In my earlier post Antidevelopment, I defined the word I coined in that article as “any change made to the user experience that is not beneficial and serves only to limit or restrict what the user wants to do, especially in the field of customization.”
I have been quite vocal about Ubuntu and GNOME3 spiraling into antidevelopment. Yet, as I am often criticized, it is not fair to say that no development at all is going on! Ubuntu continues developing their desktop Unity, and GNOME3 continues developing whatever that is (that most distros, including Debian, are rapidly abandoning for something else)
So when does development actually translate to antidevelopment?
Simply put, when the development ignores the core values that its users, testers, and developers have been asking for.
So many things that have been broken on the Ubuntu and GNOME3 desktop for so long, and yet no one revisits these problems to fix them. I continually ask Canonical and GNOME to revisit these problems and fix them, but there is no response, or a completely negative response indicating they are still completely detached from their user base. Slightly usable does not mean it’s good; if it’s not 100% then it should be fixed!
The only ones who seem to care the users who write countless patches, extensions, and unsupported programs to fix little irritations here and there.
Simply the fact that Ubuntu Tweak, the GNOME Tweak Tool, and MyUnity programs exist and are downloaded so heavily shows that the users do want the ability to tweak. But these are poor substitutes for tweaking a desktop. In many cases (like with mouse cursors) those programs are not able to makes changes system-wide, even though advanced tweaking of system properties shows that no breakage occurs when something is applied system-wide. There simply is no substitute for a developer who uses common sense, and listens to its user base.
In complete defiance of anyone who actually liked having a screensaver, GNOME completely destroyed the gnome-screensaver. No screensavers, no controls, just a blank screen. Blank screen, blank mind, all is GNOME - I think I’m going to coin that phrase.
Is This Development?
So many things are broken with current and future Unity and GNOME versions that it begs the question, “what has been developed?”
On GNOME’s side, the latest line of programs being axed to their core is Nautilus. First they destroyed menus by removing categories, and hiding Shutdown/Restart. Then they began axing menus and customization in a wide arc of programs. In the grand GNOME tradition of menu destruction, there are no text menus in Nautilus 3.6, just iconified buttons that somehow manage to do less than their text counterparts did in 3.4 and earlier versions.
The changes made to Nautilus 3.6 were so radical that Canonical decided to freeze Nautilus packages at 3.4 or even seek a new file browser, and Mint developers called it “a catastrophe”. It takes amazing amounts of antidevelopment to make something that no one wants to use!
Nautilus was a beautiful program that for several years grew almost organically from the desires and needs of its users. I feel sorry for Nautilus, and will mourn its passing.
An Interesting View of Development
At this time I would like to expound upon what development is. To do this, I am going to establish ground rules.
- Every successful desktop environment innovates for itself.
- Every successful desktop environment listens to its users, and makes solutions tailored to what its users want.
- Innovation usually starts at a core and expands outward from that core.
This is what I feel primarily makes up successful development.
Despite the fact that #3 is listed last, it is possibly the most important because that is where GNOME and Unity have failed.
Innovation starts at a core. A weak core makes for a weak overall desktop environment. What kind of core have GNOME and Unity established for themselves?
GNOME’s core can be summed up this way: Make everything idiotically simple, and remove options and menus. Systematically they have removed menus, customization options, and preferences from numerous programs, despite outrage from both users and software companies.
Unity has a different core. Integration seems to be the common thread. When Unity was first premiered, it was designed to integrate user and programs in a new way. The Ubuntu Software Center was designed to integrate users and programs. Dash was designed to integrate users with their music, pictures, and programs. The Me menu was designed to integrate users with social networks. Ubuntu One was designed to integrate users with the cloud.
12.04 saw the integration of users with television with the release of Ubuntu TV.
In 12.10 sees the release of Unity 6.0 which has the Dash being designed to integrate users even more with their news (BBC, CNN, Yahoo, Google News, Yandex News, Google Reader, Reddit, NewsBlur), their mail (GMail, Yahoo! Mail, QQ Mail, Windows Live Mail, Mail RU), their social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, VK.com, LinkedIn, Tumblr), their games (Cut the Rope, Angry Birds, Lord of Ultima, Command and Conquer: Tiberium Alliances), their office apps (Google Docs, and Google Calendar), their music (last.fm, libre.fm, Pandora, Grooveshark, Hulu, Rdio, YouTube, Ubuntu One Music), and more!
As you can see, GNOME and Unity have radically different cores. So you’re probably wondering why I bash them with equal intensity.
I realized why when I read the Linux Mint blog article. When discussing the core of its Cinnamon environment, it said: “The file manager isn’t just a file browser, it defines how the user interacts with filesystems, documents, and the visible desktop. It’s a core part of any desktop and it’s important it properly integrates with it… KDE built Dolphin as a central piece of KDE. Xfce and LXDE rely on Thunar and PCManFM… it’s probably only a matter of time before Unity gets its own file manager (patching/freezing Nautilus was the right decision but it’s only a good decision if it’s a temporary one, long term they’ll need to make their own file manager if they don’t want to chose between breaking Unity or Shell.”
Now, I realize why I bash Unity and GNOME equally. Both seem to have forgotten that the central core of an operating system, the one integral program that should not be forgotten, is the file browser.
Users don’t necessarily need to be integrated with the web, or have an interface so simple it borders on the idiotic. They need to be integrated with their files. That should be the core.