they take it as a reference to follow or as a reference to digress and leave behind. Surprise us.

    Maybe what I’m missing is just a statement, an agreed statement about how the GNOME project feels about its present and near future. If we are happy improving the 2.X series until reaching perfection, let’s make this clear. If we are inviting fresher approaches to challenge the current GNOME desktop metaphor, let’s make this clear. If we think web integration is a missing piece that is going to make the new/free/social desktop rock, let’s make this clear. Sending mixed messages like “Be part of GNOME 3.0” yesterday and “It’s just a version number” today help nobody (I assume my part of responsibility in this and I’m learning thanks to these posts and comments).

    It’s difficult to challenge a postmodernist that will answer “well, depends” or “who knows, let’s see” about anything you say or make. This postmodernist could be GNOME today. If instead we position ourselves about some basic points we won’t be probably designing our innovative future, but this definition will help others to come up with redefinitions.

    This makes me think that Kathy’s analisys is based on a snapshot, it misses the fact that innovation comes through waves and generations. A boring and immobilist generation can be a great indirect promoter of a new and revolutionary wave & generation.

  6. sog: I’m with you at some level (I think you read and positively commented on some of the posts I wrote over the summer and linked to above) but on the other hand, I have no interest in building a free desktop whose primary goal is to more easily put people’s data into proprietary silos. So that route blocks on getting decent, Free-ish, web-2.0-ish web apps. (I need to find time to post about how I’m more and more convinced that Free software is much less important than Free personal data, at least for the vast bulk of the world.)

    quim: if the project (whatever that means) wants to adopt a vision statement, it should be ‘make free software the primary computer interface of the masses’. I think Maemo, OLPC, and Web 2.0 are teaching us that there will be no One True Interface; the foundation should instead seek to encourage many interfaces, for different, hopefully well-defined audiences, with as much shared infrastructure as is reasonably possible. I assume some of those interfaces will necessarily be experimental and forward seeking; others, like 2.x, will be conservative and aim for refinement over innovation. And I hope some day those will be obsolete; GNOME Z will be wildly popular, and we can start on the next cycle of innovation.

    I don’t think you can get more specific than that until a leader goes ahead and leads by doing, experimenting with and then creating a real vision.

  7. […] way. In the office we usually refer to Gnome colloquially as “The Enterprise Desktop” (a term I believe to be coined by the internet’s Luis Villa). It is very mature and stable, and indeed ready for the enterprise. But it is also seems to be […]

Comments are closed.