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People person, technology enthusiast and all-things-open evangelist. I have managed and marketed communities for over a decade, getting started in the KDE community, followed by working as openSUSE Community Manager at SUSE and now managing community matters at ownCloud. I'm busy growing the ownCloud community, speaking at and organizing conferences and writing about my passions ranging from psychology and people in communities to innovative technology. I take care of my dog together with my wife in beautiful Berlin and you can find me also on Twitter and Diaspora!

23 March, 2011

The Collaboration Imperative

As you might have noticed, there is a little bit of a brush-up between GNOME and Canonical with KDE involved from the sidelines (just read Planet GNOME). Dave wrote a reasonable summary of this and so did Jeff Waugh in his series on the relationship between Canonical and GNOME. In three sentences:

Let's have a fight
Canonical gets a lot of criticism for creating a fork of the GNOME experience with Unity, instead of contributing upstream to GNOME Shell. Canonical responds that Unity was meant to be a GNOME project and their contributions are being blocked (giving libindicators as example). Suddenly Aaron Seigo from KDE weighted in, saying GNOME is indeed hard to work with.

I've been reading up on it and to some extend participating in the discussion on As you know, I'm interested in the subject of collaboration and this is a case where it clearly didn't work out for a variety of reasons. In this blog I won't try to weight in on the topic itself but rather argue that the psychological construct of "the fundamental attribution error" can explain much of the conflict and how to avoid it.

But let's start with a sample of the discussion.

forming an opinion

I'm not exactly the type of person who makes up his mind easily. And the stories that came out of this debate were highly conflicting and confusing. According to this, Canonical discourages its employees from contributing upstream. However, Aaron claims GNOME does not WANT to collaborate. And Mark blogs:

Jeff also goes on to talk about Ted and Aurelien, who were proposing the app indicators work in GNOME and KDE respectively. KDE apps worked smoothly, Gnome rejected Ted’s proposal.
I Can't Afford an Actual Sign
I say opinions are cool!

So GNOME is uncooperative? Or does Canonical not get it, as Dave claimed? Is KDE just pushing things without listening? Depends on your point of view - the facts are vague. Read for example this thread on about the StatusNotifier (systray) spec - there is about a 50% chance you'll decide KDE is the uncooperative one... This thread was referenced several times as proof Party X was inflexible and rude - where X was sometimes GNOME and sometimes KDE!

Makes you wonder what is going on...

So what is real?

A few days ago I had a call with Jeff Waugh. He offered to talk in a dent and I'm glad he did. Of course, as usual the whole situation is more complicated than what you can discuss in 140 characters on twitter. The talk was very enlightening and made me think of a psychological concept.

One big family
Call it a family trait...

The fundamental attribution error

People tend to attribute what happens around us in the world to intentions. We believe things happen for a reason. This is quite a strong human tendency already present in very young children. Put a 3 year old in front of a room where stones are moved around by some invisible means like magnets. Ask the kid what is going on and he or she will describe the events in the room in terms of "the blue stone wants to talk to the red one". We know stones usually don't really want a lot - so why does the child perceive such intentions? This phenomenon not only forms the base of early religions (attributing 'intentions' to weather, trees or growth of crops) but also results in making conflicts worse. Psychologists call it "the fundamental attribution error" and it is fundamental (hence the name) to our perception of the world.

So the reality is, besides that stones and trees don't have 'goals' and 'intentions', that often things happen for other reasons than someone having the intent to do that specific thing. Or in English, if a specification gets critical comments - maybe the respondent might have had other reasons than just wanting to be a jerk. Like being busy, tired or having misunderstood/missed a part of the discussion.

The Awful Truth, Day 4:  Could Be Working Harder

Reality applied

The talk with Jeff made clear that the major reason for GNOME not supporting the systemtray spec was timing, not lack of interest The focus of the GNOME project right now is understandably narrow: get GNOME 3 out the door. Something like interoperability, no matter how important, is not on top of the agenda. Jeff said he expects the FD.o systray spec to be supported hopefully in GNOME 3.2! The lesson: sometimes things interfere with cooperation. And the 'other camp', blissfully unaware of the real reasons behind lack of response or rude behavior, attributes it to a lack of willingness and support.

