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Open Source Is Not a Democracy

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the well-duh-people dept.

Ubuntu 641

itwbennett writes "A recent kerfuffle within the Ubuntu community serves as a reminder of an inconvenient truth: open source is not a democracy, writes blogger Brian Proffitt. 'The discussion started innocuously enough, within Bug #532633 in light-themes (Ubuntu) on Launchpad, where the order of the window controls within the Light theme were requested to be re-arranged to be on the upper right side of any given window. Light, it seemed, now placed the buttons on the left side, similar to the Mac OS X interface.' The discussion turned into an argument and culminated in this exchange in which Mark Shuttleworth lays down the law: 'It's fair comment that this was a big change, and landed without warning. There aren't any good reasons for that, but it's also true that no amount of warning would produce consensus about a decision like this... No. This is not a democracy. Good feedback, good data, are welcome. But we are not voting on design decisions.'"

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641 comments

-1 Troll (5, Insightful)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571094)

Open source is utterly a democracy.

Each of us may have our own source tree. If we can convince others to come join us in it, isn't that fun. Those who come and join you are always there voluntarily, either because they feel like it, or you are payiong them to be there. And maybe no one feels like it. And maybe you don't feel like paying anyone. Maybe you are alone there. Maybe you didn't bother to make your tree at all. But you have that right to, at any moment. And this is utterly democratic, and it is at the heart of why open source exists. In fact, this is why it works so much better.

Shuttleworth has a very big, popular tree. He pays many participants and many others join him for free. He gets to make the decisions in his own tree, because it's his. He can't tell anyone else what to do in theirs.

Now if it's a Bill Gates product, and you do not like where those buttons got moved to, or i.e. you have a critical bug derailing years of your work, or whatever your issue may be, you will be ignored, or if you are very lucky, someone may even explicitly take a moment to personally tell you, "fuck off, peon." Your only real option is not to be so foolish as to use a Bill Gates product again in the future.

But in open source, if you so choose, you, or anyone, from the youngest child to Bill Gates himself, can fork Shuttleworth's tree, right then and there. Then you can have it your way. And if you are right, and people care, then people will join you and leave Shuttleworth out in the cold. It's happened many times before. And if not, then maybe your idea just wasn't that great, or that important, after all. Happens all the time. But the result, as with any democracy, is that leadership is largely consensual and generally merit-driven.

(All those who have never lived under a monarch, dictator, or cabal, please identify yourselves now with cynical comments about your democratic government.)

So I reiterate, as stories go, this is pure -1 Troll. IT World and Proffitt look like an 8 year old trying to say something "controvertial" about global warming by noting that it's snowing outside. I'm a bit sad that Taco rewarded them by sending them some traffic.

but wait a minute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571256)

it's NOT snowing outside.... hmmm. 0_o

Re:-1 Troll (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571320)

Open source is communism, not democracy. All are equal, but some are more equal than others :)

I love how a lot of comments are all about this is how decisions should be made, just one person at the top gets the final say - period.
Makes it clear, I think. I'll keep on keeping out of F/OSS, thank you very much. I'm not going to waste my time contributing to someone else's dictatorship, benevolent or otherwise.

Re:-1 Troll (5, Informative)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571444)

You're free to fix it.
Set up a site, fork the source and run your site as a true democracy.
Every decision can be put to a vote.

When setting it up you can even make sure you're no more equal than anyone else.

Re:-1 Troll (0, Troll)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571514)

Because everyone is a programmer, right? And everyone is intimately familiar with everyone else's code bases and every library, UI toolkit etc that are also used, right? Yeah, except for these quite high barriers to entry, yes everyone can go about fixing other people's code.

Re:-1 Troll (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571576)

I'm not sure what you're saying. You're advocating that non-contributors to a project get a vote? I mean, I buy goods made in Europe, that doesn't mean I get to decide what the EU rules on what's called "sausage" are.

Re:-1 Troll (3, Insightful)

dotgain (630123) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571832)

That you equate non-programmer with non-contributor makes it quite easy to guess what you are.

Re:-1 Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571674)

Because everyone is a voter, right? And everyone is intimately familiar with everyone else's political views and every statute, agenda etc that are also used, right? Yeah, except for these quite high barriers to entry, yes everyone can go about voting other people to power.

Re:-1 Troll (2, Insightful)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571714)

The information is out there freely available.

Yeah, except for these quite high barriers to entry, yes everyone can go about fixing other people's code.

I can't imagine how you could set the barriers any lower....
Compared to most barriers in life they're right down there with the rats leaping over them joyfully.

Because everyone is a programmer, right?

Everyone with the desire to be a programmer, a bit of time, a bit of willpower, a working brain and a net connection.
So sure.
Not everyone.

And everyone is intimately familiar with everyone else's code bases and every library, UI toolkit etc that are also used, right?

yes. people are not omniscient. it's true.

Re:-1 Troll (5, Interesting)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571446)

Communism and democracy are not at odds with each other.

