This announcement will be made by Jeff Waugh, who has also promoted the event on the GNOME mailing lists with this request:
This, in turn, has raised some eyebrows within the GNOME community. It has been pointed out that the GNOME Foundation charter reads like this:
This principle has real, concrete meaning for the foundation: All discussions must be publicly viewable, any person must have the opportunity to contribute to the decision-making process, and every GNOME contributor must have the direct ability to influence the decisions which are made.
How, it was asked, do secret plans for a high-profile announcement of a major new direction for the project fit with those words from the charter? Where is the "publicly viewable" discussion which led up to these plans? How has it been possible for any person within the community to contribute to the process which led to this decision? Some developers see this sort of secrecy as being inconsistent with the open ideals of the GNOME project, and they have been asking why things are being done this way.
Jeff has explained the reasons behind this move:
Your editor is not privy to the substance of this announcement - though, as it happens, he will be present when the announcement is made, so stay tuned. Members of the GNOME community have been talking about taking advantage of opportunities in the embedded area for some time now, though. The venue the project has chosen (the Embedded Linux Conference) and the discussion of "mobility" give some strong hints as well. So it may well be that the core of this announcement will not come as a great surprise to active members of the GNOME project.
More to the point, there are limits to how much a group like the GNOME board can change the direction of such a big project. The project's direction will be determined (and demonstrated) by the code, documentation, artwork, and so on which gets created and contributed; there is little else that matters. Perhaps the board can arrange partnerships with companies which may result in the creation of certain kinds of code; as long as that code is developed in a community-friendly manner and does not bypass the normal review process, there is little to complain about.
Still, it's hard to avoid just a touch of discomfort with the sight of free software projects behaving like corporations. Hype-building, press releases, and flashy announcements may succeed in attracting the attention of the press, but they are not the best way for these projects to communicate with their users. We all benefit from the transparency that the free software process provides; free software users are generally happy to avoid the sorts of surprises that come with proprietary code. We do not need to be - and don't want to be - herded by way of carefully planned press events.
That does not appear to be what's going on here; instead, the GNOME board has simply chosen a relevant conference to announce projects that some GNOME developers have been working on for some time. Perhaps some companies will announce that they intend to use and support this work. It may well be true that the board's tactics will lead to wider coverage of what's going on, with a presumably positive effect on the GNOME user and developer communities. As long as the GNOME developer community is not surprised by what comes out, all should be well. But projects which want to take this approach in the future should always think carefully whether their attempts to catch the flighty attention of the press may leave their core developers feeling left out.
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