As another example, take the adoption of the Galago (notification) specification and what went wrong according to this message by John Palmieri. And about GNOME and Canonical having misunderstandings: Stuart Jarvis blogged how hard understanding a Free Software community can be.

Now I'm not going to attempt to unravel all the events that led to this blog as that would simply be impossible. Nor will I attempt to figure out 'who is to blame' as that's pointless (and wrong anyway, as I argued above). What I can do is ask those involved to think about the fundamental attribution error: if someone looks funny at you, it doesn't mean they hate you. They might have something stuck in their eye!

Entropy ≥ Memory . Creativity ²


Ok, so maybe the others don't hate you. That doesn't solve the problem - yet. We all need to step up and do something. What?

Make collaboration an explicit focus

I wrote about collaboration before and at FOSDEM there was a cross-distro-collaboration discussion. As I said there, a big blocker for more openness is that we simply don't think about collaboration. We need to be aware of the opportunities for and benefits of collaboration. The whole discussion that I started this blog with might be negative and things are all a bit tense right now, but it shines the spotlight on something that needs attention! And positive initiatives like Appstream are happening. As Seif Lotfy wrote on his blog:

And if you haven’t noticed we are working with GNOME Shell, Unity and KDE. So a sense of collaboration is possible ;)

It just needs us to take notice! So, Mark, maybe blog about Appstream? It's using Ubuntu Software Center for the GNOME side, after all... Let's also focus on the positive projects!

Talk together face to face!

It is important to talk about concerns and frustrations. Considering the distance Brazil-Australia the best Jeff and I could do was a phone call but it was certainly enlightening. And I bet that you'll notice the same when you finally get to talk to those you've been fighting with on IRC and mailing lists for so long... Even then, realize that one single person does not define his or her whole project. Not everyone in KDE is as jumpy as Aaron; not everyone in GNOME is as French as Vincent Untz. It is important to share the results of a chat as well - blog about it (if your blog is aggregated on your projects' planet), or add results to a wiki or commit logs etcetera. Make sure the positive results persist!

Allison wrote he also wants to start a bit of a discussion in the cross-desktop area which I welcome and support. Sounds like something which could make an impact and Allison, if you want my help, let me know what I can do.

Let The Wookie Hug
Time for a group hug?

Take advantage of events to meet

Don't overlook the opportunity to meet at events. For example, there is the Linux Foundation's Collaboration Summit in San Fransisco in a few weeks. It is co-located with Camp KDE which seems to me an excellent opportunity for stakeholders to get together. Go a few days before the Collaboration Summit starts so you can get some face to face time with desktop folks.

Then of course in August, there is the Desktop Summit. I'm one of the organizers and while collaboration isn't always perfect, the team has a common goal: organize a great event! Like the previous Desktop Summit in Gran Canaria I hope we can make some steps forward. This Desktop Summit will have collaboration even higher on its agenda than the last one and I hope this will have positive effects.

Doing more, moving forward

There certainly is more we can do to solve the conflicts. With apologies for the irony here, more blogs trying to analyze the whole thing may simply be fueling the flames more than extinguish them. Talking to people works better. I don't claim there was no talk, there was. However, much communication we do happens over the web. And as we are all aware, that can easily lead to misunderstandings. So the face to face meetings I suggest, as well as an awareness of biases like the fundamental attribution error, can contribute to solving these conflicts in a more effective manner. As long as the results get documented in a few (public!) places and as such don't get forgotten the results of such meetings can be good and long lasting!

Welcome social event
Gran Canaria Desktop Summit

Personally, I'll stay away from the subject now - I've dented, tweeted and now blogged enough about it. I'll focus on the positive - including the Desktop Summit. And making sure the next openSUSE conference will have as much of a collaborative atmosphere as the last one!

