[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: On cadence and collaboration

On Wed, 05 Aug 2009 10:21:38 +0100
Mark Shuttleworth <mark@ubuntu.com> wrote:

> Hi folks

Hi there

> We're already seeing a growing trend towards cadence in free software,
> which I think is a wonderful move. Here, we are talking about
> elevating that to something that the world has never seen in
> proprietary software (and never will) - an entire industry
> collaborating. Collaboration is the primary tool we have in our
> battle with proprietary software, we should take the opportunities
> that present themselves to make that collaboration easier and more
> effective.

Truly an enthusiastic speech which gives us a vision of a bright new
world and even includes the yes we can spirit. And yet I lack
the trust that such will ever happen. To convince so many and so diverse
groups to all commit to a single goal, and may it just be something as
profane as a common freeze date, would be unprecedented in human

But let's assume I'm wrong, and it is actually going to happen ...

> Well, the first thing is to agree on the idea of a predictable
> cadence. Although the big threads on this list are a little
> heartbreaking for me to watch, I'm glad that there hasn't been a lot
> of upset at the idea of a cadence in Debian so much as *which*
> cadence. We can solve the latter, we couldn't solve the former. So
> I'm happy at least at that :-)

I'm sorry then to rain on your parade. Despite the risk of being
accused of heresy, let me state my doubts about such a move in general.
I leave discussions about specific advantages or disadvantages that this
might hold for Debian to others, much more competent on the matter.
Instead I would like to approach this issue more abstractly.

We know of many examples in nature, human society, economics,
computing, etc., that show that distributed, non-hierarchical,
self-organising system can be much more powerful than centrally
controlled systems. It can be proved, for instance, that a swarm of
independent units without central control can converge a solution in
cases, where classical iterative schemes that have such a central
control do not[0]. Add central control (a central clock) and this power

While it is not clear if such a model applies to the FLOSS world
without doing extensive research, I strongly believe that it would
harm the system if you add a central control (in this case some central
committee that decides on freeze dates). While it might look appealing
at first sight to have a central authority to decide on certain
matters, this rips the system of the ability to change quickly and
adapt to new circumstances.

But let's again assume that I'm wrong and that it would do the FLOSS
world good. 

But: good how? What exactly will be better? It is an
ambitious goal you propose which will require projects to make
compromises, to invest time and possibly money, to change their
priorities. So at the end of the day people will want to know if it was
worth the investment. What are the criteria on which this question can
be decided? 

That, say, GNOME releases in time for the distributions to pick it up
is easily testable, but not an advantage on its own. That the world
becomes a better place is a worthwhile goal but impossible to verify.

Would you please give verifiable and falsifiable criteria which can be
evaluated objectively to answer such a question? Examples would be
- the "productive" work/bug fixing ration increases 
- less security leaks
- number of people moving to GNU/Linux per year increase
- etc.

At the moment it is not clear for me, what the real advantage for
projects and users would be.

However, I completely agree that collaboration helps everybody. But
instead of inserting an additional level in the hierarchy to
govern such collaborations, I believe the better approach is to tighten
the collaboration-network. Here collaboration happens on a different
level. Between package maintainers and their upstream, between projects
that depend on each other, between Debian package maintainers and
Ubuntu package maintainers, etc.


[0] Gerardo Beni: Order by Disordered Action in Swarms.

Attachment: signature.asc
Description: PGP signature

Reply to: