Monday, January 16, 2012

Should we go for another Desktop Summit?

During more than a year, back in 2008 - 2009, I invested a good amount of hours, along with many friends, local contributors and companies, KDE and GNOME members, local public administrations and universities, sponsors, etc. to make true an attractive and risky idea: co-hosting GUADEC and Akademy in Gran Canaria. Two years later, another great group of people did exactly the same to take that idea further, creating a better defined product, the Desktop Summit.

The last few months both communities are discussing about the results of that effort and the challenges we have ahead us. I would like to share my vision. I've found tons of arguments to support it. It is pretty clear to me. I've just written what I think are the most relevant ones.

  1. I've written in the past my concerns about keep laying most of the organization tasks on volunteers and pretending at the same time to celebrate a big and high quality event. That is simply impossible. Every time we get the best we can give. The question is if that enough to achieve our goals in the following years. Do we have other options? Our communities deserve and demand a well organized event. That takes a lot of resources and people. I have no doubt that sharing the organization tasks have made us more efficient.
  2. The Desktop Summit is far from perfect. But both, GUADEC and Akademy are not either. Promoting the idea that globally we loose more that we gain by joining efforts is not accurate.
  3. This joint conference is, by far, the biggest example of cooperation between two free software communities in history. It is an example, one more, of the idea that has bringing us here. Together we can do much more and much better. Supporting that this principle only works within our communities do not make sense to me. This is an universal principle.
  4. During the past two editions, there haven't been any single key issue that could not be solved in the future by representatives from both communities with effort and honest negotiation. We are walking through an unexplored field. We have done many mistakes and many more will come. This is a well known situation for both, GNOME and KDE. We know we can handle it if we have a clear common goal. We've done it in the past within our communities and we can do it during the next Desktop Summit too.
  5. KDE and GNOME boards have came to basic agreements that ensure a fair event for both communities in most basic aspects. Instead of concentrating our efforts on going 50-50 in every single detail, we should be putting our hands on multiplying the impact of our current efforts in every way.
  6. From the economic point of view, we have a better chance to succeed together than by our own. This might not be true in every Desktop Summit for both communities, but in the medium term I'm sure the Desktop Summit will be more profitable than the addition of both, Akademy and GUADEC.
  7. Our communities are mature. Both, KDE and GNOME have a well defined identity. We have a clear view of who we are and what we want. But most of the people out there don't know it. In fact, most of the people out there do not know we exist. We develop two great desktops but less than 2% of the market use it. Unless something dramatically change, we won't become relevant players in the next few years. We simply will face another "this will be the Free Desktop Year", once more. Our contributors, our developers, our users, deserve a different status quo. This event is, by far, the best opportunity we have to induce that change.
  8. In order to increase our impact, we need to reach a wider audience. Our current efforts should be complemented with media coverage. The Desktop Summit is the most attractive product we can offer them to help us.
  9. Having a joint conference do not put in risk our own branding. Fear is what is behind that idea. Fear makes us become conservative. Innovation, means exactly the opposite. Yes, the Desktop Summit is, somehow, about innovation.
  10. Being conservative with less than 2% of market share, having a good product like we both, GNOME and KDE have, is a huge failure in many aspects. Not trying seriously to change that situation is assuming we belong to our projects just for our own interest. The current situation is totally unfair, not just for our communities, but for every single user out there. Having a great product is not enough. We have to do our best for people to know it and, hopefully, use it. Nobody will do it for us.
  11. KDE and GNOME relation is not just about cooperation but about competition. Introducing this second aspect in a natural way during the Desktop Summit is good, very good. I would said that is even necessary. We just have to agree on the red lines. We can do it.
  12. GUADEC and Akademy have a different structure. The Desktop Summit cannot replicate both. The structure of an event must serve the defined goals by the organizers with the available resources. GUADEC/Akademy and the Desktop Summit do not have exactly the same goals. Once we understand this, the structure conflict becomes an affordable problem. I like to think that we want something new, something bigger and, in the medium term, much better than what we have now.
  13. The Desktop Summit takes a whole week. There is plenty of time for accomplishing GNOME and KDE self expectations and needs.
  14. Yes, becoming mainstream means assuming sacrifices. We have to face the challenge of keeping that cool sense of friendship and personal contact we have in GUADEC/Akademy. I think there are ways of doing it. To enforce this, I want to say that I support the idea of doing the Desktop Summit every two years, instead of every year. I understand we cannot have it all. We cannot satisfy everybody during the Desktop Summit...but neither during GUADEC/Akademy.
  15. Instead of dividing efforts, by celebrating the same year GUADEC/Akademy and the Desktop Summit (like some have proposed) I would increase the impact of the Desktop Summit by also hosting other desktops/distribution events like XFCE, OpenSUSE, Fedora, Linux Mint, Mageia, ODF, X.org.......Unity, Trinity (yes, why not?), etc. We have already taken the most difficult decisions.
  16. We are in the position of incubating a movement towards Freedom in the mobile world by inviting key communities and stakeholders to join us under the Desktop Summit umbrella. At least it is worth trying.

For all the above, and many more arguments, I do not agree with those who want to stop celebrating the Desktop Summit, but I do not agree either with those who want to basically keep the Desktop Summit as a KDE and GNOME joint event. I'm one of those who think that we should move further, leading others with our same principles to share our effort and rewards.

What we did in Gran Canaria and Berlin is not the Desktop Summit we deserve, the one I want. I see them as steps in the right direction. Let's take the next one.
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