15 March, 2011

HCC linux Day and the NL release party

HCC Linux Day in May

Yes, as I blogged before, Saturday May 21 there will be a HCC Linux day (news updates here). And openSUSE will be there. Soon you'll find the HCC Linux day page on the openSUSE Ambassador events page! If you're interested in helping out, just let me know. No, you don't need any special skills or a lot of knowledge - you'd be surprised how little the average visitor knows of linux and openSUSE. And if they have harder questions, you can ask one of the other team members - so you'll learn something too ;-)

openSUSE release party in NL

18 March 2011, from 17:00 onwards in the Novell office in Utrecht an openSUSE release party will be held! Of course, everyone is welcome. What do you need: be there. What do you get: fun, pizza, some beers, an openSUSE presentation/demo, some big surprise and of course party.

So if you are in NL at either of these dates, you know what to do!


Today I did a makeover of my blog. Thought - hey, I can fix the bad looks in 10 minutes, right? Guess again ;-)

But it is done. I am an absolutely horrible artist but I could draw on the awesome work of Marcos "SUSEspain" B.R. (isn't CC licensing wonderful?) and of course the blogger team. Next up: a proper domain name...

Oh, I butchered Marcos' wallpaper as the original didn't fit my blog & was too sharp. So - what you see is a horrible version of his original work which you can find (together with his other stuff) if you click on it below!

Marcos, if you read this, awesome wallpapers dude!

edit: and I forgot to add these but didn't want to let you all miss out on it: on the right pics of an LA airport makeover. They have a sense of humor over there...

Be proud of yourself, Geekos!

Right now I'm enjoying the post-release stress. Going back and catching up with what was delayed due to the release being priority and all... And enjoying huge discussions on like this one ;-)

Me proud of the Geeko!

The article which went out on Friday made me very proud - openSUSE 11.4 made a splash. The title is really correct - we're gathering info on reviews etc on this page but it is extremely incomplete - there are so many reviews, articles, tweets, dents, facebook comments, video's on youtube - it is really great! And well over 100.000 downloads in 24 hours, almost twice what we did for 11.3 - awesome. openSUSE has its momentum back, that's clear. We already wrote that in this "end of 2010" article, and the subsequent Bretzn and Appstore sprints, the marketing sprint and all the cool stuff that is going on makes me quite certain about this: the openSUSE conference 2010 was a real turning point for openSUSE. The Geeko's back in the game!

Did we leave?

The question that might come up is - did the Geeko ever leave? I had a look at some statistics on our user base. openSUSE has 7-8 million users, that's significant! And, interestingly enough, between 30-50% more than Fedora. Ubuntu has no statistics online but once made some noise about numbers - talking somewhere between 6 and 8.

So be a proud Geeko!

Now all these numbers have some uncertainty associated with them, nothing is sure. Yet the numbers of Fedora and openSUSE at least are measured in the same way, so likely you can at least compare them roughly. And I bet Ubuntu has similar statisics on which they based their number - with the usual exaggeration. So even though the numbers aren't entirely clear, it is interesting to see openSUSE ain't exactly insignificant as many seem to believe... Not only do we have amazing technology like OBS and Studio but we also have a HUGE user base whom we serve with a pretty awesome distro! So, Geeko's, in the communication and marketing department - maybe openSUSE is not well known for that. But we're a leading distro when it comes to what matters - users and technology. Be proud!

10 March, 2011

YESSS, it is out!!!

Friends! It is out!. That means that after 8 months of hard work, you can finally...Or, if you're tired of all the work on openSUSE 11.4 - sit back, relax and watch the news flow on twitter,, Facebook and all those other social media outlets. And be sure to join in the chatter! Our hashtag is #opensuse as usual and help in getting the word out is appreciated!

