{July 1, 2008}   sharing exposure

when a project has one person who is significantly more visible than other contributors, speaking often and well, trying to make things happen by communicating outside the project, blogging on important issues, speaking at conferences… a funny thing happens. people seem to assume that person IS the project. they take his opinions as that of the project as a whole, believe that he somehow controls the project (a crazy notion when the project is as big and open as KDE), and some even seem to blame him personally for anything they dislike.

this isn’t good. not for the project, not for the individual. we should discourage people from treating anyone this way. we should try and keep anyone from falling into this position again. we don’t want celebrities.

after the recent drama, I imagine many contributors might want to hide away and make very very sure that they never get this kind of publicity. however, I think that would be bad. I think the problem isn’t exposure per se; it’s the relative levels of exposure for different contributors. when one person gets far more exposure than others, we run into trouble – so what we should try to do is have *lots* of people getting more exposure, such that no individual finds themselves out there alone. :)

we were discussing this on irc, and joked about creating an imaginary person to be the “king” of KDE, and have different people blog for it. then we realised that we’ve already got a place for news that isn’t from one single human being: the dot. apparently the dot editors would really like more articles. :) I think it’d be a good thing for the community if more people were to submit stories to the dot. they’d have to be a little more polished than a blog entry, but we have editors to help with that. the submission form looks a little, uhm, old – but hopefully kyle’s planned software updates will address that eventually. :)

Perhaps you’ve already written a good blog entry that could be transformed into a dot story easily (there was a nice folderview blog recently, maybe something like that should be on the dot). perhaps you’ve got something to say that’d interest the KDE community as a whole. don’t be shy, submit something! :) I’m going to try my hand at it soon… once I get caught up on soc. :P

Derek says:

I’m not sure you have diagnosed the problem correctly :)

Individuals with ideas drive development. Aaron has built a community of developers around his ideas, and did that by evangelizing his vision. If he hadn’t stood up, how would the vision have been communicated? How would community have been built? No. KDE is full of great ideas that one person advanced, sometimes in the face of disagreement or dissention. Good ideas followed by good implementations win.

Aaron’s ideas have the potential of being disliked because they are different. The vision, especially at this stage, isn’t implemented completely, so is open to criticism. And the direction can be vulnerable, ie. with so little implemented, it takes a firm idea of what is to be to build the foundation.

Also, agree that some of the ideas are controversial. Depending on Webkit for example, which is a fork of a KDE project. The fact that some things won’t work properly for a while because of upstream bugs or misdesign. Others can have valid opinions on these things.

But it didn’t seem to come down to that. It seems that to do something new in free software you can either create a new project (easy) or try to turn a moving ship (hard). Aaron did the second successfully. And got burnt out in the process.

I don’t know the answer here.


Derek says:

Ugh. Reading it in a bigger window, it sounds negative. Maybe thats right though. Building new things is difficult work for many reasons, and we forget how difficult when we are using the finished product.


Fri13 says:

“this isn’t good. not for the project, not for the individual. we should discourage people from treating anyone this way. we should try and keep anyone from falling into this position again. we don’t want celebrities”

I feel that humans needs a celebrity, who they can think when they are talkin about project, or place them on the pedestal. Same thing happens in real world, president’s, famous sport players (even if team game in place), coders of big project etc etc.

It should always remember that community is the most important “person” who is needed to celebrite.

But it should never forget who has got something done, but same time, it should never continuesly promote someone from what s/he has done in past.

What can I say, the KDE project websites are lacking. I suppose at one point I just became tired of looking at the Dot like it is now, and then looking at a screenshot of a KDE4 desktop, and thinking to myself, “Man the desktop really looks awesome, why do the websites suck so much?”. Websites are great places for community, yet our websites really lack community features.

So in the future, it will definitely be easier to submit stories. There will be comment moderation. There will be a bevy of new things.

I will have a blog post soon with some new updates.

Stefano says:

Aaron had a vision about new desktop paradigms. He promoted it, discussed it, worked on it both in theory and in code. He exposed himself a lot during last year both on internet and in “real life” too. He did his job, and did (is doing) it well. Surely his name hit the news more that a lot of times.

Plasma has a big visual impact, and that’s where people judgements go, mainly. Visuals. Aaron – “main” father of Plasma – has been hit by criticism much more than other people because his name became well known.

But Aaron job has been good not only at coding, but _expecially_ in explaining his thought AND explaining the progress of the various works. One, externally, could follow things because there was a SURE reference point. I personally think that this has been very very important in the last few month for who, like me, followed svn almost daily.

