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Open Source Is Not a Democracy 641

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the well-duh-people dept.
itwbennett writes "A recent kerfuffle within the Ubuntu community serves as a reminder of an inconvenient truth: open source is not a democracy, writes blogger Brian Proffitt. 'The discussion started innocuously enough, within Bug #532633 in light-themes (Ubuntu) on Launchpad, where the order of the window controls within the Light theme were requested to be re-arranged to be on the upper right side of any given window. Light, it seemed, now placed the buttons on the left side, similar to the Mac OS X interface.' The discussion turned into an argument and culminated in this exchange in which Mark Shuttleworth lays down the law: 'It's fair comment that this was a big change, and landed without warning. There aren't any good reasons for that, but it's also true that no amount of warning would produce consensus about a decision like this... No. This is not a democracy. Good feedback, good data, are welcome. But we are not voting on design decisions.'"
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Open Source Is Not a Democracy

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  • -1 Troll (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Concern (819622) * on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:01PM (#31571094) Journal

    Open source is utterly a democracy.

    Each of us may have our own source tree. If we can convince others to come join us in it, isn't that fun. Those who come and join you are always there voluntarily, either because they feel like it, or you are payiong them to be there. And maybe no one feels like it. And maybe you don't feel like paying anyone. Maybe you are alone there. Maybe you didn't bother to make your tree at all. But you have that right to, at any moment. And this is utterly democratic, and it is at the heart of why open source exists. In fact, this is why it works so much better.

    Shuttleworth has a very big, popular tree. He pays many participants and many others join him for free. He gets to make the decisions in his own tree, because it's his. He can't tell anyone else what to do in theirs.

    Now if it's a Bill Gates product, and you do not like where those buttons got moved to, or i.e. you have a critical bug derailing years of your work, or whatever your issue may be, you will be ignored, or if you are very lucky, someone may even explicitly take a moment to personally tell you, "fuck off, peon." Your only real option is not to be so foolish as to use a Bill Gates product again in the future.

    But in open source, if you so choose, you, or anyone, from the youngest child to Bill Gates himself, can fork Shuttleworth's tree, right then and there. Then you can have it your way. And if you are right, and people care, then people will join you and leave Shuttleworth out in the cold. It's happened many times before. And if not, then maybe your idea just wasn't that great, or that important, after all. Happens all the time. But the result, as with any democracy, is that leadership is largely consensual and generally merit-driven.

    (All those who have never lived under a monarch, dictator, or cabal, please identify yourselves now with cynical comments about your democratic government.)

    So I reiterate, as stories go, this is pure -1 Troll. IT World and Proffitt look like an 8 year old trying to say something "controvertial" about global warming by noting that it's snowing outside. I'm a bit sad that Taco rewarded them by sending them some traffic.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Open source is communism, not democracy. All are equal, but some are more equal than others :)

      I love how a lot of comments are all about this is how decisions should be made, just one person at the top gets the final say - period.
      Makes it clear, I think. I'll keep on keeping out of F/OSS, thank you very much. I'm not going to waste my time contributing to someone else's dictatorship, benevolent or otherwise.

      • Re:-1 Troll (Score:5, Informative)

        by HungryHobo (1314109) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:16PM (#31571444)

        You're free to fix it.
        Set up a site, fork the source and run your site as a true democracy.
        Every decision can be put to a vote.

        When setting it up you can even make sure you're no more equal than anyone else.

        • Re:-1 Troll (Score:5, Informative)

          by WinterSolstice (223271) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:44PM (#31572080)

          http://www.linuxfromscratch.org/ [linuxfromscratch.org]

          For those who feel a need to have complete control over their own desktops.

          I see the arguments each direction on this one - and my own view is 'whatever happened to letting the users decide themselves?'
          I have spent ages playing with themes on KDE, Gnome, WindowMaker and Enlightenment. If you're not able to customize, just run OSX or Windows and get an OS that someone controls and will actually provide real support for (including paying off vendors to write drivers).

          Linux is supposed to be about the anarchy of self-expression and total control of your machine. Canonical, RedHat, SuSE and many others provide varying levels of 'corporate stability' that you can buy into if you're into that sort of thing.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jedidiah (1196)

            Defaults should always be sensible and handle the typical case.

