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Deception | Part II. The ZDNet Example

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This is the second part of the “Deception Mini Series” -and the main reason to start these. I think that something bad is happening on popular blogs. They blame Gnome with one-sided arguments.  Basically these guys don’t lie, but they do something worse. They deceive people, their users, by presenting Gnome as an unhealty project.

On the first part “Deception | Part I. Gnome Core Libs Progress” I am showing the progress of Gnome core libraries which seems better than ever. I didn’t do any kind of analysis on the data, but I will when Gnome 3.6 will be out in September, 24 using data from and detailed analysis from which runs a study to Gnome Shell progress (and other Gnome modules).

I have already extracted quickly some data and made some handy charts and you will be amazed from the growth of Gnome the last 4 years, both in developing and from the involving of new contributors.  Anyway..

The ZDNet Example

David Meyer has an article “GNOME OS is on the way – but mainly for testing and development” which is totally cool, but on the beginning he says:

Faced with GNOME’s growing unpopularity in the Linux community, those working on the desktop environment and user interface are pushing on with a new way of improving the user experience while easing application development and testing: a GNOME OS.

Of course I was so curious to check the “growing unpopularity” link. That link leads on  Steven J. Vaughan-Nichol’s article “Is GNOME “Staring into the abyss?“.

I consider it (this post) one of the most misleading articles ever made. The reason is because Nichol says nothing but the truth, well documented by plenty of links. But Steven deceives deep his readers by showing the one side of the coin. I believe he does that because he ignores lot of things about Gnome, and he doesn’t do it intentionally to accuse the project.

The saddest thing is that Meyer takes Nichol’s post as an undoubtful fact. Personally I think if you want to learn “tech-inside” news, is better to read smaller or developers blogs.

Nichol’s poor arguments

I’ll be clear on this, if Nichol’s had just said Gnome SUCKS (he actually says that he hates Gnome3),  it would be fine by me. That is his opinion and is respectful. What I don’t like is that he is trying to push his opinion to the readers by presenting incompleted facts, which most of the people will take as “real” because they seem to be well documented. That’s the job of a journalist after all, to document the weak :)

Nichol  is using:

Otte’s post: Staring into the abyss. What Nichol’s fails to understand here is that Otte aims to Gnome developers.  For example when Otte says that there isn’t a GTK port to Libre Office, obviously Otte knows that Cosimo and others are working on it, and is actually usable. When Otte says about the GTK/GLib development he knows that these two libraries have massive development in the last 1.5 years (since Gnome3), but they need more people.

Most of the Otte’s comments have been answered by comments by other developers (and I’m not going to make arguments against Otte anyway), but some of these problems are 10 years-old in Gnome. Nothing new. But Nichol’s think that something terrible happened in Gnome on that day, because he ignores the history and the development progress of the project.

Linus: Ok Linus blamed Gnome in the worst way. But let me think again.. what is that project that Linus hasn’t blamed? More over Linus complains towards to Gnome3 are concerning work-flow and usability according to his personal tastes. I cannot understand how Linus opinion counts more than anyone’s else on this area. OK, he is the great Linus, but that doesn’t mean that whatever he doesn’t like is bad.

Linus might also like red underwear, does also Nichols like them? Linus doesn’t like BMWs, is the firm under crisis?

Ubuntu/Mint: Ubuntu dropped Gnome-Shell for Unity. Mint forked Mutter/GS to Muffin/Cinnamon. I won’t rewind back to time for the reasons that Canonical switched to Unity, but I can say that Unity was there before Gnome 3. About Mint?  Since when a fork harms the Open Source and since when all people have to work on a single project? Or Mint team was in Gnome and they dropped it to fork it?

Oh and don’t forget that both Distros are using Gnome. Just not the GS.

Red Hat: Nichol says: “If Red Hat ever decided that GNOME wasn’t worth investing in, the project would be dead in the water.” So the first one-billion dollar open source company will drop one of its main products?

But even if Red Hat drop Gnome, Jesus it will be forked on the very same day! Nichol’s ignores how Open Source projects work, and he doesn’t understand the meaning of the Bus Factor that he is using so convincingly.

Anyway: I won’t extend further on this, and I won’t bomb you with links and arguments. Gnome is an open-to-study project and you can watch its progress and the teams that are involved on it.

The reason for writing this is to alert people to be cautious about what they are reading even in the most “trusted” pages but more importantly I hope that a guy from ZDNet will read that and next time will be more informed when they are about to write articles on community projects.


There are also some responsibilities from the members of the community driven projects, about their bad image to the press. Nichol’s mentions the example of Adam Dingle which is the founder of Yorba, to prove that sometimes Gnome ignores contributors. Ok, that is true but it happens everywhere. Bad decisions have been made. Nothing’s perfect.

The Nautilus Example

In Nautilus 3.6 happens something kinda weird. Everyone is talking about the removal of the features but none mention about its new features. It’s like Nautilus 3.6 is exactly the same as 3.4, but with less features.

These two polls are made from OMG! Ubuntu! and I guess that the same audience voted on both. I can read that; It was a mistake for Gnome to remove all these things from Nautilus, but still Nautilus 3.6 is better than 3.4. Also a big percentage of people (42%) want Ubuntu to drop Nautilus for another file manager.  It seems that Nautilus 3.4 was a bad File Manager and Nautilus 3.6 is kinda better.

The funny story on this is that Canonical moved on with the less popular solution, they adopted Nautilus 3.4 for their next Ubuntu (12.10).

I am sorry..

