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

On Fri, 2003-06-13 at 00:05, iain wrote:
> However, there are problems in this idea. To appeal to the "greatest
> common factor" you need to aim for the lowest common factor.

(I disagree here, but it's interesting that you should say this when the
list your provide later on regarding what should be in the desktop
release is a *much* smaller set of 'common factors' than we currently

> 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.

I don't think "dumbing down" has anything to do with the selection of
modules we (as a community and as maintainers) choose to commit
ourselves to maintaining in the desktop release. We're not dumbing down
anything by choosing to make the commitment, or not make the commitment.

> 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.

I question whether this is an interesting point of reference when
defining the desktop release. Sure, the size of tarballs will affect
testers and "really dedicated users", but ultimately, that's their
choice. They're going to have to use CVS or tarballs, and they're going
to need a basic set of software to do anything useful anyway. They can
always choose not to download the stuff they don't need. "It's not our

> Is it GNOMEs place to make a complete Desktop package?

> 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".

Your points were specifically about users, and whilst I agree with them,
they don't address release management (engineering, quality, timeliness,
etc) issues. The point behind release sets is coherency, which helps
developers know what they're coding against or integrating with, and
users know what they're getting. If we had to micromanage 57 different
modules, attempt to do QA, keep them integrated, etc., etc., we'd never
actually make a coherent release.

Coherent for developers *and* users.

Communicating what we as a project have committed to helps everyone,
from hackers to distributors to "third-party" hackers to users.

> 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.

This is where your idea starts to sound like the status quo: This is
*exactly* what we already have, despite differing ideas about how
minimal our desktop release should be.

You've basically defined what the desktop release is intended to be, but
with a smaller "lowest common factor" than the one we use (which is
called the "greatest common factor" for a reason, mostly so people don't
make the mistake of thinking it's about "lowest common denominator" or
"dumbing down").

Lots of people think it would be embarrassing for us to commit to a
desktop release that didn't include a browser. I think it would be a bit
odd to have a desktop without a simple text editor.

So, in essence, I totally and utterly agree: We need a minimal, coherent
set of modules that satisfy the greatest common factor of user needs,
without a bunch of bloaty crap. :-) I guess that you disagree with the
number or type of modules chosen in the release? More input required! :)

> Secondly, it needs to provide a way for individual users and
> distributions to find the quality software that suits their needs

(and the rest of the enhanced apps list idea)

This is an awesome way to improve the relevance of our applications
list, something we should definitely do, and from my perpective is
wholly independent of our definition of the desktop release.

(If anyone wants to do it, please ping me, because I have some ideas and
work done already regarding our basic infrastructure that would really
help this project kick arse. Information repositories and stuff.)


- Jeff

Fear and Loathing in Dublin, Ireland

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