I try to keep this site ‘pure’ in terms of what I speak up about. This is not just another ‘Linux News Site’ and I don’t want it to be. But I want to bring up this debate in the context of app development. The debate has raged online for several days (good starting point here and the coup de grace here) and seems to have died down. As usual, my post is somewhat late.

Interestingly, the condensed version is at this post on Ostatic which was intended to just be a list of a couple interesting odds and ends, but put two of them together and you have a story.

Gartner: Vendors to control leading open source projects. It suggests that by 2012, 50 percent of commercial revenue attributed to open source will come from projects under a vendor’s patronage.

Should KDE be default on openSUSE? SUSE Linux used to be a very KDE-centric distribution–then Novell made it GNOME-centric.

Do you see it? A lot of the whining on this topic has to do with openSUSE and whether Novell would stand to let it switch gears to KDE since basically Novell’s commercial efforts are GNOME. The complaints swirl around whether openSUSE is really community driven if Novell could just pull the plug on a feature a lot of people vote for. Take a look at that first quote- vendor patronage. Think Leonardo Da Vinci. He worked for people. He had patrons that provided for him so he could let his creativity soar. But they had him do things- he wasn’t just idling around doing whatever he pleased. The Mona Lisa? Patronage. Yet the person who paid for it is only a footnote. Everyone remembers the painter. The Linux community needs commercial patrons. Yes, it could probably do without, but much more slowly. When all is said and done, the patrons (hopefully) will make some money and years from now the “painters” will have all the credit.

Novell gets a bad rap from the Linux community. I understand some of the reasons (although I use the term ‘reasons’ very loosely here), but let me bring your eyes to one thing in the aforementioned post:

openSUSE has one the largest pools of upstream developers for both GNOME and KDE

And also take a look here. Novell employs several KDE people. Even though KDE is not where their commercial interests lie. I’m not sure where it comes from but in English we have a saying about someone biting the hand of the one feeding him. The meaning behind it is that such a move is silly- you have everything to gain by not biting the provider. What kind of lesson are you teaching patrons and potential patrons if you stand up to them? If KDE won this fight, even if it makes enough noise, they will lose because those sources of support will look elsewhere. Nobody wants to be “bought”, and I’m not telling any community to roll over for whatever they’re asked to do, but there is a certain amount of humility that is needed when you’re hoping for a businesses to hand over cash. Cash that you need to win with your apps.

Let me close by saying that amidst the calls to “force” Novell do this with the now-open-to-the-public feature tracking system and that openSUSE should be forked over this, I haven’t seen mention of the obvious thing the KDE community can do: Suse Studio, which I regard as a huge step forward in the Linux evolution, and is ironically also from Novell. If there’s such concern about being the default, the KDE community can make KDE Pureplay image in Suse Studio and post links to it everywhere. They can have KDE as the default and not even include GNOME in that download. The thing is, that’s not really what motivated this fight- they want top billing over GNOME. I understand why, but to elevate one party in a list, by definition you are demoting those around it. Top billing won’t make KDE win. Getting end-users to see screenshots and screencasts of KDE and rush to install KDE will. In this argument, everyone seems to have forgotten what community-driven means. Sure, voting in openSUSE’s feature request system, openFATE, is a kind of community. But the real power of a community is to get so many people using it that it would be silly not to move in that direction.