On Politics, GNOME, and Mono

Politicians. They are a certain type of people. I do not like them. Many do not like them. I think if there’s one thing all of man has in common, whether he be Christian or Muslim, black or white, young or old, American or European, is a dislike of politicians. But then– why on earth do we allow politics to complicate software? Note: Sunday Eve Column.You only have to look at why my country’s government fell a few weeks ago to see why I do not like politicians; they never seem to truly care about what we, the ordinary folk, think. We as people are simply irrelevant until election day. And when that day comes, they appear to care about what we think, but in reality, all the time they are debating about what we supposedly want, all they really think about is “what do I need to say to get votes?”, instead of “what do the people want/does the country need?”. I think I speak for many when I say that it always feels as if politicians are completely out of touch with the normal people.

And that is exactly how I feel about the debate that this week reared its ugly head again: should Mono bindings be included in the vanilla GNOME package? Or, for layman, should Mono become part of GNOME?

Let me clearly state that I am not a developer, nor do I care about philosophical and ideological nonsense when it comes to software. All I want from my computer, is that it works. I find the development language used to write my favourite applications to be rather unimportant when I’m busy using my applications. When I fire up F-Spot, do I care about it being written using Mono? Do I care that a Mono-powered back-end is powering SLED 10 awesome search functionality? Or better yet, does the average user care about any of the above?

I am fairly confident when I say “no”. What users like me want, is a desktop that works, does its job well, and if it looks good while doing it, that’s nice. “Today I’m going to buy The New York Times, then I’m going to sit at that little corner shop and have a green tea and a muffin and then I’m going to look for a sweater set. This afternoon if I’m so obligated I’m going to collect someone’s soul before they die and if I look really pretty while I’m doing it, well, then good for me.”

But I digress. The Mono/GNOME debate. What bothers me most about this debate is, well, that the debate even exists at all. Let’s face it, boys and girls, the applications that currently make GNOME a usable home desktop are Mono-based. What is GNOME without F-Spot? Without Banshee? Without iFolder? And, most importantly, without Beagle? If I were a normal user, without all the knowledge (no arrogance intended, this time) I have now, I’d be amazed to hear the technology that powers these applications is not part of the GNOME Desktop/Development Environment!

I think there are two main causes behind this debate. First are Mono’s origins. Mono is based on Microsoft technology and standards, and hence, many automatically dislike it; whether Mono itself is good or not is irrelevant to those people. The second, more important reason is a complete and utter lack of leadership in the GNOME community. GNOME has no leaders or an elected board of some sort that can take important decisions after weighing the pros and cons as discussed on d-d-l.

And it shows. The discussion on d-d-l got completely out of hand, drifting away from the actual subject matter towards silly discussions over GNOME’s “real purpose”, as Eugenia pointed out on her weblog. After all the dust settled a little bit, the discussion started all over again under a different name. And even before that dust had settled, Jeff Waugh summed all the previous dust up, with good intentions, only to start the whole thing all over again. Did it work? Has a decision been made? Are we any further than we were two weeks ago?

No.

Let me give you a little sneak peek behind the scenes of OSNews. We are a fairly small project, consisting basically out of four people: Adam, David, Eugenia, and me. You’d expect all of us to reach agreement fairly easily, right?

Well, not really. To the outside world, of course, it appears we all agree all the time. All you readers get to see are the outcomes of our discussions behind the scenes on our internal mailing lists– you never get to see the discussions themselves. And to be honest, that is for the better. We disagree more often than you think, and over important matters, we can get carried away; however, instead of GNOME, we actually have a ‘leader’ who has the final say in the important matters: David. He, in the end, makes the final call.

That is what GNOME needs too: an elected someone or team who makes the final decisions in important matters, after weighing the pros and cons as discussed on the various mailing lists. That is the only way a large project like GNOME can be run effectively. Someone who is above the politics, someone who does not care about the origins of a project, someone who is not related to any of the three big companies sponsoring GNOME. Now, the developers behind GNOME discussing this issue, feel a lot like those politicians to me. They appear out of touch with what the ordinary user wants.

And that is kind of sad actually.


If you would like to see your thoughts or experiences with technology published, please consider writing an article for OSNews.

130 Comments

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