Communism is an economic system. Democracy is a political system.

It's possible for a system to be both. In fact, a genuine communist system would have to be democratic.

Re:-1 Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571540)

Some people like doing work. They're good at collaborating. They get things done. Other people want to whine for a free lunch. And then they want to whine about how it doesn't have the condiments they wanted. They want to tell other people what to do on their own time and their own nickel.

Just because you live in a trailer and watch TV, and Michael Jordan lives in a mansion and plays basketball, doesn't mean you don't both live in a democracy. Neither one of you tells the other what to do in their own home, right? And you both control your own fate.

No one forces you to contribute to anyone. By all means, do all your own work on your own trees. That's lovely.

Only you do nothing, do you. Or if you do, no one cares about it. Boo, hoo.

You just love the idea of telling those people who have accomplished more, like Michael Jordan (/Shuttleworth), what to do. That's all. And that's anti-democratic. Ironic, eh?

Re:-1 Troll (1)

sammyF70 (1154563) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571852)

You didn't get what GP is pointing out, did you?

You can contribute if you want, but more importantly, you can take the work that someone else made and create your own tree. You don't like the fact that the buttons are now on the left side in Shuttleworth's Ubuntu? Well, just create an ubuntu-based distro with a modified Gnome theme, call it "Linux Fat Wainob" ("Linux For-All-Those-Who-Are-In-Need Of--Buttons-On-The-Right-Edge"), and offer it to the public ... or don't. As someone wise pointed out, "Hell is other people", so you can also choose to keep your own distro for yourself. *NOBODY* is keeping you from doing it, and it's actually a pretty simple process. If Enough people like it, then you'll probably get to the point where someone points out that the yellow theme you're using is pretty pisspoor, and then YOU can tell them to shove it. And the cycle starts again.

Try that with any Windows or MacOSX version and see how, in the best case, you stop getting updates or, in the case that you decided to share your version with others, you get a C&D letter from the right's owners lawyers.

That's why FOSS is a democracy. Proprietary OS's are more like a dictatorship. If you don't like something, you can't do anything about. And if you do, you might get a more or less fair warning from your souvereign.

Why pick on Bill Gates instead of Microsoft? (1)

Fastfwd (44389) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571394)

Or any other closed source company that makes a software you need/want?

Re:-1 Troll (5, Informative)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571422)

May be short summary of what you've said:

When one says: "this is not democracy" or "this is supposed to be a democracy" he has to specify the scope of the statement.

Free market system is democratic in a sense that everybody can vote with their dollars between products, but individual companies are not democratic.

Open source is democratic: one can join different trees or start your own copy, but individual trees (flavors of the project) are not democratic.

Re:-1 Troll (5, Informative)

tgd (2822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571436)

Thats anarchy, not democracy.

Look 'em up.

Re:-1 Troll (1)

TeXMaster (593524) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571822)

+10 informative The whole FLOSS mindset is not and has never been about democracy, in the sense of "rule of the people", but always about anarcho-communism, in the sense of "self-rule with sharing of resources". Rather than "-1 Troll", the original article should rather get one of those "obvious post is obvious" macro images. Saying that open source is not a democracy is like saying that the sun isn't green. Except that apparently some people apparently do believe the former.

Re:-1 Troll (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571866)

Anarchy is direct democracy. I looked it up.

You dont even know what democracy means do you ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571450)

Guess you dont understand what democracy is.

The English came here to start their own 'source tree' - with different features and functionality. That is not because England was a democracy - that is because England was a monarchy.

Starting a source tree every time you want to upend a bad decision is what causes forks - and leads to multiple products doing similar things with none of them having a critical mass - (that is like each island in the Florida keys having its own government). Administrative costs increase, marketing costs increase, and users decrease - and the number of developers supporting each fork decreases. This is a vicious cycle - fewer features leads to fewer adoptees, lower interest and then abandonment of the fork.

Re:-1 Troll (1)

ext42fs (725734) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571532)

Open source is freedom. freedom is not the same as democracy. And science is no democracy either.

Re:-1 Troll (1)

samkass (174571) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571548)

But in open source, if you so choose, you, or anyone, from the youngest child to Bill Gates himself, can fork Shuttleworth's tree, right then and there. Then you can have it your way. And if you are right, and people care, then people will join you and leave Shuttleworth out in the cold. It's happened many times before. And if not, then maybe your idea just wasn't that great, or that important, after all. Happens all the time. But the result, as with any democracy, is that leadership is largely consensual and generally merit-driven.

While I agree with the sentiment of your post, the assertion that the ideas of a given fork/branch are the sole factor in its success is a vast oversimplification. Program management, project management, marketing, design, and all the other aspects of your standard software production business still apply in open source. Companies don't do that sort of thing because it's fun.

Re:-1 Troll (1, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571566)

Open source is not a democracy in a corporation like Ubantu. In that case, it's a hierarchy. In a pool of programmers outside the corporate structure it can be a democracy, but doesn't have to be.