            This is just basic common sense (Unix) design.

            Something that's too weird or fancy violates everyone's expectations. That's why really freaky things don't gain much traction (and Linux ends up being accused of copying this that or the other).

        • Re:-1 Troll (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jedidiah (1196) on Monday March 22, 2010 @02:52PM (#31573270) Homepage

          > You're free to fix it.

          This is assinine.

          Nothing was broken to begin with.

          This is why everyone is throwing WTF's at Shuttleworth. There is no good reason to make this
          change therefore it should not be made. It doesn't improve upon anything and actually breaks
          the sort of UI principles that people like to bludgeon Linux over the head with.

          Basic window controls should either be setup to allow for the easiest possible migration for
          people fleeing the market leader or they should be consistent with established practice.

          Changing them just to be cute is bogus. All it will do is annoy the current users and confuse the new ones.

          The first step after installing Ubuntu should not need to be "install sane theme".

      • Re:-1 Troll (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:17PM (#31571446)

        Communism and democracy are not at odds with each other.

        Communism is an economic system. Democracy is a political system.

        It's possible for a system to be both. In fact, a genuine communist system would have to be democratic.

        • Re:-1 Troll (Score:5, Insightful)

          by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland @ y a hoo.com> on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:39PM (#31571952) Homepage Journal

          I wish I had mod points. Apparently some moderators have no idea what a democracy is. other then 'democracy is good and open source is good therefore anything you talks about how either one could be different is a troll'

          • Re:-1 Troll (Score:5, Funny)

            by Speare (84249) on Monday March 22, 2010 @02:27PM (#31572834) Homepage Journal

            Apparently some moderators have no idea what a democracy is. other then 'democracy is good and open source is good therefore anything you talks about how either one could be different is a troll'

            "But... but... it has electrolytes!" "Yeah, do you even know what electrolytes are exactly?" "It's what plants crave!"

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by hardburn (141468)

        Why should systems of government at large be applied to software projects?

        Open Source is neither democratic or communist, because Open Source is not a government.

    • Re:-1 Troll (Score:5, Informative)

      by mapkinase (958129) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:15PM (#31571422) Homepage Journal

      May be short summary of what you've said:

      When one says: "this is not democracy" or "this is supposed to be a democracy" he has to specify the scope of the statement.

      Free market system is democratic in a sense that everybody can vote with their dollars between products, but individual companies are not democratic.

      Open source is democratic: one can join different trees or start your own copy, but individual trees (flavors of the project) are not democratic.

    • Re:-1 Troll (Score:5, Informative)

      by tgd (2822) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:16PM (#31571436)

      Thats anarchy, not democracy.

      Look 'em up.

    • by samkass (174571)

      But in open source, if you so choose, you, or anyone, from the youngest child to Bill Gates himself, can fork Shuttleworth's tree, right then and there. Then you can have it your way. And if you are right, and people care, then people will join you and leave Shuttleworth out in the cold. It's happened many times before. And if not, then maybe your idea just wasn't that great, or that important, after all. Happens all the time. But the result, as with any democracy, is that leadership is largely consensual a

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      Open source is not a democracy in a corporation like Ubantu. In that case, it's a hierarchy. In a pool of programmers outside the corporate structure it can be a democracy, but doesn't have to be.

      Open source is more like art or science, where everything is built on what has come before. Science and art aren't democracies, either.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Concern (819622) *

        It certainly is. You may organize your own tree however you like. You can start a giant company and have a big office and spend a billion dollars on it if you want. Rule it with an iron fist. It doesn't change the fact that the smallest child can still fork your code and do it their own way.

        Your giant company cannot tell that child what to do. Nor can the child tell the company what to do.

        Websites are also a democratic medium, since we can all participate equally. Each of us brings just our own voice.

        If we

    • Re:-1 Troll (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland @ y a hoo.com> on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:22PM (#31571570) Homepage Journal

      That's not a democracy, in fact that isn't even a sensical comparison.
      Yes you can take a copy of the ball and leave, but that's not the same as having a way to make decisions in a group.