Get 11.4

Play with Plasma Desktop and Netbook 4.6.1, GNOME 3 SHell preview, XFCDE 4.8 (which is a very good release, btw, working on an article about it) and for those with older hardware the cool LXDE.

I was enjoying some of the goodies already - running the KDE apps 4.6 on my laptop (Kate is awesome and I love the better performance+stability of Plasma&Kwin) and GNOME Shell at home. But now the whole thing, awesomeness :D

Congratulations and mucho huggggz to everyone involved in 11.4!!! I know it is awesome and as soon as I really feel awake and can get my eyes of IRC and twitter for a minute I'll upgrade ;-)

11.4 - almost there

Warning: huge blog ahead. To butcher Mark Twain:
I didn't have time to write a short blog, so I wrote a long one instead.

Excitement. Lack of sleep. More excitement. Many things not finished. Yep, a major release. Despite a crashing laptop (every 30 min it hangs, I'm afraid it is the heath) I'm having fun preparing for the biggest event since I joined the openSUSE community: the release of openSUSE 11.4!

The marketing team had a meeting 2 weeks ago to prepare for 11.4. But we weren't the only ones working hard. And this week, our release dude, Coolo, got sick and AJ had to replace him. Well, the GoldMaster was in time, so AJ, great work. And Coolo: if a doctor tells you to stop working it probably makes sense to listen.

New features

11.4 will be exciting. I mean really, really exciting! There is a huge number of new features and improvements. I just finished an 11.4 feature overview presentation. It's not perfectly complete (how could it be with so much new stuff?) but a good start if you want to have a launch party. Speaking of, if you're Dutch, there will be a Launch Party in NL!

Anyone who wants to visit or organize a launch party, there is still time. Go to the Launch Party Wiki Page and see if there is something close by. If not, organize it! Seriously, it's not hard: just put a page up there, point to a cafe where you can get beer & coke and you're already pretty far. Sure, you can do fancy presentations in a conference room, but isn't beer what brings people together? And isn't a party nothing without a well-equipped bar?

Posters - but where is the source?

By the way, there is a bunch of awesome-looking Launch Party Posters on the Launch Party Wiki Page, where are the sources? I bet you can ask in the #opensuse-marketing channel on Freenode for them but having them up there is easier, ladies and gents!

I want the sources because I'd love to have a release party here, in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Anyone else close by? Any suggestions for a decent pub? Please mail me at my first name on! KDE and GNOME, XFCE & LXDE fans - you're all welcome, we're YOUR best distribution after all!

Shout out

As I said, I'm pretty tired, so I surely will skip people in this list but I just HAVE to thank some people for what they did:
First of all the whole marketing team for their work on the amazing Product Highlights (I keep calling it feature guide, hehe). I shout out to Bruno, Tony and James for their technical knowledge, Izabel for her TIRELESS work in adding all the relevant information and Helen for helping to clean things up and write proper text. Sascha, Holger, Christian, Carlos, Frank, Greg, Chuck, Andres, Andreas, Bryen, Kostas, Dominique, Guido and all others - thank you too, every line of text helped tremendously!!! If you helped out and weren't credited, add your name to the list at the bottom of the Product Highlights. You deserve it, don't be shy! Those not on the marketing team, you'll see the end results when the announcement is live ;-)
Chuck, I have to mention you especially. Your mail on social media made my day. I was worried nothing was being organized - and I didn't have time. You took it on yourself and made a difference. Love you.
rtyler, you're another hero. Your writing for in the last 10 days has been awesome. I know it was exhausting - yet you still helped out reviewing and writing. AWESOME! Oh, and add your name to the list on the Product Highlights!
Manu, manu, manu. You've been all over again. Despite busy with school and other obligations, you worked until deep in the night. Feature guide, website, social media, everywhere. You deserve a thousand hugs!
The work our Tiger Bruno has been doing, working with Chuck, Carlos and Javier - invaluable. Thanks to you guys we'll have an amazing openSUSE 11.4 poster shipped with the next Linux Magazine!!! And Bruno, give a hug to your girlfriend for organizing our Virtual Launch Party on Second Life!!!
And just now Rajko and Sebiastian: when I asked an hour ago (almost desperate) for people to help fill the screenshot section on the wiki, you jumped up and started to work. IRC lit up like a lightbulb: "I'm editing, wait a sec..." "where are those GNOME shots?" and in mere minutes - AWESOMENESS! Thanks a lot, you made my night :D

A full round of hugs and Doritos (sorry sshaw)!