Open source is more like art or science, where everything is built on what has come before. Science and art aren't democracies, either.

Re:-1 Troll (2, Interesting)

Concern (819622) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571824)

It certainly is. You may organize your own tree however you like. You can start a giant company and have a big office and spend a billion dollars on it if you want. Rule it with an iron fist. It doesn't change the fact that the smallest child can still fork your code and do it their own way.

Your giant company cannot tell that child what to do. Nor can the child tell the company what to do.

Websites are also a democratic medium, since we can all participate equally. Each of us brings just our own voice.

If we do not like Taco's story, does that mean the web is not a democracy? But no one says things like this, because they are absurd.

Obviously the web is utterly democratic, but feel free to split that hair and make up another name for what it actually is.

Re:-1 Troll (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571570)

That's not a democracy, in fact that isn't even a sensical comparison.
Yes you can take a copy of the ball and leave, but that's not the same as having a way to make decisions in a group.

Of course, Open Source should not even be compared. One is a way of developing, the other is about how to organize a community. In context, Mark is saying that specific group organizational structure is not a Democracy.

Re:-1 Troll (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571574)

Because in a democracy everyone who is concerned about an issue is capable of doing something about it.

No. You are wrong. A democracy is rule by the people. Software - open source or not - is ruled by those writing the software - a very small subset of those who use the software.

Users of software do not control the software creation process, and for good reason. It is not a democracy, it is an oligarchy - rule by those that have (money, time, knowledge, property rights, etc.). The fact that an oligarchy serves a large amount of people, and that those people may want something else, or may even be able to create something else, does not make it a democracy. At best, you have multiple oligarchies when someone forks your project or makes one of their own.

Of course, an -acy/-archy is a form of governance, and software creation is not governance. But bad analogies can at least be correct - OSS is not a democracy.

Re:-1 Troll (4, Insightful)

c++0xFF (1758032) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571586)

What you describe is not a democracy: it's probably closer to anarchy. A free-for-all, with nobody in any position to make any decisions.

Closer to a democracy would be Wikipedia, where the "consensus" idea is the one that prevails, even though it's a free-for-all. But the label "democracy" only works since everybody works off of the same fork and the leadership is (mostly) hands-off. Once the leadership gets involved, it's no longer a democracy.

With open-source, a single person still "owns" a fork. No matter how you try to make it fit, democracy doesn't apply when any one person/group can make the sole decision on what happens, and that leadership cannot be changed. Like it or not, almost all open-source projects have a governing body which answers only to themselves. Once the leadership gets involved in decisions, it's a dictatorship. When they're hands-off, it gives the illusion of being a democracy.

Re:-1 Troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571604)

But in open source, if you so choose, you, or anyone, from the youngest child to Bill Gates himself, can fork Shuttleworth's tree, right then and there. Then you can have it your way.

Except that 98% of the population probably lacks the knowledge or ability to do that. And I suspect that the majority would likely lack any motivation to learn how to do any of the things required to move the button themselves.

A democracy where the vast majority of the population lack the expertise required to vote at all isn't very effectual. Although I'm largely being pedantic here, as "the global population" and "ubuntu users" will have somewhat different levels of programming capability and IT expertise.

In a democracy members submit ... (3, Informative)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571646)

Open source is utterly a democracy. Each of us may have our own source tree. If we can convince others to come join us in it

That is a description of anarchy, not democracy. In a democracy the minority members submit to the will of the majority. They limit voicing their disagreement to persuasive dialog, they don't storm off in a hissy fit.

Demoracy isn't for the lazy (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571678)

so yeah, while anyone can do X my bet is on they won't.

It is far easier to sit on the side line and bitch.

Making a choice that no one cares about; ie making your own tree; isn't truly democracy, unless you count the loons who stand on the fringes screaming about how they have made a choice even though no one is listening.

So, yeah, you can fork it, but who will care? Is a moral victory of any import if no one knows who you are let alone what you did?

Re:-1 Troll (1)

GIL_Dude (850471) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571748)

Interesting comment. However, Shuttleworth didn't move his buttons. I, and many others, complained to the Microsoft Office folks during the beta program for Office 2007 when they moved the Outlook send button over to the far right side. They moved it back to the left based on our feedback (against the output of their usability study). Take that as you will - its an anecdote (although a true one), but it does show that your premise does not describe an absolute.

Re:-1 Troll (2, Insightful)

jim_v2000 (818799) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571780)

I hate the argument that "If you don't like how things are going in an OSS project, you can just make your own fork! It's so much better than proprietary software because of that!" The fact is that time and knowledge are barriers that bar most people from doing what you propose. I probably don't know the language the the project was built in, I don't have time to learn it, I don't have the time to get familiar with the project's code, I don't have time to figure out how change it, etc. So yeah, the code is right there, but it's useless to a large majority (probably near 99%) of users. There's a better chance of getting the current development team to make a change than me attempting to make that change on my own.