      Of course, Open Source should not even be compared. One is a way of developing, the other is about how to organize a community. In context, Mark is saying that specific group organizational structure is not a Democracy.

    • Re:-1 Troll (Score:5, Insightful)

      by c++0xFF (1758032) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:23PM (#31571586)

      What you describe is not a democracy: it's probably closer to anarchy. A free-for-all, with nobody in any position to make any decisions.

      Closer to a democracy would be Wikipedia, where the "consensus" idea is the one that prevails, even though it's a free-for-all. But the label "democracy" only works since everybody works off of the same fork and the leadership is (mostly) hands-off. Once the leadership gets involved, it's no longer a democracy.

      With open-source, a single person still "owns" a fork. No matter how you try to make it fit, democracy doesn't apply when any one person/group can make the sole decision on what happens, and that leadership cannot be changed. Like it or not, almost all open-source projects have a governing body which answers only to themselves. Once the leadership gets involved in decisions, it's a dictatorship. When they're hands-off, it gives the illusion of being a democracy.

      • Re:-1 Troll (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Concern (819622) * on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:47PM (#31572138) Journal

        No. Anarchy is undemocratic, because for practical purposes, in an anarchic state, the strong rule the weak.

        In the modern world, an open source project is utterly democratic, because everyone gets one voice, and no one can suppress it.

        You own your source tree the same way you own your home or Taco owns this website. There is nothing the least bit undemocratic about being able to have your own code and your own opinion.

        But it is only with open source that you can even copy someone else's code and do it your own way. No one can stop you from doing it your way, nor can you stop anyone else from doing it theirs. Hence, not anarchy, or even close.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by c++0xFF (1758032)

          Of course the strong rule the weak. Why is that a bad thing (at least, in the programming sense)? There are many, many programmers who should have little to no voice in what patches should be applied, simply because they are weak programmers!

          But that's beside the point.

          What you originally described is, by definition, anarchy. There is no centralized control, nobody to make decisions on what happens in general.

          Within your own fork, you have free reign. This is totalitarianism within your fork. You apply

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

            The brilliance behind FOSS is that anarchy and totalitarianism can actually strike a balance that feels a lot like democracy:

            Perhaps there should be a name for such a system - I nominate forkocracy.

            Neo said there is no spoon, but there definitely is a fork.

    • Open source is utterly a democracy. Each of us may have our own source tree. If we can convince others to come join us in it

      That is a description of anarchy, not democracy. In a democracy the minority members submit to the will of the majority. They limit voicing their disagreement to persuasive dialog, they don't storm off in a hissy fit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jim_v2000 (818799)
      I hate the argument that "If you don't like how things are going in an OSS project, you can just make your own fork! It's so much better than proprietary software because of that!" The fact is that time and knowledge are barriers that bar most people from doing what you propose. I probably don't know the language the the project was built in, I don't have time to learn it, I don't have the time to get familiar with the project's code, I don't have time to figure out how change it, etc. So yeah, the code
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by keeboo (724305)

        I hate the argument that "If you don't like how things are going in an OSS project, you can just make your own fork! It's so much better than proprietary software because of that!" The fact is that time and knowledge are barriers that bar most people from doing what you propose. I probably don't know the language the the project was built in, I don't have time to learn it, I don't have the time to get familiar with the project's code, I don't have time to figure out how change it, etc. So yeah, the code is right there, but it's useless to a large majority (probably near 99%) of users. There's a better chance of getting the current development team to make a change than me attempting to make that change on my own.

        You're being oversimplistic.
        You see, in most countries you have the right to property. You can have your own house, that's your right. The fact you don't have the _money_ to buy a house does not invalidate such right.

        If you wanted to modify a FOSS yourself and lack the knowledge, nothing prevents you from learning how to program.
        And it's even more insteresting that that: you don't have to program at all, in order to take advantage of the open-sourcedness. If you have money for that, you may simply pay o

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TomXP411 (860000)

      I don't think that word means what you think it means. Whatever you're describing, it's not Democracy. In a democracy, the rules of the majority are binding on the minority. What you describe, however, is essentially the absence of rule - or anarchy.

