On Contributions – The GNOME Affair

The discussion is quite on the roll after Dave Neary gave some insight into who commits how much code to the GNOME project.

As pointed out by Greg de Koenigsberg, Red Hat has outperformed Canonical on a 16:1 ratio according to the Census. You can imagine that some of the Ubuntu fans don’t like to hear this.

So after Jeffrey Stedfast puts out his reply, we now also have Jono Bacon stepping in.

Jono’s main argument is that Canonical does a lot on top of GNOME, but on their own, using their own tools and build environment. And he calls this “contributing”.

I beg to differ.

A contribution in my view is something that ends up in the upstream project. Something that is developed outside of the project is NOT a contribution TO the project. It merely stands on the shoulders of giants, in this case the GNOME project, but it doesn’t add to the upstream project itself.

This is like kernel modules that are developed outside of the linux tree – they may run on Linux, but you cannot consider them to be PART of Linux.

So if you accept that contribution means “adding something TO the upstream project so that it is an integral part of it” the argument of Greg still holds strong. So far Red Hat has contributed 16x more to GNOME as Canonical.

Just wanted to make this clear.

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10 thoughts on “On Contributions – The GNOME Affair”

    1. No… it’s like brewing a new beer with additions to an original recipe, leaving the new recipe out in the open but not specifically giving it to the original brewer.

      Point of jwildeboer still holds though.

      Just imagine if Ubuntu would use KDE:

      – They would not have had to develop notify-osd as KDE4 has a nice notification system.
      – They would develop additions as plasmoids which are easily share-able. Not whining developers.
      – It looks modern by default.
      – Has (by default) a default compositing window manager, no need to incorporate Compiz.
      – They wouldn’t have had to develop UNR as KDE4 has a nice netbook interface.

      Only drawback imo is that Gnome feels more speedy.

      1. And as Jono says (not literally btw), Gnome and Ubuntu are growing apart, perhaps it’s time to look for something that fits Ubuntu’s philosophy better…

        1. that’s a logical fallacy. No matter what Canonical picks to base its offerings own..they run the same risk of diverging again as the underlying project evolves if the don’t engage and contribute to the project.

          KDE devs should thank their deity of choice that Canonical didn’t pick them as a base and start trying to out innovate the project on the sidelines without contributing back.

  1. “Red Hat contributes 16x more to GNOME as Canonical.”

    That is not what the statistics say. They say that Red Hat has contributed (up to now) 16x more than Canonical, they do not say anything about todays contribution at all. There is a huge difference in meaning. Perhaps you could correct this.

    1. I have rephrased slightly to reflect your point. Note however that the Census looks only at GNOME 2.30 components, which means that a lot of now obsolete code is not looked at at all. And Red Hat employees also added a lot to that now obsolete code.

      Note also that my main point of this post is to make clear that in my humple opinion you cannot call external code a contribution.

  2. I think the most accurate beer analogy here is that sideline development to GNOME being touted as ‘contribution’ is like serving wings with beer. You might have creating something new in the wings, or improved the beer experience by adding wings, but the beer is still beer, you haven’t changed/enhanced it at all.

    Likewise, all the launchpad developed additions to GNOME that canonical has done are fine, and potentially useful as independent projects, but its disingenuous to say the things that you wrote and didn’t give back are ‘contributing’

  3. Its funny how rants attract a lot more hate and everyone going with their own words … while apologies are blatantly ignored. Not only the whole data of the census and how contribution is calculated not fully accurate in the way it represent contributions, but also, no one mentions the public apologies of the one starting the whole ‘affair’:


    After reading this, maybe people can just start to unite and make the FOSS world look like something worth engaging in and adopting for the longer term, rather than immature teenagers cutting hairs on who should receive credits …

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