Also, it's kind of an asshole thing for Canonical to lure people into their "community" and then outright ignore them.

Re:-1 Troll (1)

diamondsw (685967) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571788)

It's not a democracy until you're willing to put in the time and effort to fork it. No one is forking Ubuntu over damn window dressing. Switch themes and be done.

Vote with your feet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571122)

Fork the source and tell the dictators to go fork themselves.

Any software project that is a Democracy (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571158)

Is doomed to fail.

Re:Any software project that is a Democracy (3, Funny)

Minwee (522556) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571392)

That must be why they changed their name to Miro.

Get Canonicall OUT of Debian environment (0, Offtopic)

scenestar (828656) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571162)

Ubuntu has becoming more and more interwoven with Debian

It's time to cut all ties, before it becomes a corporate ball and chain.

Re:Get Canonicall OUT of Debian environment (2, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571578)

Your posting makes not a bit of sense. Could you qualify that? In English? Please?

We all know what a jackass is.... (5, Insightful)

rimcrazy (146022) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571192)

It is a Thoroughbred designed by a committee, or in this case a huge community. Good for Mark. Inputs are important but final design decisions should not be subject to a vote.

People complaining..... (2, Insightful)

Jason Quinn (1281884) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571238)

People complaining *is* a form of data. I wish Shuttleworth would acknowledge that.

Re:People complaining..... (4, Informative)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571536)

He did. He said it's welcome.

That still does not mean Canonical will do what the complainers want.

Re:People complaining..... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571658)

he does. However there becomes a point when it become pointless. Flamewars, for example.

really this should be solved under two criteria:

What is the the science behind human design say?
What is the expect behavior?

There may be a way to do something more efficiently, but do you an ingrained habit of how something is currently used it may be counterproductive to change it.
List all those reason, then decide.

Complaint with structure is data. (1)

itomato (91092) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571738)

Complaints in a pile is just a bunch of bitching. Draw connections between the points voiced therein, and you can call it data.

Validity is another thing altogether. One man's wheat is another's chaff.

Re:People complaining..... (1)

kgo (1741558) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571842)

Not very useful data. If ubuntu has eight million users like they claim, they only need four million and one to complain to change the settings... Even if, say one-thousand, or even ten-thousand people signed a petition to get the buttons back on the other side, it's pretty meaningless. Maybe everyone who signed represents a hundred people who don't like it but didn't bother to complain. Maybe it's one-to-one. There's really no way to know what the numbers mean and extrapolate that out.

So what? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571276)

Democracy is a really nice word but it's meaning is amorphous at best. Usually it is used to give the Westerners among us (myself included) a warm fuzzy. I don't want anything made by committee. Open source is more free market than democratic: if it works it survives and if it doesn't it dies.

This article seems like a gigantic troll.

Re:So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571636)

I don't want anything made by committee.

Han: "We don't have time to discuss this in a committee!"

Leia: "I am NOT a committee!"

Sorry, had to be said. :)

On the more serious side, though, he does have a (sort of a) point. Someone has to make a decision on how something gets arranged, and if we argue and harp and fret over it, then it will take years to get anything done. Now, I'm not cynical about democracy, but I do have one complaint about ours. Put anything through Congress, and it will take years for anything to happen to it. Let's not make open source like that.

What should have happened in this instance? The complainer should have forked the source and made his own. I'm sure that there are plenty of other people who see it his way who would be happy to maintain it. That's what Linux has been doing for years, and it's what makes Linux so great.

Another thing they could have done is make it an option and let the end user decide where the buttons go. Then you're better than both Windows AND Mac.

side note: CAPTCHA is "jackass"

Compare to the US Democratic Process (2, Interesting)

itomato (91092) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571314)

The people do not directly get to vote on things like, oh, I dunno.. Health Care Bills, whether we go to war, who we want as President. Input is offered, sometimes accepted, but let's face it - once the reins are in someone else's hands the ego prevents a welcome and good-natured pass.

It's about control and structure, not about pure natural selection at the hands of plebes.

Ubuntu is just as Democratic as the USA, for better or worse.

Re:Compare to the US Democratic Process (2, Informative)

tgd (2822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571492)

The US is a republic, not a democracy.

The difference may be something glossed over in schools in the US, but the different was *important* to the people who created the US's system of government.

Re:Compare to the US Democratic Process (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571672)

> The US is a republic, not a democracy.

It's a democratic republic, a form of democracy. Just because we elect representatives instead of holding plebiscites does not make it not a democracy.

Reciting some phrase you were told in grade school civics without further qualification does not make you smart or even look smart.

Re:Compare to the US Democratic Process (2, Interesting)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571522)

The United States of America has never ever been a direct Democracy and they never pretended to be. The United States of America is a Republic, stronger at the Federal level than it used to be and should be, but thats besides the point.

At the local level its a representative democracy (in some places direct democracy). We elect people to hold an office, school board, water board, sheriff, sometimes Judge, Mayor, town councillors, etc. We elect people to the county/parish and state offices.