      In a democracy, everyone votes, and everyone follows the rules established by that vote. So if 75% of the people in a pure Democracy decided that it was illegal to wear blue, then the azure lovers have no recourse; they must either abstain from wearing blue or f

    • Re:-1 Troll (Score:5, Insightful)

      by quantaman (517394) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:44PM (#31572064)

      Actually open source isn't a democracy, it's a meritocracy.

      In a democracy everyone gets the same vote, in a meritocracy the power is wielded by those who do the best work.

      Meritocracies, at least with open source, actually work better than democracy. In a democracy it's mob rule because most people are making decisions based on very incomplete information. In a meritocracy it's the people who have the knowledge and the ability who decide the direction while the users have very little direct power. Now with a country this could lead to autocracy because the people are trapped in the landmass, but with open source there's no lock-in, thus the leaders can't abuse their power and you get a highly functional political system.

      There's a reason people call Linus the benevolent dictator for life, he can do whatever he wants with the source tree, but he makes very good decisions with that power and that's why people follow him.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Meneguzzi (935620)
        Aside from your last comment, I could not agree more. And I think it is completely fair and right that the people toiling away at code for free get to decide what they do with their free time. Now as for Linux, although I think that his original work was brilliant, in recent years I'm not so sure he is not stifling other volunteers from working in the Kernel, and the people who are being rejected do have a lot of merit and have put a lot of effort into the kernel, but no significant say in the direction it
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dangitman (862676)

        In a democracy everyone gets the same vote, in a meritocracy the power is wielded by those who do the best work.

        Only in a very narrow sense. It tends to reward programmers, and programmers don't always make good decisions when it comes to issues not related to programming - of which there are many in software development.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Runaway1956 (1322357)

      Actually, Shuttleworth HAS been forked multiple times already. OpenGEU, Ultimate Linux, and others. I'm to lazy to look right now, but there are Linux distros out there that take the best that Ubuntu has to offer, then modifies that best into something DIFFERENT. I'll not say they are "better", but the fact is, the finished product meets the needs of those people "better" than Shuttleworth's official tree does.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:04PM (#31571158)

    Is doomed to fail.

  • by gravyface (592485) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:05PM (#31571168)
    Benevolent dictatorship is probably the most fitting pseudo-political label.
  • by rimcrazy (146022) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:06PM (#31571192)

    It is a Thoroughbred designed by a committee, or in this case a huge community. Good for Mark. Inputs are important but final design decisions should not be subject to a vote.

  • People complaining *is* a form of data. I wish Shuttleworth would acknowledge that.
    • by Volante3192 (953645) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:20PM (#31571536)

      He did. He said it's welcome.

      That still does not mean Canonical will do what the complainers want.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      he does. However there becomes a point when it become pointless. Flamewars, for example.

      really this should be solved under two criteria:

      What is the the science behind human design say?
      What is the expect behavior?

      There may be a way to do something more efficiently, but do you an ingrained habit of how something is currently used it may be counterproductive to change it.
      List all those reason, then decide.

  • So what? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:09PM (#31571276)

    Democracy is a really nice word but it's meaning is amorphous at best. Usually it is used to give the Westerners among us (myself included) a warm fuzzy. I don't want anything made by committee. Open source is more free market than democratic: if it works it survives and if it doesn't it dies.

    This article seems like a gigantic troll.

  • by itomato (91092) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:11PM (#31571314)

    The people do not directly get to vote on things like, oh, I dunno.. Health Care Bills, whether we go to war, who we want as President. Input is offered, sometimes accepted, but let's face it - once the reins are in someone else's hands the ego prevents a welcome and good-natured pass.

    It's about control and structure, not about pure natural selection at the hands of plebes.

    Ubuntu is just as Democratic as the USA, for better or worse.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by tgd (2822)

      The US is a republic, not a democracy.

      The difference may be something glossed over in schools in the US, but the different was *important* to the people who created the US's system of government.

      • by Jonathan (5011) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:54PM (#31572266) Homepage

        Except those with monarchs. Even North Korea is a republic even though the Kim dynasty basically is a royal line. Being a republic and being a democracy are orthogonal. The UK is a good example of a monarchy that is also a democracy, just like the US is a republic that is also a democracy, and North Korea is a republic that is also a dictatorship. Yes, neither the US nor the UK are *direct* democracies like in ancient Athens.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Wyatt Earp (1029)

      The United States of America has never ever been a direct Democracy and they never pretended to be. The United States of America is a Republic, stronger at the Federal level than it used to be and should be, but thats besides the point.

