Eugenia from gnomefiles.org is ranting against gnome.org’s marketing and promises that were not fulfilled. I totally understand what was going on. The key problem is that most of GNOMEs activist do not care much about single applications or the GNOME desktop from the users experience. I have great respect for many developers that code Gtk apps, especially the guys from Gnumeric, Epiphany and Abiword. But there is actually no support. The focus in communication is too much developer centred. Maybe you like to go to www.gnome.org right now and look whats on:
- A big banner that says that GNOME 2.22 is out (thats cool)
- Hints about Google Summer of Code (developer stuff)
- GUADEC (developer stuff)
- GNOME Outreach Asia Accessability (developer stuff)
- GNOME Asia (developer stuff)
- What is GNOME? (thats cool)
- GNOME T-Shirts (thats cool)
I am not saying that GNOME should not talk to developers. But I think GNOME core developers dont read WGO (www.gnome.org). There are also two navigation bars that contain these topics: 1.) “News, Projects, Art, Support, Development, Community”, 2.) “About, Latest Release, Support, Contribute, Contact” . Its not clear why Support is visible in both bars and also its not obvious why what topic is visible in which navigation bar.
What we do not see is any news about what is going on every day in GNOME. I am not talking about GNOME Planets, but rather something from somebody who makes something out of the news. He could read some lists, the GNOME planet and announce some exciting news. Also a box for gnomefiles.org would not hurt. Why dont we have that or why arent things better? Much energy went into stopping the dynamics of a new GNOME website. But as I stated before I think the real problem is that there no one (left) that really wants the web pages to be better. It took many years till the very outdated GNOME Office pages (from 2004) finally were removed. GNOME said GNOME Office is dead – I never understood why they said that, nor did I understood why they thought hacking on Epiphany is superfluous. Both sections of GNOME have big players with OpenOffice.org and Firefox on their side. Strangely though Evolution is seen as a vital part, although there are also similar and good alternatives like Thunderbird. GNOME does not seem to have a clear strategy how to win more users – and so gnomefiles.org not being linkes is not the problem but just a symptom of much larger problems. The funny thing is that GNOME I fact has quite some points on their side against other desktops. But on the one hand a free desktop where everybody can do what he likes has one problem: Where are we heading? Whats the big picture? I think many at GNOME dont think its possible to have that – they rather focus on some exciting developments like the Online Desktop metaphor or the mobility thing – but both topics are not really going in the same direction – like “Online Desktop” is something that involves “always on”, while mobile devices are often disconnected. There are some things like chat and mail that both will have, but thats not really something that gives us synergies.
Most of what I said sounds negative – so what would I propose GNOME to do next? Well I think one should define the path for the next 5 years. I dont mean that this has to be really it for these years, but a vision without a longer perspective does not sound like a vision to me. I would not try to define this in a small team – GNOME should ask the users! User involvement is important. GNOME talked a lot about different parts of the GNOME environment: The foundation, the distributions, the developers, but interestingly the users never were seen as part of GNOME. And its not done of one writes some nice page about howto get involved. It is important to actually talk to the users, take them seriously and not just make a quick poll. the live.gnome.org wiki can help with that. Until now there was not really a movement to involve users. Rather there is a developer aristocracy that is not willing to share thoughts. Funnily GNOME has GNOME planets which could be a part of a more open process – but I do not see anybody from the core GNOME leading some discussions about the general discussions. GNOME planet is mostly about what single developers do every day. Some posts are seriously interesting and describe in detail what they do, but still the big picture is missing. Somebody would need to start this with some courage and take a few hits. But culture in GNOME seems to be to rather duck and communicate privately and so things keep the way they are. Sad, but true. Maybe Eugenias rant moves something.