I’ll add my voice to Corey’s apology to the OpenSUSE community. No doubt many OpenSUSE developers felt threatened by the recent commercial dealings between Novell and Microsoft, but Mark’s apparent cheap attempt to draw on that weakness in Ubuntu’s favour has made me pretty uncomfortable.
Three things bother me. First of all, any OpenSUSE contributors who were actually thinking of drawing closer to the Ubuntu community are now pretty likely to be alienated by Mark’s tactless post, which is a shame. There should not be a competitive edge between these two communities. Hopefully, the strength of the communities won’t lead to anything like that. Responses like this one give positive indications.
The second thing that bothers me is that Mark’s actions, as project leader for Ubuntu, are taken as representative of the Ubuntu community as a whole. THAT’S NOT THE CASE!! Mark is an incredible person, and anyone who has worked with him or even met him briefly will realise that his inspiration and enthusiasm is at the centre of Ubuntu’s success. But he’s human, and as such, makes (rare) errors of judgment; this was one (sorry Mark, I’m sure you know exactly what you were doing with that post, but it came across as slimey).
The third thing that bothers me is related to Mark’s announcement in his post that next week will be Ubuntu Open Week. This week may now be seen as something which was organised to poach openSUSE developers, rather than a great opportunity for those who are thinking of contributing to free software (especially those who maybe haven’t done that before) to find out how enriching it can be. Hey, I don’t know the reason the week was planned. However, I was asked to give a session about contributing to Ubuntu documentation, and I’m going to proceed on the basis that the week has nothing to do with poaching contributors, but rather is simply about people discovering a great community, and a great way to contribute to free software.
There was an excellent satirical response to Mark’s post on the Ubuntu developers list. Those who took offense didn’t read the disclaimer to the original poster’s email, which shows it was clearly simply intended to highlight the (in my view incontestable) inappropriateness of Mark’s email.
And yes, it’s true, Ubuntu has a company behind it with aspirations of making a profit. In fact, the relationship between Canonical and the community in developing Ubuntu in my view is something which has a number of question marks over it. I know Canonical has recently appointed a Communications Manager who I’d hoped would clarify this relationship, but so far, I’m not sure she has yet introduced herself to the community or outlined plans in this area.
Personally, I’ve always been fairly comfortable with Canonical’s role in Ubuntu, because I think they do a good job of taking decisions for the best interests of Ubuntu. However, just as Novell takes commercial decisions which affect distributions like openSUSE, so Canonical will do the same for Ubuntu. That’s perfectly healthy, and as it happens, pretty necessary if free software is to be well developed and marketed.