February 23, 2019

.comment: Weaseling a Good Idea - page 3

A Non-Denial Denial

  • November 15, 2000
  • By Dennis E. Powell

One of the pleasanter aspects of dealing with KDE folks over the years is that they have all been genuinely nice guys. They really are. When I was starting out and had some weird configuration problem, I'd often get email with suggestions, not on a mailing list, from some heavy-duty KDE folk. And they'd stick with it until the problem was solved. They're still that way.

When leaders of competing desktops belittled KDE, the reaction was usually more hurt than anger. These KDE guys worked hard, did good work, gave it their all, and produced something to be proud of, very proud.

I fear that the KDE League might change that. The news release today announcing the League, it was proposed, should be distributed during a speech by Miguel de Icaza, leader of Gnome and one of the founders of Helixcode. This is not how KDE people have behaved. Nor is that half-assed denial from Kurt in early September. The KDE folks have always been gentle toward competitors and open with users, and the KDE League has already nuked those things.

It's true: as Open Source meets Bigtime Computing, there's bound to be some grating and grinding. It is sad that the first victims are decency and honesty, but perhaps they'll be recovered, as they can and should be.

In a broader sense, we may be seeing a forking, not of code but of community. The potty little dabblers who happen to crank out very good code for the sheer love of the art, and the people who used to be among them, now dazzled by--what? Money, sure, and there's nothing wrong with that; it's to be applauded. We all graduate sometime. The problem is that there is a risk of losing the very attributes that made the good people who write free code so attractive to the big outfits who run the human equivalent of anthills. I mean, have you ever been to IBM? Pretty impressive, pretty anonymous.

But the big guys have realized that their way of doing things doesn't work anymore. They look now toward the way that Linux has succeeded where they have failed. They want to be like us . We should not jump to be like them.

Nor need we. Yes, it's important for developers to pay attention when interest is shown by companies. And it's a good thing when those companies come forward in a spirit of cooperation. They are interested in learning how this phenomenon of Linux came to be what it is. And they have things to offer; Corel's participation made KDE2 better. There's other advice to which we should listen. We should in return be eager to show them a better way of developing software. (IBM used to have, maybe still does, a selection available of employee-written software--yes, it's reasonable to assume that all of IBM's software was written by employees, but this was different: nifty little applications written by IBM employees who just loved writing programs. The company knew that there was something to it, but it took Linux to tell them what that something was and is.)

The KDE League (and for that matter, the Gnome Foundation) is a manifestation of the interest in Linux shown by the computing establishment, which has offered money and people to aid worthwhile projects. We must not forget that they aren't here to change us; they're here to make it easier for the Linux community to do what it has always done.

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