The “bad” side in what Aaron did is that… he was alone. If more developers were communicating to the outside (non devel, non techs) like Aaron did, dubm criticism, personal attacks, FUDs and fakes would have been faced easier.

Conclusion? Beside “stories on the dot”, I think that a lot of people, those people willing to contribute for example with bug reporting or so, need to have developers to “interface” to.

Just my 2 cents, Chani.

Simon says:

KDE 3.x had a myriad of users; if you decide to reinvent a central part of the desktop, then by all means go ahead. Just don’t remove working (even if ‘old-fashioned’) solutions without having an adequate replacement.

That, plus the poor expectation management, caused a lot of head wind which you’ve got to work against.

Getting some exposure by making promising announcements attracts people who disagree and then go on and flame you (leaving aside whether the flames are justified or not). It’s not like it was hard to predict.

And in the end, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. If you decide to use KDE (with its huge user base) as your playground for more or less interesting desktop concepts, then don’t be surprised if people get upset about you breaking their desktop.

roger says:

First of all – you still have KDE3, nobody is taking it from you.

Secondly – this is Open Source, if you don’t like something – fix it, or complain about it, but be _polite_ doing this, becouse otherwise you are not helping.

When somebody gives you something for free you usually don’t complain about how it sucks, and how he is a jerk, becouse of not listening to your complains. Tell what’s wrong, but don’t be rude.

I just wanted to tell you plasma-guys, that I appreciate your work, it will be big in future. Folderview is great, desktop effects works in my old laptop(without acceleration), and overall direction is good.

Chani says:

“I feel that humans needs a celebrity”
I disagree. I think humans *want* one, but don’t *need* one. I see it as yet another counterproductive part of human nature, the tendency to idolize one person and either hate him or love him. people stop *thinking* when they do that. it can be useful to have a leader that can get people organized and doing stuff, but not when he’s elevated that high.

yeah… part of the problem here was that plasma is so very visible. some people seem convinced that plasma *is* kde :/

@roger: thanks. :)

Thomas Zander says:

Chani, I think this is a solution that will be great for the whole community. Thanks for blogging about this!

The post by Derek is very interresting in that it shows very well how distorted the view is people have about plasma and kde. Plasma is absolutely not a one man show. A lot of devs have had a lot of conversations that lead to the design of Plasma.
So the post from Derek just makes me even more sure that we need the dot to fulfill the purpose of informing the people about progress of projects they find interresting. Or, in other words, a developer like Aaron should not feel he has to write loads of blogs anymore just to keep the userbase “informed”.

Kitsune says:

More stories for the Dot would definitely be nice, IMO. Right now it seems like the Commit-Digest is the only recurring type of story, with most of the others being a release (alpha/beta/rc/final etc) announcement for various things.

Besides blog posts for articles, probably a lot of the developers for the various small and lesser known KDE applications could write a moderate length article about their application, maybe with a short introduction for them and the application, why the work on it, why it instead of [other program that does something similar], the various design decisions they’ve encountered, and their plans for the future. It might also be nice that if on the revamped Dot that the with the article submissions you’d be able to get more back and forth with an editor (or just someone thats good at writing that can give some pointers about any changes they think you should make). Right now it seems kinda like it’s mostly just sent straight to the front page with no chance for editing/clarification/etc (they could very well already do that, but the form just makes me (and probably others) think we gotta have it pretty much perfect before submitting). After all, not everyone is a master of English, even those of us that have it as a first language ;)

When I get my browser to a slightly-mature stage I should probably follow my own advice and write up an article for the Dot :p

James says:

Hello Chani,

I think you have put it right.

My observations are:

a) Any replacement should replace when its ready, not at the outset.
b) Hype was actively created, but not satisfied in reasonable time.
c) Poisonous people have entered the community.
d) Not being able to KDE4 puts stress on users even if KDE3.5 is still available, they feel a need to self-justify.
e) Explaining that “KDE 4.0 is not KDE 4” started way too late and reached far too little people.
f) Fighting in bugs over refusal to make yet-another-thing configurable shows symptoms of burnout. That should have been a no-brainer to accept the bug, even if it’s not fixed by that person.

Overall there is hope though. I think the blogs in particular highlighted the fact that KDE has received the best desktop icon implementation ever had, just not good for background images, yet.

It’s sad that with the real good news, hell broke loose, because that’s pretty silly. Hell should have broken out at 4.0.0 release if at all.


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