Re: Questions for candidates

On Tue, May 26, 2015 at 07:53:42AM -0400, Richard Stallman wrote:
I'd like to ask the candidates, how do you think GNOME should
contribute more to the advance of free software and users' freedom in
general (in addition to being useful free software).

GNOME does a great deal to make Free Software more usable, and as a
result, it's the "face" of Free Software to many GNU/Linux users.  We'd
have *far* fewer Free Software users without desktop environments like

This puts us in the interesting position of maintaining a desktop
environment for which one of the primary user groups consists of novice
computer users.  We need to take those users into account: the new users
trying out GNOME, and the satisfied-but-not-blindly-loyal users already
using GNOME.

So, first and foremost, GNOME needs to continue maintaining not just
high quality and usability, but *consistency* as well.  Many people who
stick to proprietary environments do so because they're used to those
environments, and sudden inconsistency can send them running in revolt
(sometimes to our benefit).  The maintainers of those proprietary
environments are discovering that their "loyal" user base can be as much
an albatross as an asset.

But that same issue can apply to us as well: we must weigh the value of
new UI experiments against the cost of making any change at all.
Experienced users ( have little problem saying
"oh, the menu is over here now", and perhaps hopping on IRC or a mailing
list to gripe if they feel strongly enough about it; even if they're
initially puzzled a bit, they're confident enough to poke at it.  Novice
users presented with the same UI change may seek help, worry that
they've broken something, or seek out another device.  Even a
well-meaning UI change that makes things better for many users still has
a cost.

Second, for all the flak GNOME 3 gets sometimes about being a UI that
looks like it'd be more at home on a tablet (note: not a sentiment I
share), where are the GNOME tablets and convertible/detachable systems?
Where is our answer to the users who have partly or entirely given up
traditional computers in favor of an only-partly-Free Android device, or
a completely proprietary iOS device?  Where is our auto-updating
appliance to browse/watch/read/play?  There are a few nods to
touchscreen usability in GNOME, and a few people have demonstrated GNOME
on a tablet, but an on-screen keyboard and finger-sized UI elements does
not make a sufficiently usable tablet UI.

Developers might balk at the idea of a device like that, and certainly
most would not want to write code on such a device.  But we often talk
of making software that Just Works, and many people want the same from a
complete hardware/software stack.  It's not up to us to tell people what
they want and don't want; it's up to us to make sure that whatever they
want, it's available in Free Software, and not exclusive to the
proprietary world.

We could learn some things from Android, or from Chromium OS.  That
*doesn't* mean I want to see an "app" ecosystem on GNOME, especially not
one that encourages proprietary applications; that's one "innovation" we
could do without.  However, just as early versions of GNOME and KDE took
some inspiration from Windows, and later versions of GNOME took some
inspiration from OS X (and just as some of those environments have taken
inspiration from GNU/Linux), these days we would do well to understand
what people seek out from tablets and Chromebooks, and figure out ways
to provide those features while retaining and promoting the values of
Free Software.

Because if we spend our time only fighting against proprietary desktops
and laptops, we're fighting on the wrong front; we may wake up to find
that many of those desktops and laptops have vanished, in favor of
more usable proprietary appliance-like devices rather than in favor of
Free Software.

- Josh Triplett

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