It used to be that the state appointed the Senators but now its an elected position, so we vote for Congressmen and Senators to represent us at the national level and we get to vote for who we want as President and then the Electoral College votes for the President.

I'm damned glad that the US isn't a direct democracy, the people are too damned fickle.

Re:Compare to the US Democratic Process (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571882)

While it's true that we don't get to vote directly on "health care" bills and war declarations, the result is still our fault.
We voters *elect* into office the people who vote on bills and declarations. Too many of us base our vote on sound bites and, more recently, the cult of personality. That is the problem- we don't have (or take) the time to do enough research on who we're voting for. Most of us listen to one perspective or the other when we should be open-minded and listen to both perspectives.

Meanwhile, back on the original topic; if people don't like the way the interface has changed in Ubuntu they can start another variant.

He's right to tell the guy to stick it... (1)

NRP128 (710672) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571324)

If the dude doesn't like it, he can go devote hours upon hours to his own fork of Debian or better yet, he can run his own version of the ubuntu code. What about all the people who WANTED the buttons on the other side? Suddenly ONLY his opinion matters?

Open Source software is has to be a Republic. Ultimately somebody has to make decisions that influence the whole, or they get made by a small committee, not the entire user base at large. You can get "elected" to represent your peers by putting in time, work, and being damned good at it. THEN you can start influencing decisions and shaping the future. Standing on the sidelines bitching about the results just makes you look like a fucking idiot.

Scientific method (1)

Enokcc (1500439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571382)

Open source is not a democracy. I would consider it to resemble scientific method more than that.

FORK THE MOFO, FORK I SAY !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571388)

Then after you fork shuttleworth, fork the world !!

Cry babies !!

Why left? (2, Interesting)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571396)

What is the logic of having the buttons on the left? The vast majority of users are right handed, and mouse right handed. Thus, the scrollbar is on the right side, and an idle mouse cursor is on the right side. Therefore, widnow controls should be ont he right side, where possible. Putting it on the left for no good reason* just makes you have to mouse farther to accomplish the same task.

* And no, "because Mac does it" is not a good reason.

Re:Why left? (4, Informative)

santax (1541065) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571546)

They want to create room on the right so in a future version they can experiment with 'innovative' options where that space has become available.

Re:Why left? (3, Insightful)

DdJ (10790) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571594)

I certainly agree that "because Mac does it" is not a good reason. But that doesn't mean there isn't a good reason -- you've made a straw man argument, IMO.

And there's no reason a design expert should be forced to explain those reasons to a layman. That's asking too much.

But I can think of some reasons that might apply: "as windows resize, the top left corner is the anchor from which all resizing is done, therefore putting elements there minimizes gratuitous movement of those elements" could easily be a factor in a reasonable decision along these lines. Or "as left-to-right/top-to-bottom readers, our eyes are naturally drawn to the top left, so putting critical controls there makes sense".

If you don't agree with the conclusion, prove to the design team that you're enough of a design expert that they should pay attention to you, and have the discussion with them.

Re:Why left? (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571734)

I believe the reason the Mac does this is because you don't need those 3 buttons as often. According to the Apple Design Guidelines, the initial window size (when you open the program) should be adjusted to the size of the content that's going to be in it. Scrolling to left-right or excessive whitespace should not exist (according to the specs). Since the underlying layers use PDF-like properties to render window content, all content should be uniform regardless of the media it's being carried on (print or screen).

I don't know if there are similar guidelines in Gnome/Windows but it seems that a lot of developers on those platforms don't really care so you're continuously adjusting windows, so it should probably be on the right.

Re:Why left? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571742)

Being right-handed has nothing to do with it. There is no handedness in a mouse-driven GUI; you operate everything with your only hand, the mouse pointer. Regardless of whether you're right- or left-handed. Your mouse pointer does not stay on the right side of the screen, nor is it easier to leave it there.

It has more to do with reading: Western languages are right-to-left. Menus and toolbars are right-justified for this reason. You could view the window controls as just another toolbar.

The best arrangement is probably the one used on Classic Mac, Windows 3.1, and CDE, among others. The "close" option was on one end, and the zoom/tile options were on the other. That way, you never accidentally closed a window when you missed the zoom or iconify control.

Re:Why left? (1)

NRP128 (710672) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571830)

You're assuming that everybody idles with their mouse on the right. I'm right handed and idle on the left. Why? Because I READ left-to-right. I view controls left-to-right. I read the MenuBar left to right. I look at a table left-to-right, top to bottom. When I look a window on a computer, I look left to right. When I cascade windows, I want them cascaded left to right, so that the upper left corner of every window is visible (and closable).

I have a wheel, a trackpad, and arrow keys to control my position in a window, other than as a visual indicator of my position in the Window, a Scrollbar serves little purpose.

Right-justified stuff pisses me off. If you read in one of the dozens of languages that runs right-to-left, i'm sure you'd feel the same way about left-justified.