      At the local level its a representative democracy (in some places direct democracy). We elect people to hold an office, school board, water board, sheriff, sometimes Judge, Mayor, town councillors, etc. We elect people to the county/parish and state offices.

      It used to be that

    • Then you'd better start lobbying
  • Why left? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot&keirstead,org> on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:14PM (#31571396) Homepage

    What is the logic of having the buttons on the left? The vast majority of users are right handed, and mouse right handed. Thus, the scrollbar is on the right side, and an idle mouse cursor is on the right side. Therefore, widnow controls should be ont he right side, where possible. Putting it on the left for no good reason* just makes you have to mouse farther to accomplish the same task.

    * And no, "because Mac does it" is not a good reason.

    • Re:Why left? (Score:5, Informative)

      by santax (1541065) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:21PM (#31571546)
      They want to create room on the right so in a future version they can experiment with 'innovative' options where that space has become available.
    • Re:Why left? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DdJ (10790) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:23PM (#31571594) Homepage Journal

      I certainly agree that "because Mac does it" is not a good reason. But that doesn't mean there isn't a good reason -- you've made a straw man argument, IMO.

      And there's no reason a design expert should be forced to explain those reasons to a layman. That's asking too much.

      But I can think of some reasons that might apply: "as windows resize, the top left corner is the anchor from which all resizing is done, therefore putting elements there minimizes gratuitous movement of those elements" could easily be a factor in a reasonable decision along these lines. Or "as left-to-right/top-to-bottom readers, our eyes are naturally drawn to the top left, so putting critical controls there makes sense".

      If you don't agree with the conclusion, prove to the design team that you're enough of a design expert that they should pay attention to you, and have the discussion with them.

    • True. If it weren't a stupid decision it wouldn't be an issue.
    • Re:Why left? (Score:4, Informative)

      by icannotthinkofaname (1480543) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:25PM (#31571644) Journal

      Mark Shuttleworth wants to de-clutter the right so as to add nifty new stuff on the right in the future [webupd8.org].

    • Re:Why left? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland @ y a hoo.com> on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:35PM (#31571870) Homepage Journal

      You make a lot of assumptions.

      "The vast majority of users are right handed, and mouse right handed. Thus, the scrollbar is on the right side,"

      Why do you assume mouse side on the right determines that putting scroll bars on the right is the most effecient thing to do?

      And no 'It's obvious' doesn't cut it. Data only.

      Why do you assume if the scroll bar is on the right , then windows on the right is more efficient?

      "Putting it on the left for no good reason* just makes you have to mouse farther to accomplish the same task."
      First, you are simple stating 'no good reason' without any backing. Strawman.
      Second, what do you base where the mouse is most likely to be at any moment?

      "* And no, "because Mac does it" is not a good reason."
      No, but why Mac does it may be a good reason.

      ~~~ About your sig ~~~~~

      heh, I love stuff like that. While they may have a good reason for doing it that way, claiming it's green for marketing reason crack me up.

      After they give you your coffee, you should pout it from your mug into a paper cup. To make a point.

      • Mac also has a different order of buttons, with the close window button on the left, just as Windows has the close button on the right. Both are at the outside of the window, a good place. This puts the Windows order of buttons on the left -- doesn't work.

        Mac also doesn't have a menu right underneath the buttons to accidentlly hit.

        Mac has a complete user interface thought of to work together. Taking one element from it is a risky proposition, because unless you did your homework you don't know what other el

      • Re:Why left? (Score:4, Informative)

        by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Monday March 22, 2010 @03:56PM (#31574256) Journal

        While I agree that "Because the Mac does it that way" is not a good reason, Apple spent about $50 million in research (according to Bruce Tognazzini [asktog.com]) to study some of these sorts of things. So one can probably assume that Apple actually might have a good reason.

        Why do you assume mouse side on the right determines that putting scroll bars on the right is the most effecient thing to do?

