KDE 4, distributors, and bleeding-edge software
Posted Feb 1, 2009 22:36 UTC (Sun) by malor
In reply to: KDE 4, distributors, and bleeding-edge software
Parent article: KDE 4, distributors, and bleeding-edge software
As soon as you start valuing 'the project' above 'the users of the project', then your development process has gone off the rails.
but didn't want to let all of KDE wait and suffer because it wasn't finished yet.
KDE is code. It can't suffer. Only your user community can experience pain. You inflicted a great deal of it on them, to benefit some abstract code. From other comments here, it sounds like your users got shut out of bugfixes and maintenance on 3.5 while you guys focused on 4.0. (I switched away when 4.0 shipped, so I haven't been watching that at all.) If that's true, you not only didn't provide a replacement, but also stopped improving the old stuff as well. Your focus shifted so completely to the project that you abandoned the actual users OF the project -- presumably, the original reason you started developing KDE at all.
So we did hurt a portion of that 1% to be able to get to the point where we could aim for the other 99%.
That is true, but it strikes me as shortsighted. You're punishing the people who trusted you, to go after the people who haven't. Your existing user base is your best advertising tool; their evangelism matters. When you screw them, you get people pissed off -- some of whom are annoyed enough to post screeds to LWN.
And if you're willing to screw that 1%, and it works, will you be willing to screw your 5% six or seven years from now? Why would people adopt your desktop when you're focused on your project, and don't care about their benefit?
I think you might want to collectively ask yourselves, "Why are we doing this project at all?" If that answer, and your ultimate focus, isn't on making the lives of your users better, every day, then you're probably in the wrong area for development. Users and developers would be well-served by avoiding dependency on your desktop and libraries.
You're going up against an entrenched monolith, whose user-abusing mistakes are legion. But they can get away with it, because they're a monopoly. It's those user abuses that, in many ways, prompted the entire Free Software movement. But you're not a monopoly. If you abuse users for the benefit of your project, you ultimately harm it more than you help it. You and GNOME both are tiny players, goldfish among sharks. If you're not obsessively focused on user benefit, then the other teams who ARE will take them away from you.
I'm sure you want your project to move faster, but no matter how good your program is, people won't take it up based on technical merit alone. Just look at Sony's decisions with Beta -- chasing off users they didn't like, porn-mongers, ended up being a huge blow to the format, eventually driving it off the market. If you continue doing this sort of thing, you'll end up with the best desktop that nobody uses.
Growth rates are always off how many users you have already. If you double your annual growth rate from 12.5% to 25% by abusive development practices, but cut your community in half in so doing, it'll take three years just to get back to where you started, and it'll take seven years to get back to parity with where your project would have been at the 12.5% growth rate.
The real numbers won't be that large, but carefully, carefully consider anything that makes a user switch away. Each and every one is a seed that can grow into more users -- and, if you get lucky, more developers.
Failing to water seeds you already have because you want to hike to what looks a bigger field on yonder mesa is a good way to starve.
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