Home Business IT Open Source 'Yellow' journos, power users behind GNOME criticism: claim

'Yellow' journos, power users behind GNOME criticism: claim

One of the co-founders of the GNOME Desktop Project has reacted to the numerous criticisms that GNOME 3, the latest iteration of the desktop environment, has received, by putting it all down to  power users and "yellow" journalists.

Federico Mena-Quintero posted his rant on Friday. He dismissed any negative characterisations of GNOME right at the start by writing, "I've been in free software for a long time, and let me tell you: this kind of s**t rains regularly. And it is thoroughly demoralizing (sic) until you, as a developer, learn to live with it".

He traced the complaints that had been made right from the first versions of GNOME, by various groups. A fair amount of blame was levelled at those who had made complaints.

At the end, Mena-Quintero also apologised for having, at times, been whinging himself, saying, "I am ashamed to say that I've been part of Those People from time to time, particularly recently when I had a stretch of spite against the Gnome 3.0 designers. I am deeply sorry about it. I apologized (sic) to them during the last GUADEC and everything seemed better after that, but I still feel bad about it."

He said those who were building GNOME had developed various mechanisms to survive the criticism that were constantly directed at the project. He sarcastically described this class of complainers as "regular people", at the same time citing factors to show that they very definitely were not.

"So, you see nominally Regular People complain and bitch and moan about the software you write," he wrote. "You know, the regular, everyday people with blogs and personal domain names and accounts in bug reporting systems, and knowledge of different window managers, and knowledge of the difference between zsh and bash. Regular people."

GNOME 3.0, it may be recalled, has come in for some withering criticism by high-profile FOSS people like Linux creator Linus Torvalds and senior kernel developer Ted Ts'o.

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Mena-Quintero said "poisonous people" like "haters", those who did not contribute on a regular basis, and those who threatened to stop using GNOME were all relatively easy to brush away.

He reserved his choicest vitriol for "yellow journalists". "There is another kind of Those People, smaller in number, but subtly more hurtful: the yellow journalists," he wrote.

Those who wrote about proprietary software attracted pity because "they can't know the details of the things they are writing about. They are prevented from doing better than reading the tea leaves, and hoping to get the rare leak out of a proprietary software company. They don't really report news; they are columnists".

But people who wrote about FOSS could not be excused on this basis, Mena-Quintero said, because, "You *can* dig for things and find the root cause of changes. You *can* visit wikis, design documents, logged conversations, anything. There are no non-disclosure agreements. Do "open source tech journalists" lurk on mailing lists and IRC channels, do they converse regularly with actual developers, do they actually make an effort to be as well-informed as they could be?"

While he conceded that there were good tech journalists, he blasted those whom he described as yellow journalists.

"They pick up the latest flamewar, however minor, and make a big deal out of it. They summarize (sic) blog posts and quote things with not enough context. "$last_name said, 'blah blah blah'" is the only content in their columns. They predict the decline and fall of a software project because there is a flamewar going on. They build an ongoing, not entirely consistent, self-serving narrative of the soap opera that they want free software to be," he wrote.

Mena-Quintero said the inexperienced, thin-skinned hackera could be affected by such journalism as they could  end up feeling criticised by someone who appeared to have a modicum of credibility. "It's a journalist, so they must know, right?" he asked, sarcastically.

He had a remedy: ignore most tech journalism altogether. "Or if you can't ignore it, as links to stories manage to make their way to you all the time, at least remember to fully engage your bulls**t filter before reading them."

Complaints should not be ignored altogether, Mena-Quintero advised, but they should be parsed to find out the real reason behind them. "Maybe there is something that you can fix technically. Maybe they have identified a systemic problem intuitively but they don't have enough knowledge to really be able to verbalize (sic) it."

He ended his rant by pointing out that though "haters" spewed s**t about GNOME, "poop can be excellent fertilizer (sic)."

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.