        There's a little thing called Fitts' Law [wikipedia.org] which has two elements:

        1. Things that are closer to the mouse are quicker to access than things far away from the mouse
        2. Bigger things are quicker to access than smaller things

        From this, assuming that the mouse is on the right hand side of the screen, accessing a same-sized scrollbar would be quicker if it is on the right than if it were on the left. A scrollbar could be placed on the left, but it would have to be larger in order to be as efficient as one on the right which would mean less space for data.

        It is also good for scrollbars to be in a consistent place (either left or right) for motor-memory and that fact that if you have multiple scrollbars, it will be confusing as to which controls what.

        That said, since most mice sold nowadays have a scroll-wheel, perhaps it's time to rethink the need for scrollbars in the first place.

  • by Improv (2467) <pgunn@dachte.org> on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:15PM (#31571412) Homepage Journal

    Some time back, gaim had a UI redesign where they replaced protocol-specific icons with generic ones, in the decision that hiding the protocol is the right thing to do. A lot of us thought that was boneheaded, and some people forked GAIM, others wrote plugins to undo the change, and a lot of us offered harsh criticism of the developers responsible. If it were a democracy, we probably would've voted it undone. Right decision? Wrong decision? We didn't like it, but most of us decided not to walk away from it (either to the forks or further away).

    Opensource provides new possibilities for governance - the ability to fork is something we don't really have in nations (splitting into bits really isn't the same), and with the exception of protocol decisions we generally can reshape our environment as we like (local patches, greasemonkey, etc). By having so much local variance possible, we no longer have our elbows so close to our neighbours and so there's less hazard for technocratic or autocratic decision styles (provided they use licenses that sustain this type of environment - some developers like Tuomo Valkonen prove to be batshit insane and play license games to compound their boneheaded technical decisions).

    With licensing messes out of the way and the ability to fork, the most precious thing for us is mostly time/attention. If we want to fork a project, we're balancing our time and attention versus how much we care over the relevant issue. It's the easiest thing in the world to follow a path paved by the actual developer, while maintaining patches of any size (or starting a parallel community for a true fork) is an ongoing burden. If it's for an important enough reason, we'll do it. If that reason turns out to be not important enough to be worth the bother, all we can do is complain and hope to convince whomever is already doing that work to pave our path.

  • Speaking of anarchy,
    Two Forks Enter! One Fork Leaves!!!
    Two Forks Enter! One Fork Leaves!!!
  • by santax (1541065) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:16PM (#31571434)
    Just move the damn buttons yourself! I actually agree with camp that wants the buttons back in the old way, but I can't stop thinking... I have the source... I might just do that myself and place the .diff online. Problem solved. Unfortunately for all Ubuntu users, I use Debian so I'm fine.
    • No recompile needed (Score:5, Informative)

      by j1976 (618621) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:25PM (#31571616)

      It's easy to change even within the current distribution. Steps to fix:

      * Start gconf-editor
      * expand in this order: apps, metacity, general
      * Find entry "button_layout"
      * change it to "menu:minimize,maximize,close"

      The colon separates left side and right side.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:17PM (#31571452) Journal

    Okay, Ubuntu is popular. I get it. But it is not the totality of open source. Neither is Linux, for that matter. This example is specifically about Ubuntu, not about open source. Ubuntu is a dictatorship obeying the golden rule; Shuttlewood has the gold so he makes the rules. If you don't like it, fork it or use something different.

    Most open source projects are democracies, although not all votes are equal. Their constituents are people who who contribute something to the project, and the greater the contribution the more say they have in the direction of the project. Contributions come in the form of code, documentation, artwork, bug reports, and money. If you've never contributed any of these things to a project, then you don't get a vote.

    If you have, you get some say, although the person who wrote 90% of the code gets a lot more say than someone who only filed one bug report. People contribute to open source projects because they expect to get something back. In my experience, most developers will put some extra effort into feature requests from people who have contributed something that they consider valuable.

    Ubuntu isn't actually unusual in this respect at all. Shuttlewood contributes the developers' salaries, and they give priority to his feature requests.

