Neary's blog post on March 7 was apparently aimed at defusing a perception that GNOME was not accepting help from Canonical.
But, when KDE developer Aaron Seigo responded to Neary, with a rather straightforward post on his blog, which only reinforced the perception of GNOME as being stuck in its own routine and being difficult to deal with, the flames started to fly.
There have been two recent instances where Canonical has acted in a way that has displeased GNOME - one was when it decided to use its own interface, Unity, for the next version of Ubuntu, instead of the forthcoming GNOME 3 shell.
Then there was a spat between Canonical and the developers of the Mono-dependent music player Banshee - which is to be the default in Natty Narwhal, the next version of Ubuntu - over the splitting of royalties from music sales. The revenue was going to GNOME before Banshee was included in Ubuntu, but Canonical wanted to take a big slice of the money once it became the default player for Narwhal.
"Through the fall-out (sic) from the Unity decision, and now the fall-out (sic) from the packaging of Banshee on Natty, I have repeatedly read Canonical & Ubuntu people say 'We offered our help to GNOME, and they didn't want it'," Neary wrote.
He then went on to list examples where this might have been the case and called for help to resolve the problem. "I want to know of instances when GNOME has (allegedly) refused contributions or help from Canonical, with links to Bugzilla, mailing lists, even IRC logs or wiki pages. Let's get to the bottom of this & see if we can't solve the problem."
Seigo's response was, by his own admission, "potentially incendiary". He wrote that the issue which Neary had mentioned was "not so much about GNOME and Canonical as it is about GNOME and the rest of the free software desktop ecosystem and the regressive behavior (sic) being demonstrated there.
"The decision by GNOME to not adopt what Canonical calls "appindicators" and what we (and the specification that was brought to freedesktop.org) refers to as "status notifiers" is a perfect demonstration of the problem."
Seigo then examined the issue in detail. He ended by saying that though his post was incendiary , "...it needs to be said and I've waited a long time for someone else to say it. In the end, I'd rather be flamed to death if free software benefits in the process rather than sit quietly in comfort while we pull the roof down upon our own heads."
Seigo's post elicited a large number of replies, with a surprising appearance being made by the former GNOME media spokesman, Jeff Waugh, who quit the project in December 2008.
Exactly why he chose to intervene is not clear, especially when he himself later admitted: "Please remember that my response to this thread was about that backstory (not Aaron's broader concerns), and to correct the context Aaron missed from what he was quoting. Although I have history with both GNOME and Canonical, I do not speak for or represent either."
A KDE developer, posting under the pseudonym toddrme2178, replied to Waugh: "That is the whole problem. You posted irrelevant nitpicks while ignoring the actual substance of the discussion. It is off-topic and, judging by the number of posts that are trying to address you, it is derailing the conversation.
"If you are going to make a separate blog post describing your allegations, can we drop that discussion here and continue with the original topic? I think it is an important one and worth discussing, and it judging by the comments it seems like a lot of other people agree."
Waugh also made a number of irrelevant posts in response to points listed by Canonical founder, Mark Shuttleworth.
"Though it wasn't the case a few weeks ago, I am now incredibly disappointed in you," was one of his responses to Shuttleworth. "My disappointment is not the result of a blind faith in GNOME. I am well aware that GNOME, as a community and as individuals, can at times be terrifically difficult to work with.
"You, however - and I do not blame your staff! - have not made a genuine attempt to collaborate... and now you are madly commenting on blogs, taking personal offence, chucking your toys at the wall, and attacking the GNOME community due to your failure to influence their development agenda. I have yet to see any admission of fault on your side."
Later he wrote: "You are relying on lies of omission, and aiming to confuse the community, Mark" in another response to Shuttleworth.
Prominent among those who made reasoned replies to Seigo was Jef Spaleta, a volunteer with the Fedora GNU/Linux project.
Later in the discussion Ubuntu community manager Jono Bacon and Neary himself attempted to bring things back to earth and talk more about collaboration than differences. But by then the collaboration horse appeared to have well and truly bolted from the stable.