Comment 0 for bug 882274

Tal Liron (emblem-parade) wrote :

This bug is opened with love.

The issue appears to be a communications failure between the people who make Unity and its community of users. The bug is easy to reproduce: open a Launchpad bug about how Unity breaks a common usage pattern, and you get a "won't fix" status and then radio silence. The results of this bug are what seems to be a sizable community of disgruntled, dismayed and disappointed users, who go on to spread their discontent and ill will. I'm sure this ill will is painful for the awesome folk working on Unity. It's painful for the community, too.

For a heartbreaking example, see: https://bugs.launchpad.net/unity/+bug/668415

The bug primarily affects Unity, but also affects Ayatana and Ubuntu quite directly. Unity is a rather small program and project in Ubuntu, but -- whether the Unity teams likes it or not -- it is the front face of Ubuntu, and the project and its ability to engage the community is considered as representative of Ubuntu as a whole.

I can think of numerous causes for this bug:

1. A lack of transparency.

Reasonable bugs seem to get closed because they do not fit in "Unity's vision," or are contradicted by the usability tests conducted for Ayatana, for which the team is rightfully proud. However, no details are provided beyond this claim: How does this contradict the "vision"? Where are the results of the usability tests that apply to this issue? It doesn't help that Mark Shuttleworth, who we look to for leadership, seems to enjoy being tight-lipped about the future specifics of this "vision," leaving the community in an anxious wait-and-see position. For example, when the window controls were moved from right to left, many of us were baffled. It took some time until we saw how this fit in Unity's global menu, but until then there was considerable confusion. It *seemed* arbitrary.

2. Marketing failure has caused unreasonable expectations.

Unity has become the default shell for most Ubuntu distributions, leading users to expect general usability from it. However, Unity is known to be broken for common multi-monitor setups. This disappointment could have been easily avoided if Unity were the default for laptops and netbooks, but not for desktops. Or if there was a friendly popup opening when Unity were running in multi-monitor mode: "The Unity shell currently has limited support for multi-monitor setups. Would you like to switch to GNOME Shell instead? y/n".

3. The Unity team ignores strongly-worded criticism.

Unfortunately, some members of the user community lack restraint. Moreover, the wonderfully international dimension of Ubuntu gathers people of various cultures, who do not always natively own English, the lingua franca of Launchpad. So, some words may appear stronger than they were intended. Sure, there's the golden rule of "never argue on the Internet," but this is not about arguing. It's about engaging your target audience. It's about friendship and neighborliness. It's about community. My suspicion is that there might be a formal policy for the project of not responding to strongly-worded criticism. But its motivation is likely a lack of patience, and also some condescension. That's not community.

4. The Unity team does not join the discussion.

This might be a more technical issue. Could it be that they simply don't know what the community is saying? If that's the case, it should be a policy to actively look for community thought. This goes far beyond Launchpad: we would want to see Unity folk in the Ubuntu Forums. We want to see them responding to popular Ubuntu blogs.

My fear is that this bug, too, will be closed as irrelevant, invalid, "won't fix" or whatever. I hope instead that the Unity project will use this as an opportunity to finally fix this. Moreover, I hope this bug won't be closed until the situation can objectively be deemed satisfactory.