  • by perpenso (1613749)
    As a geek who loves history I can't help but think about the organizational strategy of american (as in region not nationality) colonial era pirates. In general they were not democratic in their decision making, they understood the inefficiency and impracticality of that path, but they were democratic in choosing a captain. Once a captain was chosen he had command. A wise captain did exercise his authority justly though. It seems to have been a quite reasonable self organizational strategy and it may al
  • More of the Same (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hduff (570443) <hoytduff AT gmail DOT com> on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:20PM (#31571534) Homepage Journal

    This kind of bickering is the ugly dark side of an otherwise decent philosophy. The cult of personality and hubris, especially within Ubuntu/Debian where it seems to erupt with regularity, is both useful and unpleasant and will always be a locus of justifiable criticism of the FOSS community in general.

    Move along. Nothing new to see here.

    • by vlm (69642) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:51PM (#31572206)

      The cult of personality and hubris, especially within Ubuntu/Debian where it seems to erupt with regularity

      Too broad of a brush. At Ubuntu, the dude who pays the paychecks and owns the servers has said, make it so. And it is done. Hope you like it! If not, tough cookies!

      In Debian, its a bit different. Any developer can take that source package, fix it, and upload an new package named "whatever-better-ui" or something. Eventually one side will get tired of the game and there will be some renaming.

  • Full quote (Score:5, Informative)

    by Meltir (891449) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:22PM (#31571560) Homepage

    As it often happens the summary is rather sensationalist, as I would not dare accuse anyone of actually RTFA, here's Shuttleworth's full response (with which I could not agree more):

    Mark Shuttleworth wrote on 2010-03-17: Re: [Bug 532633] Re: [light-theme] please revert the order of the window controls back to "menu:minimize, maximize, close" #167

    On 15/03/10 23:42, Pablo Quirós wrote:
    > It'd have been nice if this comment had been made some time ago,
    > together with a deep reasoning on the concrete changes that are in mind.
    >
    > We are supposed to be a community, we all use Ubuntu and contribute to
    > it, and we deserve some respect regarding these kind of decisions. We
    > all make Ubuntu together, or is it a big lie?

    We all make Ubuntu, but we do not all make all of it. In other words, we
    delegate well. We have a kernel team, and they make kernel decisions.
    You don't get to make kernel decisions unless you're in that kernel
    team. You can file bugs and comment, and engage, but you don't get to
    second-guess their decisions. We have a security team. They get to make
    decisions about security. You don't get to see a lot of what they see
    unless you're on that team. We have processes to help make sure we're
    doing a good job of delegation, but being an open community is not the
    same as saying everybody has a say in everything.

    This is a difference between Ubuntu and several other community
    distributions. It may feel less democratic, but it's more meritocratic,
    and most importantly it means (a) we should have the best people making
    any given decision, and (b) it's worth investing your time to become the
    best person to make certain decisions, because you should have that
    competence recognised and rewarded with the freedom to make hard
    decisions and not get second-guessed all the time.

    It's fair comment that this was a big change, and landed without
    warning. There aren't any good reasons for that, but it's also true that
    no amount of warning would produce consensus about a decision like this.

    > If you want to tell us
    > that we are all part of it, we want information, and we want our opinion
    > to be decisive.
    >

    No. This is not a democracy. Good feedback, good data, are welcome. But
    we are not voting on design decisions.

    Mark

  • Rule of Least Surprise: In interface design, always do the least surprising thing.

    See Also: Transparency, expressiveness, and configurability.

    As per part 3 of above, why not have the button locations configurable?

  • It seems that just about anyone with enough free time can elect themselves to close bugs, request more irrelevant information, request you to re-reproduce the bug every time anything changes, no matter how unrelated and generally make reporting bugs against Ubuntu a pointless activity.
  • by bmo (77928)

    This fight over window controls would not exist if Gnome had an easy way to rearrange the buttons. But no, Gnome hides it in a dark corner. KDE allows you to arrange the buttons any way you like by simply clicking and dragging.

    Oh yeah and to "troll" further, there is only one way to lay out the window control buttons that makes any sense: Close on left, minimize and maximize on right.

