Daily Archives: 2010/02/13

Sick of GNOME community attitudes

Just one day after I have written a blog entry about the failures of the GNOME website. One issue was the lack of a customized 404 page. My guess is, that http://www.gnome.org never had this kind of page configured. So this means this issue existed long before I filed the bug. So this is a bug from 1998 maybe. This means 11 years and nobody cared. People often commented that all problems will be solved with the new CMS. But that did not come the one year and the other year. The last comments I got after somebody added yet another comment of that sort to this bug, which i did not find any constructive have been outrageous:

Andre Klapper questioned the constructiveness of my comment in which I critcized, that Lucas Rocha tried to (again) deny the importance of the bug because it would be solved anyways by the new CMS. Well yes, the new CMS will change everything  -but there has been a patch for two years  not fixing the issue 1998 has not been tolerable, not after I filed the bug, not after I submitted a patch and not 2 years after. Andre Klapper wrote:

Okay, to rephrase it: Please don’t add comments that do not add any additional value to bug reposts and are offtopic. At least Lucas and others ARE working on it instead of just talking about it.Thanks: your friendly bugmaster.

Anybody who has tried to help with GNOME knows that helping is not easy. I think I had given up trying to get more administrative access after my request was not answered 9 months later. Also i did not provide any more patches after most of the bugs that I filed, like the simple 404 issue were neither commented nor taken seriously. Why should one work on patching a system if nobody cares. So I consider it very unfair and coldhearted if a user like me, who reported a bug and even provided a fix is not even ignored but also if he reminds the developers and admins that the bug on the history of this bug and that it would likely not be fixed without being considered seriously he is aggressively attacked.

This I found an attitude absolutely common in GNOME. The most common reaction to critique is often the denial of the problem. Mostly they say the problem is YOU and not the software or the website. Its really funny to be told that others are working on a problem if those are the same guys who consistently denied any help and also often enough denied the necessary attention to important issues.

I now came to the conclusion that GNOME is not worth my attention at all. I have had a long history using and helping GNOME with bug reports, marketing, wiki, … but it has always been a lot of work to only be heard or be able to change only very little things.

What I would have expected is to get at least some respect of all the years and time and work that I have spent on helping GNOME – and not to be told that I have done nothing. This is exactly the kind of arrogance that can be the death of GNOME.

I have requested that my account will be removed from GNOME Bugzilla because I don’t plan to help in any way any more – not with this kind of attacks. I don’t need that and I don’t want that any more. I am talking about the same issues of GNOME years and years – and then you are told GNOME does not need distributed version control and they go with subversion. Only some years laters they do switch to a distrubuted version control – but sure enough nobody will say that you were right.

The fact is that in the real world nobody really knows GNOME (from a marketing point of view) and that the software and the website have many issues that can be fixed very easily IF some issued would be taken more seriously. But you find the attitude of Andre on many developers – and I would say that this is one reason why no GNOME application has become very big, but that others like Thunderbird, Firefox or Openoffice.org who are not part of the GNOME culture have had much more progress and public acceptance.

Like Rythmbox which has Podcast support but a simple patch to remove old podcasts is not adapted because the main developers seem to have a large enough hard disk and so do not se the issue. this has resulted in many users switching to the non-GNOME Miro where this exactly ist the nices feature: that podcast episodes are removed in 3 days if you do not say otherwise. So Podcast with GNOME is a no go for most users.

Or look at Evolution which still forces you to open junk mail befpre you can mark it as junk (other than Thunderbird). yeah we should all close the preview window than we dont have the problem. But what if we dont want to renonounce on that preview? I have filed a bug about that years ago, this solution was also denied, so the only real usable mail application still is Thunderbird where this is possible.

I do not say that there are not great developers, programmers, guys & girls within the GNOME community. But the main spirit is way off what really matters. Most developers are so taken up by the thinking and developing of the latest&greatest that they do ot realize how many things absolutely dont matter for most people and how many little things are not changed who would matter greatly.

So to summarize I do not know who GNOME is targetting as a user base but it sure is not the average computer user. I think its people or better programmers who like to live on the edge and who do not use the GNOME desktop for productive use. People who like the looks of GNOME or some new fancy stuff either hidden or obviously.

The problem is that this is not what they communicate. GNOME says they want more users, but they actually don’t. GNOME could easily have millions of new users with fixing some of the major issues. GNOME is still one of the best desktops because besides KDE it is still true that most other desktops are worse than GNOME or do target evern more remote user groups.

But GNOME 3 could be a game changer – not in the positive for GNOME but as a kind og KDE4 effect. Ad it will look and act differently it will turn away a lot of old users. Many will use XFCE instead as the new GNOME and some might go back to KDE4. Its so sad to see a hopeful desktop drowning.

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GNOME and how NOT to do marketing

How NOT to do it?

A simple example. Lets say you have heard of GNOME or you use it and want to downlaod the latest GNOME live CD. What would you do?

Right, you type in “gnome live cd” in a search engine like Google. Lets see what we get on February 2010:

google search result

search for "gnome live cd"

So we get essentially two top results. The first are in the GNOME Live! Wiki and the first result is the page GnomeLiveCd. If you open the page you do get a page that was last updated by me in 2007 so  about three years ago.

The other link leads to a not any more exiting webpage http://live.gnome.org/GnomeLiveCd

Marketing is no magic. Its more or less often about giving people what they expect.

If you lead people who expect to be able to download a running live cd to three year old information and none existing websites this is a #FAIL.

You can mostly forget thinking about any more marketing if you fail here.

Another failure is that GNOMEs website do not provide custom 404 pages and that just too many websites become 404 (not found). In 2008, so two years ago I reported this as a bug and provided a simple page as a solution. Nobody cared – so it was ok to LOOSE all visitors who do not find a page. Ali Abdullah talked about why this is important.

A website without 404 page cant be taken seriously in 2010 from a marketing perspective. If you take into account that fixing it would have been an one minute job you start wondering about priorities.

GNOME has taken a lot of work and efforts to start the new website with the Plone CMS: I have no idea when it will land. Right now http://www.gnome.org is not accessible. Maybe this means its already there? On the central development page in the GNOME wiki GnomeWeb you are told the new website is coming in September 2009. So so much about updated information if you really try to track down the progress and you care about the website.

Third example was the GNOME Office website, which was outdated for many years and to just resolbe this issue it tool about a year.

I could go on and on, but these are just two examples that show how NOT to do marketing on the internet – even if its “just” free software. No smart person will ever try to test GNOME again if what he finds looks so crappy.

How to do it?

Really, really simple: Provide the information the user needs – and if it is hard to find or  moved either forward to a new place. Keep information update. You do not want to discourage a user from trying out your application, desktop or whatever.

This is just my small view of the whole “marketing in internet” problem which results from my experience and after witnessing what has happened and especially not happened with the GNOME website.

I write this down, so that things change. Things do not change because you get a great new CMS. You might get it someday – but what do you do in the five years between now and then. Sure, nobody wants to see five years of stagnation, but what you can learn is that fixing the small things often still makes sense. Nobody likes to fix small things, especially men dont like it. Men like to think big. And maybe thats part of the problem: They do a lot of heavylifting and much too often find out too late that it is too often. That said I have also seen women falling in love with Plone; no idea why … 😉

Summary

Help people find what they are looking for. Most web users have simple desires on their mind like find some essential information or download a live cd. Even if you can not provide this, you can say that you do not and why. And deal with users that come to your site like something worthful that should not be wasted easily!

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Filed under Free Software, GNOME, Technology