Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Some reflections related with the KDE 4.2 release

Please take this as a reflection. When you try to express delicate messages, feelings, the language barrier becomes bigger. I felt it was the time to say this, now that I feel the arrival is so close that I'm sure all the KDE crew feel the power of the big release, so hopefully people get the positive part of the message I want to point out.

I'm not a KDE developer but definitely a KDE user. I have KDE 3.5 on my everyday laptop and KDE 4.0 first and KDE 4.1 now on other machines I have around (my netbook, for example). I've been one of those that have been following the project in general and the tough decision made by the KDE crew a couple of years ago (and the previous discussions). I am not at first line obviously, but hey, that is also a cool stuff about free software community projects, you can watch and learn from the core people... I really respect what the KDE project does. There is no doubt about it.

I understood the decisions made then. I supported and got happy with it. I obviously am now. As a dev told me once, it's like life itself. Sometimes you reach a limit and it is a smart decision to stop, think and change instead of keep pushing on the same direction. This is an idea some other free software projects will follow after KDE success (we knew it from the very beginning ;) ).

Now that KDE 4.2 is here, many of you that have been working hard to make this happen have reasons to be proud of the job done and the risk taken. I am, and haven't done a single line of code. I've never imagined to get such an empathy with a few million lines of codes and the people that create it everyday.

The Linus case has made me decide to write about what I've seen around me the last few months. I've read many comments about it and the explanations given from many tech people in general and KDE people in particular. I want to add my personal experience.

I've seen some frustration around, related with KDE 4.0 and 4.1 lately. The regular free software user is one of those who likes to try what it comes in a magazine, in a distro. They wait for the next version like Christmas. In some sense, they (we) are like kids (love to play with toys). But most of them (that is part of our success), have no idea about how to deal with critical problems. I've been explaining to them so many times the past months that kde 4.0 and 4.1 were not an everyday OS...well, the regular arguments you already know... . But this installation...uninstallation process some people have gone through with previous versions has been unstopable (the people around me at least).

So I've failed. Why?

I don't know yet, but what I know now is that I cannot compete anymore against distros, magazines, that cool aura free software has these days, etc.. That is supposed to be one of our victories. This is not a "mouth to mouth" system anymore (I mean installations based on personal trust). My friends don't call me to try a linux distro. They don't need me for that anymore (thanks God). They just call me when they have critical problems. Since they know I'm a KDE fan, they have called me quiet frequently the past months.

KDE has built a reputation through the past years that have not finished drastically the past few months. Some of the lost credit will be soon recovered with today's release...but not all. We (I insist in including myself) will have to put an extra amount of energy for a longer time. Some people maybe won't want to try KDE 4.2. We should be prepare for that. Probably Linus won't. He has a new toy and it make sense to think he will give it a try for some time. That is a well known marketing law.

Once again, I totally assume and support the decision made to build a totally new system and I understand the decision taken about the KDE 4.0 release. I've been supporting it. But now that I have faced the consequence, my hope is that this kde 4.2 great release, all the happiness and the attention that the developers and the project itself deserve (and will have, I'm sure), will be followed by a general reflexion about how to deal in the future with decisions like this one. The KDE 4.0 release have shadows, do not have a single point of failure so it won't have a single solution. It also have shown many good points, of course. I just want to point out that despite all the coming success, experience tells me we were not totally right.

I hope that all the good energy we have around this (and future) release don't avoid the discussion to get to some conclusions future devs, deployers and user can learn from. If we do this, we probably will get even more credit in the long term than we will the following months. KDE 4.0 was necessary but has had consequences we must face and learn from.

Today is a good day. KDE 4.2 is out and I'm really happy since I've been waiting for it so bad ... Congratulations.
Post a Comment