Re: [question to candidates] GNOME OS


GNOME OS has been mentioned and questioned repeatedly in recent
discussions on desktop-devel-list, about its definition itself[1],
and the changing (or not?) role of the GNOME project with regards
to distributions (based or not on the Linux kernel).

I remember sitting in Jon McCann's talk at Den Haag last Summer where
GNOME OS was first brought to my attention.  It seems a catchy use of
the GNOME brand, but we clearly have not yet found an effective way to
make use of it.

Using the GNOME brand to foster divisions within the Free Software or
GNU/Linux community, to me, feels like the sort of thing Richard
Stallman would be into.  While I love free software, I personally do
not drink this sort of Stalinist kool-aid.  I think it is far more
interesting to work as a community on free software alternative
products that are competitive with those from Microsoft and Apple.

What are your thougths on this?[2] Do you think this is a foundation
job to answer those questions? If not, is this a responsibility of the
release team? Or something that is best left unanswered, as pieces are
put into positions by different persons?

Yes, I do.  I think that the GNOME Foundation, as a community, needs to
answer these questions and decide how the "GNOME" brand should be used.
We need to discuss, and perhaps vote if the answers are not just
obvious.  Remember, the GNOME board of directors only works to express
the will of the Foundation membership - the board members are your

I do think there is real value in having a good definition of our
brand.  It does not seem clear how we should best encourage both a
"GNOME" vision of usability and also promote the fact that GNOME
Technologies are found in GNOME Shell, mobile devices, Sugar, OLPC,
the City of Largo, etc.  The fact that usability can vary across
different hardware and distros, and that we do not yet have a GNOME 3
HIG contributes to things being fuzzy at the moment.

Some have proposed that the GNOME brand be tied to the usage of
particular combinations of technologies or kernels.  Perhaps we need to
use the GNOME brand in a spectrum of ways rather than a single "GNOME
OS".  Perhaps the GNOME Foundation could be a body that blesses
acceptable usages of the brand, such as what can be called "GNOME
Mobile OS", "GNOME Developing World OS", "GNOME Accessibility OS",
"GNOME Technologies", or whatever.  Having some structure and process
towards how we use the GNOME brand could be very useful, especially if
the community ever did something like setup an internet application

The "Build on What we Have (or: too much structure is poison)" section
of the GNOME Foundation charter highlights that The GNOME Foundation
does not have the mandate to be divisive, or that would encourage
forking.  The charter says:

  Any new structure which the GNOME foundation provides, if taken too
  far, will be artificial, ignored, or at worst: really really annoying
  to developers.

  Furthermore, the foundation can have no real powers of enforcement;
  compliance with foundation decision should be an act of good-faith.
  If we've lost consensus to the point where we're regularly forcibly
  ejecting people from the foundation and co-opting their projects,
  we're sunk anyway.

  Instead, the foundation will work with GNOME's strengths to make it
  better. A foundation that provides cohesion, vision, direction, and
  enough organization will be an incredible asset. A foundation that
  attempts to do this, but hides the iron fist under a velvet glove
  will not. Such an entity would likely be ignored, and words like
  "fork" would be thrown around.

How to use a brand effectively is no short discussion.  I think it is
the discussion we are having right now, really.  A very timely thing
to consider with GNOME 3 out the door.  I hope that we, as a community,
are able to do this in a non-divisive manner.

You have to love people who put terms like "iron fists" and "velvet
gloves" in their charter.


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