GNOME Nirvana; How to reach it and what to do once we get there.

Jeff asked me 2 weeks ago to detail how I would have liked the GNOME
Desktop to be released/handled/exist as I seemed to have a number of
complaints with the existing "Status Quo". Due to both foreseen and
unforeseen circumstances, its taken this long for me to write it.

GNOME Nirvana: How to reach it and what to do once we get there.

As a foreword I want to make it clear that this document is not some
sort of sequel to GNOME Armageddon or anything. I like GNOME a lot, have
no real serious problems with it as software, or the way the individual
programs are heading. I love my minimalist desktop etc. But here we go.

I'm making a few assumptions and if you don't agree with them, then you
can bite me. No sorry, you can stop reading now, because you probably
won't agree with anything else and I'd hate for someone to waste their
time reading my speil. Or you could skip to "What does The GNOME Desktop
need to do?"

Iain's Assumptions

People either:
a) Download software themselves
b) Use what their distribution (be it Red Hat, Ximian, SuSE, 
   whatever) give them.
(Wow, stating the obvious here)

So, how do these assumptions affect what is "The Desktop", and what was
my main problem with "The Desktop".

My main problem, seeing as some people seemed to have missed my point,
was that as computers get more and more ubiquitous, people are going to
require that they do more and more and more stuff. And the current
scheme of things means that we're going to keep adding more stuff to the
desktop to keep up with the "Greatest Common Factor" and the perceived
need that this entails. 

Chasing The Greatest Common Factor.

This seems to be the current "ethos" to the GNOME Desktop. And in some
areas this idea has been a success. I'm thinking mainly in the GUI
design and overall simplification of dialogs and such. I love what has
happened to the GNOME UI. I think it is much cleaner than any UI I've
ever used before. Things are well thought out, simply because people are
chasing the greatest common factor and trying to make software that my
gran could use.

However, there are problems in this idea. To appeal to the "greatest
common factor" you need to aim for the lowest common factor. A Britney
Spears song is never going to go down in history as a classic even
though she has made millions. Simply because you have to make sacrifices
to appeal to the (greatest|lowest) common factor. One of these
sacrifices is that you need to dumb down, and the more you dumb down,
the more you end up alienating the people who (feel they) are above the
level you are aiming for.

How does all this tie into my assumptions?
Well, the people that are likely to download the software (group a
above) are also the people who are likely to be the ones who feel
patronised by the chasing of the lowest common factor, and so this group
is the group who is able to go and find something that suits them. The
other people who are most suited to the level that GNOME is aiming for,
are the who are in group B, and use what they're given.

Where does this leave us?

Currently, there are 120meg of tarballs (gzipped) for "The GNOME Desktop
(Version 2.3.2)". 17 new modules were proposed for the next major
release, and of those 17, 14 were accepted. The GNOME Desktop seems to
be growing at a huge rate, and as I said above, the more ubiquitous
computers become, the more people want from them, and the more programs
they will need. The current way we're doing things, the GNOME Desktop
may need to come on a CD soon. If I was still stuck on my 33.3 modem,
there's no way I would contemplate downloading 120meg of tarballs.

Is it GNOMEs place to make a complete Desktop package?

Like I said my assumption is that there's two types of people. The first
group of people won't really care what programs are "the official" GNOME
programs, they will use what they like. Take the Epiphany/Galeon
situation. Two pieces of software, both good in their own rights, both
aiming for different people. My personal preference is Epiphany, but
thats only because I like the bookmark thing better. Galeon is still a
good piece of software, and many people are still going to use it even
though it is not blessed as The GNOME Desktop Official Web Browser(tm).

In the second group of people, they are going to use whatever the
distribution gives them, and the distro doesn't have to follow what the
GNOME Project says is official. Ximian (for example) gives Galeon as the
web browser.

So, in answer to my question, no, I don't think that GNOME needs to
define a complete Desktop package that meets the needs of the "Greatest
Common Factor".

What does The GNOME Desktop need to do?

I think that The GNOME Desktop needs to do two things.
Firstly, I think it needs to define a set of packages that provide the
very basic level of functionality. In this I would include 
* The panel
* Nautilus
* The terminal
* Basic applets
* Some basic utilities (a find tool, a calculator)
* Yelp
* The control centre for setting The Desktop options.

Secondly, it needs to provide a way for individual users and
distributions to find the quality software that suits their needs, not
the software that the GNOME Project thinks suits their needs. Going back
to the web browser example, suppose a user in group a doesn't like
Epiphany, so he goes looking for something else. First stop, and clicks "Get more software". Okay, so he's looking for
a web browser. Searching for "Web Browser" gives a page with 26 results
on it, including Galeon. However, Galeon is lost amongst completely
useless results such as Encompass (a dead web browser project), Rocket
(a web server), and GNOME VFS. There is nothing that would lead you to
pick Galeon any more than Barque.

So, you want something between the software map and The GNOME Desktop?
Duh! We've got 5th Toe!

Well, 5th Toe is all well and good, but its still a mini distribution
and comes with the same problems that the main desktop package has, but
with a slightly lower entry barrier.

So, what do you ****ing want?

My simple idea would be some sort of rating scheme, 5 GNOME feet awarded
to first class software heading down to unrated software and a web site
that has a simple way to find this software. Someone said
and that'd be perfect. Software could be submitted to this software map
and when submitted would start in unrated. There would be a very clear
guidelines to what a program needs to have to be a 1foot, or a 2 foot
etc. For example, to be 1 foot maybe a program needs to be fully HIG
compliant. 5 foot programs may need to be fully documented, fully HIG
compliant and fully accessible.

And what advantages will this give us as a project?

Well, simply it will allow people to have a desktop that best suits
their needs rather than the arbitrary needs that we as the developers
think they have. This lets us have more satisifed users, rather than a
disgruntled user base who think that the needs of grandmothers are
coming before theirs, and maybe less people bitching about corporate

Oh, and world peace.

Feel free to pull this apart "Down South" (as we northerners call it)
over your pints of Guiness.

Have fun,
 "Live your lives free from the tyranny of popular culture, which would
  have you believe that wealth, pleasure, power, status, and youthful
  looks will bring you happiness and satisfaction. This is simply not
                      true." - Stephen A. Privett

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