On Embracing the Linux Desktop at the LF Collaboration Summit

amcpherson's picture

“Man bites Dog.” It’s the classic example of how news works: editors pick the unexpected. Recently, Joe Barr from Linux.com wrote on his mixed feelings about attending the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit. Specifically he mentioned disappointment that the desktop was not a central topic of discussion at the meeting. I think Joe is a good journalist and have enjoyed working with him on stories over the years. I also think Linux.com is a fantastic source of Linux content, both for articles and increasingly video. In this case, I can understand where Joe is coming from given the specific session he attended, but I would like to clarify a few points in his article about the general level of attention desktop Linux received at our Summit. I’m puzzled how our agenda, or Joe’s article for that matter, could be the source of this slashdot headline. Then again, headlines (especially Slashdot ones) are meant to grab people’s attention, and this one is certainly more alarming than “Dog Bites Man” or the one I would have written: “Linux leaders talk about Linux.”

  • The largest workgroup gathering at the Summit was the Desktop Architects meeting. One third of the attendees (if not slightly more) were members of the desktop community from such projects, companies and communities as Gnome, KDE, Ubuntu, Novell’s desktop group, OEM vendors selling Linux desktops such as Lenovo, Dell, HP, Asus, gOS, Everek, Zonbu, Xandros and many more. You can check out the detailed agenda here or John’s write up here.
  • The Linux Foundation paid for a good percentage of these community leaders to attend our Summit, at our cost.
  • We reserved the largest facilities at the Summit for the Desktop group. Second largest? Mobile.
  • I added a desktop panel on the first day of the Summit that featured all of the leading Desktop OEM vendors. This is the only time these people have been featured on one stage. Why did I add this session this year? Because the story of the Linux desktop is so compelling, especially on ultra-mobiles. We allowed those OEM providers a place to showcase their products and stories to a wide audience, including press and analysts.
  • Joe’s right. Many sessions, including the one Joe sat in on, were not focused on desktop. They were focused on broader issues facing Linux that affect all users of Linux: desktop, server and mobile. These topics include power management, driver backporting, driver support, printing. The great thing about Linux is that improvements in power management on your laptop help server users save money in the data center. And also help embedded/mobile manufacturers in a device. Linux isn’t silo-ed in its technology. We shouldn’t be in the way we talk about these conferences.
  • Perhaps people mistakingly assume that the focus was not on the desktop because of the sponsor of the event, IBM, is not a Linux desktop player. While that may be true, I think it speaks volumes about IBM’s support of the community that they sponsored this event, even when over a third of the content discussed was not directly related to their Linux-related products. Again they see that improvements in Linux generally help all users, no matter the form.
  • Joe also had complaints about transparency. He rightly stated that reporters were not allowed into workgroup meetings on day two and three. This is up to the individual members of those groups who have told us that they do not want reporters in these working sessions. It inhibits conversation if you are afraid of something you are saying will end up printed. End users, especially, are afraid of their comments being represented in print, especially when they are passionate about what they do and are airing their complaints to better the platform. This is a reasonable expectation of private, working meetings and hardly specific to our conference. I would also point out, however, that our workgroups are completely open for participation from anyone, so if you are making a meaningful contribution, you can attend.
  • All that said, I will give no guarantees that next year’s Summit will have the same level of support and attention for the desktop. Why? Because this is a member and community driven organization; the workgroups and meetings that take place in our forum are largely driven from its members (both industry and developer). (But if you asked me to place a bet I would certainly place a large wager that next year’s desktop track will be just as strong as this years.) This year there is a lot of interest and passion around the desktop and mobile devices; so not surprisingly it received so much attention. This year a driver back porting workgroup met to discuss the state of drivers (both in server and desktop worlds.) Will they meet next year? It’s up to them. Maybe it will be a Real Time Linux group. Maybe it will be file systems. Maybe it will be women in open source. Who knows. That’s the beauty of it. The Gnome Mobile group requested meeting space. Are those individuals corporate members of the Linux Foundation? No, but we realize it’s important for the platform. We made it happen and paid travel for some of their participants. Same with the Virtualization Mini Summit.

    Our Summits are by design small and intimate. They are summits, not conferences, which means that leaders from various community groups are the intended audiences. They are working meetings: not intended for thousands of Linux desktop users (or server users for that matter). They are free events and thus must be bounded by size and cost considerations. Should there be a huge Linux desktop event for end users of all types? Perhaps. I am open to hearing ideas and if the LF can play a meaningful role. This is a culture of participation after all. You can leave comments or email directly to share ideas. Maybe we can help.

    I am flattered that Joe attended our summit and that his article has generated a strong reaction among the community of users. For a good understanding of what the Summit is all about, I point you to another article. This one (also by a reporter named Joe Barr) says:

    The gentleman’s question and the answers he received illustrate the value of the summit. A highly technical user, but one obviously unfamiliar with the customs and process of Linux kernel development, was able to ask exactly the right people how to achieve the desired result. Collaboration, participating in the process, was the answer he needed.

    The summit continues through tomorrow, bringing business people and kernel hackers face to face, allowing each to learn more about the wants, needs, and desires of the other, and helping both parties work together more productively.