..about referring to David Meyer and Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols. Nothing personal, it was just a random example, because these were common arguments in many magazines. But as they criticize Gnome, they should accept some criticism back :)

*I assume you have read Nichol’s full post and links before you read this!

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  • Henrique Ferreiro

    Good read. I really wonder on what data are many people basing their arguments about GNOME getting unpopular.

    The GNOME community is definitely in need of some optimism. I think you should ask for your blog to be included in planet GNOME.

    • alex285

      I think they make more like estimations from people comments. There aren’t metrics. But Ubuntu/Unity also receive many negative comments, but it does well in popularity.

    • foobar

      Planet gnome is for foundation members only nowadays.

  • Henrique Ferreiro

    Good read. I always wondered what data was people using to declare that GNOME is losing users.

    The GNOME community really needs some optimism. I think you should ask for your blog to be included in planet GNOME.

  • Zoialord6

    Very good read, well put together as well.

    I think people tend to forget that normally with projects the size of Gnome, the most verbal are normally the ones who dislike it, the ones who enjoy it (like myself) actually stay quiet and just get on with things. Gnome took a big gamble with the change to Gnome 3 and Gnome-Shell, they had a vision for a different way of working, whether the gamble paid off, is yet to be seen fully, but you hear a lot more good things about GS now than with 3.0. Was 3.0 a disaster? Yes, imo it was, but then so was KDE 4.0. Big changes push people to adapt, but some of us are too stuck in our ways to allow that. I actually liked Gnome-Shell and hated KDE4…

    I think people get the idea Gnome is in trouble because of the “initial” loss of users and the uproar about it after 3.0 (which was called for at the time, I think.), the Gnome today though is a long way from that (imo it has improved immensely).

    Anyways enough of my ranting, again great article

    • alex285

      I also believe that people that like things, don’t comment as much as the people that dislike things. In every project, not just Gnome. It is normal/common behavior.

      • Rafael Ibaldo

        This happens because you are not beig forced to comment on the subject.
        When you like something you don’t go around preaching to everyone about how good said thing was

        If it was bad on the other hand…

        It all comes down to our wish to be helpfull to each other.

        So yeah, some people may not like the new Gnome stack or the shell, but there are lots of people that do like them, they just don’t see the need to go telling everyone about how good Gnome 3/Shell is…

  • Adriatic

    Sorry to say, but your article sounds like “Who cares about what Linus thinks”.
    If you extrapolate that to other users, it could well sound like “who cares what any user thinks” ;-)
    Linus is a guy who has is smart and has good critical thinking, and playing down his opinion indicates that you live in your own “castle in the sky”.

    I am one of those who had strong negative emotions when trying to use both Gnome3 and Unity. But I’ve cured since switching to Mint.

    I still haven’t seen any decent article to explain to me:
    - why killing the desktop icons in Gnome is good for my productivity
    - why forcing me to type the program name in some search box is needed to start using some program (“goto desktop icons line” ;-)
    - why the new system feels drastically slower on the same hardware
    - why everything looks dumb-ified (huge buttons, less settings than before, everything oversimplified, …)

    I’ve seen similar things going on in GTK too. Everything now and then new useless API gets thrown in (GtkRecentChooserMenu for example), but the old bugs doesn’t get fixed and the current state of the toolkit is not one of the high quality. There are serious issues in GTK that haven’t been resolved in years (like more than 5 years)..

    Just decide to do my ranting here. Like if anyone cares nowadays.
    Entire Gnome project nowadays gives a vibe like if they don’t care for real desktop and usability, like if only tablet centric redesign is what matters.

    • alex285

      - You can have icons on your desktop
      - You can use Gnome2 Menu Extensions
      - Because every new software has more requirements maybe?
      - Change theme?

      Gnome Tweak Tool and Extensions and Themes are here. Many Distros are using them by default. In my opinion is Distro’s fault. Why don’t distros include Gnome Tweak inside the Gnome Control Center?

      • Adriatic

        All your proposed solutions require tweaking the default desktop. Doesn’t that say something?
        Why the OS needs to be tweaked to implement more usable scenario ?

        • alex285

          Because I am one of those that I believe that Gnome Tweak Tool should be included in GCC, and I think this was a mistake from Gnome UX team. New users can have problem to tweak their desktop, but Linus?

          However since when Gnome users became so sensitive and they cannot use Gnome Tweak? Besides Linux is about choice. Since when we have to use defaults?

          • Adriatic

            People don’t need to tweak hundreds of bad choices on every Gnome3 release. It is much easier to use Mint.
            You are thinking as a “hacker”, not as a ordinary user. If you don’t have good defaults, you are losing user base.

            And the amount of the things that would need to be customized here is painful for any type of user.

          • alex285

            I agree 100% with you, but Gnome2 needed much more tweaking to be usable. Also most of the blames come from users that already know how to tweak it. From my personal experience new users (new from windows), are all happy with Gnome3.

            Old users blame it mostly. Gnome isn’t perfect and has many weaknesses. But I still consider it the best desktop, with huge prospect. Also, release 3.6 feels quite nice.

          • alex285

            Don’t compare Mint with Gnome Shell. Quite different approaches to compare. KDE is closed to Mint. The panels I mean.

        • Daniel Sandman

          I prefer to install the things i want than uninstall things i don’t like. Are you using Firefox or Chrome without extensions Adriatic?

  • André Klausnitzer

    I understand your feelings about the ZDNet article. I felt the same way and was worried that the author is maybe true. Luckily the community has persons like you that see the good things of Gnome3.

    Anyway, even your articles are not 100% objective. In a way, I like this because I am a huge Gnome3 fan. (o: