i'm back home now and while i miss venezuela and the new friends i made while there, i am happy to have access to a low-latency, high-bandwidth internet connection again. i really didn't keep up with email or online news much due to the availability (and lack thereof) of internet to me this last week. it did let me concentrate on what was going on around me last week, though, and i'll be blogging about the event a bit later today.
while i was away a little flame war erupted in the blogosphere between people who like kde and other people who like gnome. when i first read some of the more stupid entries this past week i just shook my head. sadly this is not particularly new since we've seen this for years. fortunately it's not nearly as common an occurrence, and to keep it that way we need to nip it in the bud.
all projects, software or not, have strengths and weaknesses. everything can be improved. i often hear reasonable criticisms and concerns about kde; this is inevitable since i speak with a fair number of people. i also hear unreasonable criticisms and concerns. i try and listen to the reasonable ones and ask questions to understand more about them. i try and correct those that aren't so reasonable with direct and clear explanation. usually that's all it takes.
from time to time i will also reflect upon other projects that aren't kde, usually directly to those involved in those projects, and offer my thoughts on their strengths and challenges. it is often received with reasonable reply, though sometimes not. but this sort of constructive and honest back-and-forth reflection between people in the open source world is an important dialogue that must be supported.
sadly it's not always a constructive conversation. for instance, every so often someone will come up and apologize to me for using gnome before starting to talk to me, as if it would offend or annoy me that they wouldn't use kde. my stock answer is: "don't apologize for using gnome. if you were using proprietary software then you can apologize. but i'd much rather hear you are using gnome than a non-free operating system like windows. you have nothing to apologize for." and then we get on with the conversation. we need to let each other know that our own decisions are not reason for derision or alienation. and then we need to actually listen to each other when we speak from these different places. all of our software has a bright future if we let it; we are not engaged in a zero sum game of scarcity here and we should act accordingly.
unfortunately some people haven't realized this and sometimes the conversation is downright nasty and dishonest, which is what happened last week. in response to a blog that was positive about kde, some blogs written in response masqueraded as pro-gnome but were really anti-kde. this is unacceptable behaviour for membership in the open source community. responding to positivity with negativity (regardless of who it is pointed at) is hurtful, divisive and does not lead to anything except wasted energy and a loss in cohesiveness. i didn't keep up with the conversation after that, in part due to my internet connection last week but mostly because i couldn't be bothered to waste time on it; sadly i keep seeing headlines that suggest the conversation continues.
knowing the difference between constructive criticism and community damaging negative campaigning is not obvious for everyone, it seems. the community must therefore help guide each other, and i applaud those who have attempted to do so. this doesn't mean responding to the negativity with more argument to show them why they're wrong; it means exiting the conversation completely while condemning the behaviour.
the validity of the negative blog posts about one free software desktop project or another is at this point not interesting to me. what is interesting to me is that those who wrote them get this message really, really clear: that sort of interaction is not welcome on my screen, in my community (we each share the ownership of that community) and in my life. that sort of citizenship is reprehensible and shameful. give me constructive thoughts, even if they challenge my beliefs, to work with; deliver then in a thoughtful manner with honesty; but don't waste our lives with the sort of dreck that made it onto the internet this last week. find something else to do with your time.