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For the weekend: from an operational point of view

Friday, February 24, 2023, Leo Mueller

We’ve probably all heard it before:

From an operational perspective, it only makes sense…

This is usually followed by something like: to use WindowsAnd To make calls via Teams or similar. Basically, in most cases, this is a way of maintaining patriarchal structures and enforcing the will of individuals without involving everyone involved. Unfortunately, this assumption rarely corresponds to reality, because our world is diverse and the needs are different.

On the other hand, free software is usually developed by consensus. This means that first all needs are collected and then a democratic decision is made together, where each participant has an equal right to vote. At least in an ideal world. In fact, there is one in many projects merit, where people with better performance get a higher vote. Here, too, there is a danger that minorities will be ignored and a so-called oligarchy will be formed.

An example from the recent past is Canonical’s decision to adopt an example flavours Distribution specific derivatives, delivered by default without Flatpak. The process that led to this is not transparent and the decision was made behind closed doors without community involvement. An approach repeatedly criticized by Canonical itself and which, for example, led Mark Shuttleworth to use a Open source tea party to speak. (A slip he later regretted Sorry he have)

The decision not to offer Flatpak by default leads to those affected developing solutions themselves. In this specific example, the user would manually install Flatpak via the package manager if needed and activate the Flathub repository independently. Now you can say that this is not a problem. However, a more sustainable way would be to install Flatpak by default, pre-configure the Flathub repository but disable it. Users will then be able to activate the repository if required (subscribe) using a simple switch in the program management. Technically, this would already be possible today with the existing GNOME Software Manager.

In contrast, projects such as Debian GNU/Linux solve these decision-making processes in a typical way. If a consensus cannot be easily found, there is a possibility of an eg General decision to start the specified process. The community can initially make different suggestions for a solution, which can then be voted on. This became evident, for example, with the question of whether Non-free firmware To be shipped with distribution.

Arguments that this approach cannot be adapted to the business environment are ultimately excuses and lead to a few white men, mostly older, making decisions that are supposed to be valid for a diverse clientele or workforce. Claims that democratic processes would inhibit innovation quickly turn into the opposite on closer examination. An example of positive community involvement in the business environment is Nextcloud, a program as diverse as its users.

Image source: – Mark Shuttleworth at Linuxtag 2006 in Wiesbaden.