I am Lord of the Theme (aka the buck stops here)

I hereby dub myself (well, publicly reaffirm that I am) Seth Nickell,
Lord High Maintainer of the Theme as per the dictates of god.

If you don't want to read all this, and just want to figure out how to
contribute to this process, skim to the very bottom (I'll also keep
this up to date on the wiki page).

In case you some sort of freak philosopher who denies that all earthly
authority derives from god (and hence does not believe in the divine
right of kings and), and are consequently asking yourself, "By what
right does this authoritarian asshole set himself up thusly?":
  - I chose and assembled the original, mostly unchanged since, set of
non-a11y themes in gnome-themes (with lots of work by others like
  - I'm one of three maintainers of gnome-themes, as per
gnome-themes/MAINTAINTERS. To be fair, Calum has by and large been the
person staving off bit-rot, and I haven't touched the module for more
than a year. Themes are one of the things where benign neglect is
preferable to risking crazy whackiness, though this has clearly gone
on too long (i.e. we don't need constant theme churn, though we do
need occasional refresh). Still, if Calum wants to deal with this, I'm
*more* than happy to punt it to him *grin*. Barring that, I am
publicly asserting and reaffirming my maintaintership.
  - Authoritayyy issues aside, I'm not a terrible person to be doing
this anyway, since I'm reasonably qualified: professional interaction
designer, some education/experience in visual design, I don't have a
personal stake in any of the themes involved

I'm not asserting myself (just) because I'm a fascist pig. We need to
stop chasing our circle around in tales and having somebody who can
say "the buck stops here". With a clear point of final decision it is
actually easier to have a constructive discussion as a community.
Also, I am sick of this thread coming up over and over with everyone
chasing their tail.

This discussion is ridiculously prone to The Bike Shed Effect
(http://www.linuxmafia.com/~rick/lexicon.html#bikeshed). Most of what
I do will be shaped toward helping our community discussion and
decision overcome this. The bike shed effect has effectively drowned
our previous attempts to have this discussion.

OK, everyone with me? So here's what's cooking...

1) As jdub points out, our ideal is to have a theme that distros would
have to be stupid not to ship as their default. Given that jdub and I
agree on this, Fedora and Ubuntu using the same theme would at least
be a good step forward. Gnome upstream alone having a default theme is
good, but realistically speaking will not impact a large number of

2) We DO NOT need a list of abstract requirements for a theme. This is
a silly way to go about things that will have agressively mediocre
results (at best). The only reason for going down this path is if we
needed a mechanical way of deciding because there's not point of
decision and no clear consensus.

3) The Right Theme may not exist, esp. if we want to achieve the goal
of as close to universal adoption as possible. The current candidates
are good themes, but they may not be compelling enough. This is a
tricky case. Frankly, none of us currently involved in the discussion
is going to be able to produce The Right Theme. Going to visual
designers involved w/ free desktop (jimmac, garrett, tigert, dfong,
etc) and saying "Give us the bestest theme evar" may or may not
produce the best theme ever. That is, comissioning a theme (even
assuming some combination of these people has the huge amount of time
to do this) seems like it will have a fair risk of not turning out
that fantastic.

4) We do not need every random person who reads this list to post a
message just because it is easy for everyone to form opinions about
themes. (Bike shed effect at work). We DO want people to add any
interesting suggestions of existing themes to the wiki. Lets end up
with a list of existing themes that are under consideration that we
then start paring down.

5) We WILL NOT shit upon our beloved docs dudes by changing the
default theme 5 minutes before a release forcing them to go on a
panicked screenshooting rampage.

6) By March 1, 2005, we will have a set of contingency plans, with
dates, outlining what will be done by when. If things go really well
in the next two weeks, the plan on March 1 will say "The plan is to
check such-and-such a theme in by default by March 7".

7) This isn't just about the default theme, we need to revitalize the
whole theme set. At the time I drew up the current list of themes we
had far fewer options than exist today. The total number needs to be
kept to about the same as today, but no theme is sacred.

8) We should at least consider a theme *concept* competition, but this
will only be worthwhile if we polish and publicize the effort to get
widespread publicity and attract some talented artists we don't
already know about. We might consider trying to attract some members
of the (rather large and sometimes impressive) Windows skinning

I suspect this will go one of two ways:
  1) We find an existing theme that looks good, doesn't wear in long
use, has a solid implementation, and doesn't have interaction snafus.
We then lobby distros for everyone possible to use it as the
default[1]. Thus far Smooth, Industrial and possibly now Clearlooks
seem to be major contenders.
  2) We wait until some of the new theming and X rendering
improvements start to land in the next year, and get one or more
visual designers (and developers to support them) to build an amazing
theme based on the new capabilities. This is a big unknown, and it may
not be a good idea to wait for it (more below).

Right now, it is unclear how long (2) will take, so a major issue
there is to get a quick answer with some sort of confidence as to when
we can expect some of the cairo gtk theme stuff to land. Given GTK+
head has cairo backend support, this may not be soon, but I don't
know. Barring rapid progress on that, we should go with (1). They are
not mutually exclusive, in any case. For better or worse, changing our
theme makes people believe that GNOME has undergone big changes and
serves as good PR with a large portion of our userbase.


  1) Contribute to the list of themes under consideration on the Wiki.
Please do not delete items from the list, though feel free to add
negative comments to the appropriate section for that theme below. We
will cull later.
  2) If the theme(s) you think should be considered are already on the
list, then you're in luck because (until we move to the next phase)
your job is already done. We do not need another long theme thread
full of random opinion messages that most gnome hackers are deleting
w/o reading as we speak. Please do not squawk like a chicken just to
make noise ;-)

So lets go do it and get gnome looking all shiny and spifferdy!


[1] It won't be the most amazing theme ever, but it'll be a major
improvement. This option is what we have repeated tried and failed to
follow through on. That will not happen this pass, because if (2)
doesn't show real progress, I will just choose something from the

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