Re:Why left? (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571870)

You make a lot of assumptions.

"The vast majority of users are right handed, and mouse right handed. Thus, the scrollbar is on the right side,"

Why do you assume mouse side on the right determines that putting scroll bars on the right is the most effecient thing to do?

And no 'It's obvious' doesn't cut it. Data only.

Why do you assume if the scroll bar is on the right , then windows on the right is more efficient?

"Putting it on the left for no good reason* just makes you have to mouse farther to accomplish the same task."
First, you are simple stating 'no good reason' without any backing. Strawman.
Second, what do you base where the mouse is most likely to be at any moment?

"* And no, "because Mac does it" is not a good reason."
No, but why Mac does it may be a good reason.

~~~ About your sig ~~~~~

heh, I love stuff like that. While they may have a good reason for doing it that way, claiming it's green for marketing reason crack me up.

After they give you your coffee, you should pout it from your mug into a paper cup. To make a point.

Reminds me of gaim/pidgin... (5, Insightful)

Improv (2467) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571412)

Some time back, gaim had a UI redesign where they replaced protocol-specific icons with generic ones, in the decision that hiding the protocol is the right thing to do. A lot of us thought that was boneheaded, and some people forked GAIM, others wrote plugins to undo the change, and a lot of us offered harsh criticism of the developers responsible. If it were a democracy, we probably would've voted it undone. Right decision? Wrong decision? We didn't like it, but most of us decided not to walk away from it (either to the forks or further away).

Opensource provides new possibilities for governance - the ability to fork is something we don't really have in nations (splitting into bits really isn't the same), and with the exception of protocol decisions we generally can reshape our environment as we like (local patches, greasemonkey, etc). By having so much local variance possible, we no longer have our elbows so close to our neighbours and so there's less hazard for technocratic or autocratic decision styles (provided they use licenses that sustain this type of environment - some developers like Tuomo Valkonen prove to be batshit insane and play license games to compound their boneheaded technical decisions).

With licensing messes out of the way and the ability to fork, the most precious thing for us is mostly time/attention. If we want to fork a project, we're balancing our time and attention versus how much we care over the relevant issue. It's the easiest thing in the world to follow a path paved by the actual developer, while maintaining patches of any size (or starting a parallel community for a true fork) is an ongoing burden. If it's for an important enough reason, we'll do it. If that reason turns out to be not important enough to be worth the bother, all we can do is complain and hope to convince whomever is already doing that work to pave our path.

Right, it's more of a perfected anarchy. (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571432)

Speaking of anarchy,
Two Forks Enter! One Fork Leaves!!!
Two Forks Enter! One Fork Leaves!!!

But.... it's open.... (3, Informative)

santax (1541065) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571434)

Just move the damn buttons yourself! I actually agree with camp that wants the buttons back in the old way, but I can't stop thinking... I have the source... I might just do that myself and place the .diff online. Problem solved. Unfortunately for all Ubuntu users, I use Debian so I'm fine.

No recompile needed (5, Informative)

j1976 (618621) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571616)

It's easy to change even within the current distribution. Steps to fix:

* Start gconf-editor
* expand in this order: apps, metacity, general
* Find entry "button_layout"
* change it to "menu:minimize,maximize,close"

The colon separates left side and right side.

Re:No recompile needed (1)

santax (1541065) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571772)

Yeah but I've read a bit further that this solution would make the symmetry wrong? I have no way of testing it.

Re:But.... it's open.... (1)

phayes (202222) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571868)

It's not even in the code, it's a theme level modification unless I'm mistaken. Nothing is stopping people from adding a "lightright" theme which moves the buttons back & making it popular enough to figure on the first page of the theme addins to make it easy to find & install.

The difference between left & right scrollbars/window decorations is minimal in my opinion. I find that I need move the mouse less when the scrollbar is on the left because text I copy/paste/yank/move is more often on the left & having the scrollbar on the left means it is closer. My preferring the window decorations on the right is just due to habit as I have spent more time on X/Motif/fwcm/Windows than MacOS/OSX.

Re:But.... it's open.... (1)

masterQba (699425) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571874)

The changing of the location of the buttons isn't really as complicated a matter as that. You can move the buttons manually in a tool like Ubuntu Tweak. Or if that is too difficult you can change the window border of the theme to something else entirely.

Open Source is not Ubuntu (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571452)

Okay, Ubuntu is popular. I get it. But it is not the totality of open source. Neither is Linux, for that matter. This example is specifically about Ubuntu, not about open source. Ubuntu is a dictatorship obeying the golden rule; Shuttlewood has the gold so he makes the rules. If you don't like it, fork it or use something different.

Most open source projects are democracies, although not all votes are equal. Their constituents are people who who contribute something to the project, and the greater the contribution the more say they have in the direction of the project. Contributions come in the form of code, documentation, artwork, bug reports, and money. If you've never contributed any of these things to a project, then you don't get a vote.

If you have, you get some say, although the person who wrote 90% of the code gets a lot more say than someone who only filed one bug report. People contribute to open source projects because they expect to get something back. In my experience, most developers will put some extra effort into feature requests from people who have contributed something that they consider valuable.

