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IT-Hard/Software, Unix-Linux

Opinions by Jesse Smith: Dear Ubuntu

New Ubuntu ‘Circle of Friends’ with its orange...

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I want you to know I care for you and I think you’re a very special distribution. Some of the things I’m about to share may seem harsh and cold, but please know they come from a good place and I write them, not to hurt you, but in the hopes of strengthening our relationship.

Admittedly, when you first arrived, I wasn’t the most welcoming person in the community. I thought your concepts of humanity, of bringing Linux to the masses and your odd sense of style were idealistic and outlandish. And it wasn’t until friends of mine had got to know you and said how much fun you were that I took any notice. I have to say though, meeting you for the first time and getting to find out how polished and friendly you were was, well, a privilege. You showed me how easy things could be if a person took the right approach. You also showed me how important it is to offer free help to people who really need it. Our time together has been fun, easy and, though we haven’t always seen eye to eye on certain issues, I greatly respect the work you’ve done in our community. The efforts you’ve made in supporting our friends and your attempts to organize others into following your vision are incredible. As I recall you even got Dell to participate in our community and I think that’s important to many of us.

However, recently, I’ve been noticing some changes that have put a strain on our relationship. For example, you always seem to be going out and trying new things. I know everyone likes to experiment a little and it’s good to mix things up from time to time, but this current shake-up feels like a mid-life crises. I worry that you’re so interested in forging a new path that you’re ignoring the things which made so many people look up to you in the beginning. This sudden interest in 3-D, shiny things and big buttons… what is that? Ubuntu, you used to be so focused on being universal and accessible. Now it feels like you’re only interested in spending time with those kids at the mall, texting each other and gossiping on their social media. What about all the artists and business people, folks interested in getting work done and changing the office landscape?

Also, this sudden interest in nephology — it’s interesting, I’ll grant you. Lots of people are interested in clouds, but perhaps you’re putting too much focus in one area? When we first started spending time together, you’d talk about reaching out to everyone and making technology available to people in remote locations without network access or funds. These days it seems you’re only interested in working with people who have good connections and an interest in sharing their secrets with you. It’s exciting and fun, but shouldn’t we find a balance? I like that you’re into clouds, but let’s remember that not everyone is. Perhaps there’s a middle ground where you can educate and share your new interests with people without being so pushy?

And I know you can share new ideas in a laid-back manner because I saw you open your store late last year. It is a great step and I hope it helps bridge that gap in our community between the people who want free software and those who want commercial products. Seriously, kudos on trying to make both sides happy. Though this does raise another concern of mine: Why are you only selling to the new, trendy crowd? People who got to know you back in, say, April of 2010 are looking for stable software, commercial products and long-term stability. Yet, for some reason, the market is closed to them. They’re forced to choose between getting to purchase your commercial offerings or staying with stable, long-term support. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to extend your market to include your more lucid friends? I think we deserve your attention too.

Which brings me to my final, and most important concern: please listen to us, your friends. You give us a great deal, and we are grateful, but please remember that we helped you get to where you are today. Without the support of the people in your community you wouldn’t have the weight behind you to do such great things. I think you may have forgotten that, because every time I bring up something which bugs me, you ignore it. Even if I come up with a solution to help us fix it, you turn your back and I’m left wondering if it’s pride? Or perhaps you’re too busy? Maybe it’s a passive-aggressive way to make me stop bothering you with my problems? Whatever it is, I’ve seen you treat others the same way and I’m sorry to say we’re frustrated by the lack of interaction, the lack of acknowledgement. If you’re too busy to deal with problems and offer your support, then perhaps we should look into bringing in a third-party. I’ve seen it work in other relationships, perhaps it could help ours.

Ubuntu, I know you have your ideals and your own goals. I don’t begrudge them, they’re the things which brought us together in the first place. I wouldn’t ask you to stop trying new things. What I would like to see is more dialogue between us — you, me and our friends. When you say you’re willing to be supportive and involved long-term, I’d like to see you actively offer that promised support. And, most of all, I’m asking you to engage us, your friends, and find out what we want sometimes. Not so we can control you, but so we know you’ll take our input into consideration when you make decisions. Because, Ubuntu, if we feel we’re valued we’ll stick with you and overlook the occasional misstep.

I hope this has given you some things to consider. My door remains open and I look forward to hearing from you.

Jesse Smith


Ubuntu 11.04: Too Natty for Its Own Good? 

Ubuntu: Where Did the Love Go?



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