05 March, 2011

flash 10.2

Anyone who has updated to the latest Adobe Flash, you can fix video's (which are now pink on sites like Youtube) like this:

Step 1. Right click on a flash content (I went to this flash site http://moodstream.gettyimages.... and simply right clicked on the page)
Step 2. Choose the entry "Settings..."
Step 3. Unclick entry "Enable hardware acceleration"
Step 4. Click "Close"

And done :D

Enjoy non-pink video's again!

why oh why

The issue is probably caused by the crappy video driver situation on Linux... Or just crappy engineering on Adobe's side, something we've gotten used to by now, haven't we?

Let's hope HTML5 will help us get rid of Flash once and for all. And let's hope we've learned our lesson and don't jump from one hole into another by adopting a non-open codec like x264 instead of WebM or Ogg or something else really open. Yes, of course open includes being royalty-free - how can you call anything 'open' or 'a standard' if there are limits on who can implement it?

Aaah well, live ain't perfect. So relax, enjoy your weekend and if you live in Brazil - Carnaval on Monday and Tuesday!

04 March, 2011

criticism towards GNOME Shell

Reading all the controversy around the decision by the GNOME Shell designers to remove the minimize and maximize buttons from GNOME shell reminds me quite a bit of the discussions around Plasma. Especially for stuff like the brilliant yet controversial Folderview widget.


It also makes me wonder if those complaining have ever tried GNOME Shell... As is adequately explained in this rationale, minimizing simply has no place in the concepts behind GNOME Shell. Period. And if you've tried GNOME Shell you would realize that.
GNOME Shell in openSUSE 11.4
Yes, Shell takes getting used to, it does enforce certain habits. If you want to customize your environment for maximum 'getting-work-done' then maybe GNOME Shell is (currently) not for you. But that's the crowd KDE has always appeased to anyway. There is after all a trade-off between efficiency and ease of use (or rather, discoverability) - it is why most seasoned sysadmins use a command line.


But the power of GNOME Shell lies somewhere else. Put a newbie in front of it. Observe - in 5 minutes they've figured out how to use it, really. It is very simple and intuitive. I find that very impressive. Especially on a touch screen, it all makes a lot of sense. And it also works on very small screens. And yes, you'll see, the minimize button DOES NOT make sense in GNOME Shell. Really.

If you want to criticize GNOME Shell, talk about technology. I would've advocated to not build a new tech platform but build Shell on something like Plasma which is designed to make interfaces like GNOME Shell, or do like Ubuntu did with Unity 2D). But I kind'a get why they didn't, it's software 'from the other camp'. A more harmful thing is that they didn't get involved with the fd.o systray/notification rework done by KDE and Ubuntu, I see it as a big miss for GNOME Shell, and I'll consider it narrow-minded until I see or hear a good rationale somewhere ;-)

Plasma 4.6 and KDE Apps in openSUSE 11.4
But don't balk at the design until you've tried it with your grandmother... And in the end, Shell is innovative and new and will need maturing. I always have a soft spot for innovative and new things, it's why I like Plasma despite the issues it still has. So I do look forward to the final release of GNOME 3 and I'm happy that we (openSUSE/Novell) decided to press GNOME 3/Shell LiveDVDs as soon as the release of GNOME 3 is out. Yes, we'll also make KDE ones, 4.6 on openSUSE 11.4 really rocks and deserves it ;-)

03 March, 2011

openSUSE Marketing Meeting in Los Angeles

Finally, after well over a week of telling myself I should blog I have found some time. Sleep is overrated and I can't actually get any while flying anyway so let me tell you why I had to blog.