Ubuntu isn't actually unusual in this respect at all. Shuttlewood contributes the developers' salaries, and they give priority to his feature requests.

UI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571470)

Good luck on making _everyone_ agree on a layout.
Not that's impossible but unless people make some concession, it will never work out.

Also, from a random user point of view, I don't care that much if buttons are in a specific order than an other or in some other place to reach, as long as it doesn't change every time and not in a remote and hidden place.

My 2 cents.

Re:UI (1)

makomk (752139) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571696)

Also, from a random user point of view, I don't care that much if buttons are in a specific order than an other or in some other place to reach, as long as it doesn't change every time and not in a remote and hidden place.

It doesn't... so long as Ubuntu is the only operating system you use, you don't use any of the Ubuntu derivatives like Kubuntu, and none of the applications you use render their own custom titlebars. (If you use, for example, Chrome it'll have the buttons on the opposite side to all the other applications.)

A Pirate Analogy ... (2, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571512)

As a geek who loves history I can't help but think about the organizational strategy of american (as in region not nationality) colonial era pirates. In general they were not democratic in their decision making, they understood the inefficiency and impracticality of that path, but they were democratic in choosing a captain. Once a captain was chosen he had command. A wise captain did exercise his authority justly though. It seems to have been a quite reasonable self organizational strategy and it may also work for open source organizations. There are some parallels: the populations are mobile and independent minded, share a meritocracy based organizational philosophy, ...

More of the Same (3, Insightful)

hduff (570443) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571534)

This kind of bickering is the ugly dark side of an otherwise decent philosophy. The cult of personality and hubris, especially within Ubuntu/Debian where it seems to erupt with regularity, is both useful and unpleasant and will always be a locus of justifiable criticism of the FOSS community in general.

Move along. Nothing new to see here.

Open source is a republic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571554)

You have a bunch of sovereigns come together voluntarily under nothing more than the banner of their various constitutions embodied in the open source licenses.

There is little to no strong central government to stand in the way of the flowers of federalism of blooming. No one can impose development techniques or standards from the top down beyond the standards specified in the open source constitutions.

A natural variety of standards and results will appear in the sovereign states and resources will be naturally directed to those with the best results by moving to them or emulating them. Not through force imposed from the top.

We should organize a government like this one day. We should only dream.

I don't see any difference at all... (1)

Rainefan (969597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571558)

Interesting if you compare to a democratic government and the critical decisions they make without any popular consensus...The people voted for that government and many time, their decision aren't orthogonal to people's desire, and unlike opensource,if you don't like it you can emigrate to other country. Yep..this is really hard to accomplish unlike opensource since you can fork the country and govern it the way you want or even you can change to another country or in opensource terms, to another project. The Ubuntu governors are taking some critical(design) decisions based on their know-how expecting the hole community to adopt it as a good decision.

Full quote (5, Informative)

Meltir (891449) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571560)

As it often happens the summary is rather sensationalist, as I would not dare accuse anyone of actually RTFA, here's Shuttleworth's full response (with which I could not agree more):

Mark Shuttleworth wrote on 2010-03-17: Re: [Bug 532633] Re: [light-theme] please revert the order of the window controls back to "menu:minimize, maximize, close" #167

On 15/03/10 23:42, Pablo Quirós wrote:
> It'd have been nice if this comment had been made some time ago,
> together with a deep reasoning on the concrete changes that are in mind.
>
> We are supposed to be a community, we all use Ubuntu and contribute to
> it, and we deserve some respect regarding these kind of decisions. We
> all make Ubuntu together, or is it a big lie?

We all make Ubuntu, but we do not all make all of it. In other words, we
delegate well. We have a kernel team, and they make kernel decisions.
You don't get to make kernel decisions unless you're in that kernel
team. You can file bugs and comment, and engage, but you don't get to
second-guess their decisions. We have a security team. They get to make
decisions about security. You don't get to see a lot of what they see
unless you're on that team. We have processes to help make sure we're
doing a good job of delegation, but being an open community is not the
same as saying everybody has a say in everything.

This is a difference between Ubuntu and several other community
distributions. It may feel less democratic, but it's more meritocratic,
and most importantly it means (a) we should have the best people making
any given decision, and (b) it's worth investing your time to become the
best person to make certain decisions, because you should have that
competence recognised and rewarded with the freedom to make hard
decisions and not get second-guessed all the time.

It's fair comment that this was a big change, and landed without
warning. There aren't any good reasons for that, but it's also true that
no amount of warning would produce consensus about a decision like this.

> If you want to tell us
> that we are all part of it, we want information, and we want our opinion
> to be decisive.
>

No. This is not a democracy. Good feedback, good data, are welcome. But
we are not voting on design decisions.

Mark

the unix way... (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571562)