    --
    BMO

  • An earlier posting already hit the big misunderstanding with democracy in open source projects:
    • Democracy INSIDE a project is doomed to fail. There must be one leader who does the final decisions, otherwise you get design by committee.
    • Democracy ACROSS projects (more exactly, project versions, e.g. forks) is likely to succeed. If said leader does very unpopular and/or plain stupid decisions, the project gets forked. The majority thus "voted" against the decision. Case in point: Xfree vs. Xorg.
  • Everyone knows that Linus is a benevolent dictator.
  • Users do vote... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eyepeepackets (33477) on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:30PM (#31571754)

    Every time a user chooses what distro to use, they vote.

    Don't like the way a distribution does things? Use a different one.

  • It's so simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Monday March 22, 2010 @01:50PM (#31572186)

    This is not a democracy. Good feedback, good data, are welcome. But we are not voting on design decisions.'"

          This is where you fork. End of story. kthxbai

  • by donscarletti (569232) on Monday March 22, 2010 @02:03PM (#31572426)

    The old metaphor is: if someone builds a nuclear reactor, it is left to the most qualified engineers. But if you build a bike shed everyone wants to have their opinion heard. I.e. if you want to change the way an IO scheduler or a pagefault handler works, only experienced kernel hackers will bother discussing it, but if you move around two buttons, everyone understand what you've done and wants to weigh in.

    But honestly if you are an specialist in building bikesheds, you can never expect to be taken as seriously as those who build nuclear reactors. Someone just reconfigured Metacity to switch some buttons because they thought it was better that way, surely this feat proves that they are the experts here and their judgement should be deferred to.

    Back when I regularly contributed to Gnome they switched the button order on dialog boxes, I actually liked the new layout but it was just personal taste, their was no objective improvement to be worth the enormous amount of bitching from the community. And in the end this will be the same, I will get used to this new layout, all that will change is a few indignant people will stop using Ubuntu and it will mainly serve to piss off anyone who borrows my computer.

    In a way, the new button order makes more sense, maximise is the opposite of close and should be on the opposite side, but ultimately, it's just not all that important but it serves to attract a lot of attention and impact a lot of people's habits. Surely a software developer who has nothing better to change than this is hardly worth taking seriously.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Monday March 22, 2010 @02:42PM (#31573074)
    From http://interviews.slashdot.org/story/10/03/02/186206/Matt-Asay-Answers-Your-Questions-About-Ubuntu-and-Canonical?from=rss [slashdot.org]

    Adoption stories and influences
    by eldavojohn (898314)"Every so often I see an adoption story about so-and-so taking up some open source solution and sometimes I think 'Wow, French government? Now it's really going to take off. This is it. It's time.' And then I wait. And wait. Are these stories at all positive for the project? I mean, you would think with states and governments using Ubuntu or Red Hat that it would catch on like wildfire if the savings are there so why isn't that happening? I know Microsoft sends out a lot of Wormtongues to stick in the ears of important people. Do you plan on targeting governments in a similar manner? Does/will Canonical work on making a presence in things like the EU Commissions where we've seen corporations collecting members in their pockets?"
    Matt: No, we have no plans to turn Wormtongue. We do, however, have aspirations to play Frodo. :-)

    In the end, Frodo proved just as corruptible as Gollum, Wormtongue, the Ringwraiths, etc. I would rather have Canonical have aspirations to play Samwise. In today's story, Shuttleworth seems to be closer to Ilsildur.
  • Iain Bank's Culture (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tylersoze (789256) on Monday March 22, 2010 @02:48PM (#31573206)

    If we are trying to make analogies to political systems, I posit that Open Source is more akin to The Culture, which is a post-scarcity, anarchist, socialist, and utopian society. Any part of The Culture can "fork off" at any time to form their own Culture and can also merge back in at any time. The Culture is nominally democratic but, in practice, controlled by super intelligent Minds. That's sounds pretty close to me. :)

  • This is total BS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LS (57954) on Monday March 22, 2010 @02:51PM (#31573250) Homepage

    Asking "is open source a democracy" is like asking "is music a dictatorship". It's a flawed question. Democracy refers to a system of management and control. Open source refers to software with available source code. Anyone can take the source code and manage it anyway they want. It makes more sense to say "Are groups that release instances of open source projects democracies?"

    LS

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