Marketing Meeting and SCALE

Last week the openSUSE Marketing team had their first dedicated marketing meeting in Los Angeles. This was followed by the whole bunch attending SCALE. SCALE is probably the most prominent Free Software conference in the USA and we made a big splash there so that was really cool!

At the meeting we had lots of fun of course. We had an incredible team from all over the world - Australia (Helen), Greece (Kostas), Swiss (Bruno), Brazil (Izabel and Carlos), USA (Chuck, Tony and Bryen) and myself (a Dutchie). Stephen and Tyler (from OMGSUSE fame) joined us for SCALE. And I should mention that Alan Clark was there as well for the full week. Unfortunately, some we hoped would be there could not make it - including James, who was ill, and Manu Gupta from India who had Exams interfere with his trip. Luckily both of them as well as others joined us via IRC.
Hard at work at oS Marketing Meeting LA


So what has the team been up to? First of all, getting to know each other. Most of us never ever met in real life. And we've got a great team, really cool! During the week we worked, initially quite organized (we set up an agenda, split in teams and worked on the tasks) later on in a more 'organic' fashion with constantly changing teams and tasks. We did a variety of things - work on marketing materials, preparation of the 11.4 release, GSOC (thanks, Izabel & Kostas), a bit for the openSUSE Conference and some writing. And as usual we didn't get 10% done of what we wanted to do - yet I'm very happy with the results. For our 11.4 release we'll have a lovely Feature Guide, showing our users what's new in this release. Based on the Feature guide you can expect some articles to be released before and after the release, as well as other marketing materials. We've prepared a bunch of presentations on a variety of subjects (Tony, thanks for your work on Tumbleweed!) and improved some wiki pages with information for our ambassadors (Kostas!!!!). And a series of posters was made - a really *awesome* series of posters! Clearly, putting Carlos & Helen in one room leads to some cool stuff!
Having fun at oS Marketing Meeting LA
And we learned a lot from each other - especially Bruno and Tony who were the more technical among us were answering questions a lot of the time. During the evenings - well, we usually kept working, but we also had a few beers and cigarettes outside the conference room. Usually people stayed around until 2-3, I usually went to bed early 'cuz I had to open it up which I did around 8. Food we got from a supermarket (Novell paid) so we always had fresh sandwiches with lots of stuff to put on them. That was really good - the first day we had lunch at Denny's but nobody really liked that much so the other three days we just made our own food...
Having food at oS Marketing Meeting LA
Friday we enjoyed a day off - at least, most of the day. A bunch of us went 'tourist' and saw the Hollywood sign, the famous stars and of course LA traffic, traffic and traffic...
Being tourists at oS Marketing Meeting LA

And now...

Now I have some more pics to upload and some people to kick about the reports they have to write. And I have to thank Bryen again and again for the organization of this meeting, as well as Novell for paying for it! SCALE deserves a blog of its own, which I'll do tomorrow or Saturday.

02 March, 2011

LibreOffice and openSUSE 11.4

Happy to see LibreOffice going strong... This article analyzes the contributions to LibreOffice. Some impressive numbers - 133 new contributors already!!! Even Canonical has send in a patch to fix something... Meanwhile Michael Meeks' team (Novell) is leading the 'corporate contributors' pack. And yes, openSUSE will be the first major linux distribution to ship LibreOffice - and it'll be good, thanks to that involvement in LibreOffice development.

Sean Michael Kerner mentions this fact and our upcoming release in his blog on where he also quotes our AJ on several infrastructural improvements. We do need to educate him and explain openSUSE isn't exclusively a Novell product - with so many volunteers involved and the work going on to set up a Foundation you simply can't claim that anymore... We're leading the pack in that area as well and we need to be vocal about that!

PS will blog on the Marketing Meeting we had last week soonish, need to catch up to some urgent things first... Especially sleep!