Rule of Least Surprise: In interface design, always do the least surprising thing.

See Also: Transparency, expressiveness, and configurability.

As per part 3 of above, why not have the button locations configurable?

Yet launchpad is plagued by incompetent triagers (1)

arose (644256) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571582)

It seems that just about anyone with enough free time can elect themselves to close bugs, request more irrelevant information, request you to re-reproduce the bug every time anything changes, no matter how unrelated and generally make reporting bugs against Ubuntu a pointless activity.

Bah. (1)

bmo (77928) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571588)

This fight over window controls would not exist if Gnome had an easy way to rearrange the buttons. But no, Gnome hides it in a dark corner. KDE allows you to arrange the buttons any way you like by simply clicking and dragging.

Oh yeah and to "troll" further, there is only one way to lay out the window control buttons that makes any sense: Close on left, minimize and maximize on right.

--
BMO

Democracy in Open Source (1)

ardor (673957) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571590)

An earlier posting already hit the big misunderstanding with democracy in open source projects:
  • Democracy INSIDE a project is doomed to fail. There must be one leader who does the final decisions, otherwise you get design by committee.
  • Democracy ACROSS projects (more exactly, project versions, e.g. forks) is likely to succeed. If said leader does very unpopular and/or plain stupid decisions, the project gets forked. The majority thus "voted" against the decision. Case in point: Xfree vs. Xorg.

Meritocracy (1)

diegocg (1680514) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571682)

I always thought that the best word that describes opensource is meritocracy. The best people makes the decisions. You are free to fork the tree, but other people is not forced to listen you if they think you are stupid. I agree with Shuttleworth, they can (and must) listen users...but allowing users to have a veto on decisions? Hell, no.

Democracy vs. Choose Your Own Adventure (1)

sanche (98750) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571692)

Most developers know that you have to make independent decisions to keep a project moving forward. That takes the "democracy feel" out a little, especially when it's publicized like this.

However, the nature of open source gives any of us the ability to choose a different path. Don't want to use their button placement? You have the option to modify it on your own time, choose a different theme, or choose a completely different window manager.

It's not really accurate to say open source as a whole is non-democratic when we're talking about a single theme.

It *is* like a democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31571704)

It's like the democracy my dad always described in my family. I got one vote, my sibling got one vote, my mom got 2 votes, and he got 5.

Users do vote... (3, Insightful)

eyepeepackets (33477) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571754)

Every time a user chooses what distro to use, they vote.

Don't like the way a distribution does things? Use a different one.

Democracy is a means, not an end (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571758)

There is too much fetishism about democracy in the West today and not enough honest questioning of what we really have. Are we freer than we were at any point the past? Are we safer? Are we more prosperous? Do our laws and courts secure justice better or worse than they used to?

One of the major problems with democracy is that every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to have his say without having to put his money where his mouth is. The moment a democracy lets people vote without paying any taxes is the moment it begins its death spiral. For a FOSS project, the moment it starts weighing the input of every two-bit commenter as much as the core community (barring them having a genuine insight) is the moment it becomes consigned to ad hoc, designed-by-committee hell.

The way I see it, FOSS projects are like republican city states except with an infinite supply of land. Don't like someone's decision? Fork the code and move on. That stops contrarians pretty quickly. People want the democratic input because they don't want to have to do the leg work like, for example, supporting multiple L&F packages on ubuntu.

How are people voting? (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571808)

How the 'democracy' works depends on the given project. Some projects are very top-down, while others are more cooperative. In other cases its only a democracy if you know how to code.

As as user you get to have input, but in the end it is put up or change allegiances. This is no different that a buying a product from a private company. The difference is that most users don't pay a dime for their open source solutions and won't pay a dime to encourage the development of a given feature. If you want something for free, then accept it for what it is. If you don't want to vote with a contribution (fiscal or otherwise), then don't expect the Earth.

Ok ... But Who Cares? (1)

DakotaSmith (937647) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571820)

Um ... who cares?

I'm writing this on Lucid beta1 [ubuntu.com], and my window controls are in the upper right where I want them. As usual, my first download post-install was Ubuntu-Tweak [ubuntu-tweak.com], which has a handy configuration section that lets you order and position the window controls to your liking.

Open Source isn't a democracy, it's Open Source. That's kind of the point. With the source, you can write an app like Ubuntu-Tweak [ubuntu-tweak.com] to overcome anything that you think is a deficit.

Vote with your source code. (1)

Tei (520358) | more than 4 years ago | (#31571880)

Maybe all these FOSS projects are a democracy, but one where to vote, you need to use a keyboard and write code.
You want to create a fork? you need people that know how to write code, or you need yourself to do that.
You want feature X to be implemented? implement it yourself and send the patch. If the owners of the project don't like the patch, but you still need X, make a fork. forks are fun, forks are horrible, forks are lotsa work, but forks is freedom to do anything you want.

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