Focusing on what's important, not sensational

Innovation and criticism go hand and hand in open source.

It is a source of constant amazement to me that the Linux community will celebrate the joys of diversity and in the very same breath slam anything that tries to do anything new.

Take, for instance, today's release of GNOME 3, which has been five years coming and is now available as a Live-Stick Fedora or openSUSE tryout version. This is, by anyone's estimation, a radically different graphics enviroment, from the new GTK+ 3.0 library to the new user interface.

But in some camps, this difference is seen as an insult, rather than an innovation. "You can't minimize windows!" (You can.) "There's only one way to do things!" (There isn't.) And so on.

Look, there are some things in GNOME 3 that don't appeal to me, either, but is it really constructive to decry the entire effort based on some features that may or not work well for everyone?

But even that kind of criticism is understandable--you can't please everyone.

What really cranks my brain is the clumsy and obvious attempts by some of us in the media to somehow use GNOME 3 as a way to re-kindle the desktop wars. It's GNOME vs. KDE all over again, they shout in text, when really, it's no such thing. Anyone who tell you otherwise is just trying to drum up headlines for their publication. KDE and GNOME are different, thank you very much, but they are not out to kill each other off.

(A side topic in these little instigatory efforts are the GNOME vs. Unity articles, where the release of GNOME 3 somehow means the death of Canonical's Unity interface. Or vice versa. And while the relationship between GNOME and Canonical has been a bit chilly lately, I seriously doubt either interface is going to completely replace the other.)

But for some I guess, it's about stirring up trouble where there isn't any to stir.

That's the kind of thing Jim Zemlin is trying to combat on the eve of this year's Linux Collaboration Summit.

When Zemlin, Executive Director for the Linux Foundation, told Network World's Jon Brodkin that the battle between Linux and Microsoft was pretty much over and Linux has won, he was trying to instill a sense of confidence and get people to focus on his perception that--save for the desktop--Linux has beaten Microsoft in every competing technology sector.

To a certain extent, Zemlin is right to say such things, because there is truth in these statements. I would caution against "won" as a final declaration though. For a long time, people said Apple had won the desktop, and look what happened to them. People have declared Microsoft the victor in many tech sectors, and look what's happening to them now. "Winning," I have long argued, is a moving target.

I also enjoyed Zemlin's headline-making remark: "I think we just don't care that much [about Microsoft] anymore," Zemlin said. "They used to be our big rival, but now it's kind of like kicking a puppy."

Clever as that remark was, I think it glosses over the fact that the Microsoft puppy weighs 300 pounds, has razor-sharp teeth, and has lawyers. So not only will the puppy rip your face off, it will sue you for getting your face stuck between its teeth.

Zemlin is absolutely right: we should not be obsessed over Microsoft. We should not be obsessed over anything: which desktop is best, which browser will win, which distro will conquer. We should keep focusing on the projects and tasks that need to be done.

While keeping an eye out for troublemakers, both inside and outside the Linux community.

This story, "Focusing on what's important, not sensational" was originally published by ITworld.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon