Don’t Hate the Playa…Hate the Game!

So I was reading a recent article in NetworkWorld where once again, the “Canonical doesn’t give back” bullshit is raised.  The author seems to take a couple “jabs”  by bringing up Greg K-H’s infamous plumbers rant talk, the fact that Microsoft is in the top 10 of kernel contributors (and Canonical isn’t even top 30), and even says Canonical is unprofitable as “general understanding”…nice, thanks!  Thankfully, it seems from the comments, that people see this as the sensationalized, we-need-click-through-traffic journalism it is.  I could go into an epic long posting of how wrong the basis for the “doesn’t give back” argument is, or take jabs at other distros profitability, how they got there or why they were sold…but I won’t.  Instead, I’d like to issue a bit of urban education on those of you who seem to hate Canonical/Ubuntu because it succeeds where others have failed.

Don’t Hate the Playa….Hate the Game!

Seriously.  I just recently discovered I was a hater myself.  If you ask my wife my reaction to an iPhone or iPad commercial, she’ll tell you that I get visibly irritated.  At first I thought it was because I felt Apple seems to appeal to the elite, or that they seem to sell their products as life changing devices that only the cool people have….and I have a tendency to hate exclusion (probably b/c I was that black, overweight band nerd/computer geek in a predominantly white school growing up, and one tends to have issues with those who exclude after that….but I’ll spare you my self-therapy posting :-P).  However, after watching a CNBC special on Steve Jobs (before the retirement announcement/insanity),  and then reading all the articles about Jobs once he announced his stepdown as CEO, I got to thinking….why should I dislike a man/company that succeeded where others before have failed….even if those others invented the PC-era or help lead the revolution into a desktop-based operating system.  I mean, why should I have less respect for Apple because they decided to move past the old paradigms of just making the computer faster, or the OS easier to run applications…to being something easier for people to use….something that helps define who they are?  Hell…that’s brilliance!

Bottom Line:  Just because someone or some company succeeds with less perceived effort/people, more funding, in a faster time, or in a better organizational model than you, don’t blame them for it….blame yourself for not adjusting better/faster to win the game.


About Robbie

I live in the awesome city of Austin, TX and work for Canonical, sponsors of the best damn operating system in the world...Ubuntu.

Posted on August 30, 2011, in Ubuntu and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Or… just be happy that Ubuntu is doing so great as a Linux desktop OS?

  2. I am a big fan of Linux and Canonical both. Canonical is very successful and that is great! I think it is only natural that the Linux kernel community would ask for a bit of help from Canonical. But all the “I hate this … I hate that …” rant you here these days is either result of ignorance or an effort to create devision in the community. I think we all need to be more responsible with our criticism of each other to bring forces together instead of creating more devision.

  3. That’s a problematic argument; lately, Apple has been succeeding thanks to aspects of their business that *are* quite legitimate to hate, ex. good ol’ vendor lock-in, aggressive pursuit of obvious patents (talk about a game-breaker), etc. There are many “legitimate” business tactics that we should be under no obligation to be okay with.

    Canonical’s situation is fundamentally different, and you should be able to argue the point without giving a pass to each and every cutthroat tactic. For example, vis-a-vis kernel development, Microsoft’s commits were basically all to do with making Linux work with HyperV, ie, patching Linux so it can run enterprise-level virtualization of Windows. It’s not like they’re bugfixing desktop Linux or such. Meanwhile, despite the “marketshare”, Canonical is a very, very small company, so whether you’re a detractor or supporter it’s unreasonable to expect Canonical to be able to toss out code in the quantities that companies orders of magnitude larger can.

    See? It’s quite possible to argue these points without giving a free pass to bad behaviours.

  4. “Success” is a rather imprecise bit of language when people don’t agree at the outset as to what it means to be successful or the metrics by which it can be assessed.

    So I’m asking you, politely, can you please define for me what you think
    success for Canonical is at this point in time. And more importantly what is Canonical’s vision for what it plans to achieve in the next 3 years, the next 5 years. If there is no expectation as to what will be achieved by a certain point of time, how can you make a statement with regard to success or failure?

    Is success for Canonical as a for-profit business to be a sustainable self-funding business that brings in enough income to keep the lights on without continued venture capital investment? Has Canonical achieved that measure of success yet? And if not yet, then when is that expected to be achieved?

    Is success for Canonical solving bug #1? is that bug still open? And if so, when is it expected to be closed by?

    Is success for Canonical accelerating the uptake of linux by more people? What metric would you suggest be used to measure that? What was the market penetration goals for Canonical, and how does Canonical measure that penetration? I can’t stress this one enough. No one from Canonical has ever gone on record with an explanation for their ubuntu userbase estimates from 2006 through 2010. Not once has it ever been communicated. That is a _real_ problem. If you believe the numbers, explain how they are generated.

    Right now from all the metrics I can access including the wikimedia squid logs, traditional linux distributions present a stagnant market share. Ubuntu may have eaten into the market share of other distributions but I’ve yet to see a trendable metric which suggests that Canonical has accelerated the rate of linux adoption. The _only_ linux growth I’ve seen in the past two years has been entirely due to Android filling in the emerging post-desktop markets. Is this stagnation of adoption success for Canonical?


  5. I see a ton of Ubuntu growth around me personally – I don’t know where are you looking at.

  6. @Jef. I wish I had access to the numbers you are asking for, it would be very interesting to see, but I think it is very hard to measure some of them. However, just anecdotally speaking, almost every new Linux user that I meet and most users at my university start getting into Linux with Ubuntu, but seldom see for instance Fedora or Arch users switch to Ubuntu, because they are familiar with their distro and don’t need to switch. But I have seen some Ubuntu users move to Arch or Fedora.
    I think the one important and central measure of success is simply getting better with every iteration and that has been happening with Ubuntu. The Ubuntu community has also been rapidly growing. I do not think the success of Ubuntu should be measured based on how its competitors are doing but based on how it is doing relative to the previous iterations.

  7. arasbm,
    Ubuntu is not Canonical. And Canonical is not Ubuntu. Don’t get them confused. Ubuntu as a project may define success as iterative progress on the “project” and that is perfectly fine. But what does Canonical consider success for their “business?” There’s no clear answer on that, there’s no clear guidance and over the past few years certain execs have been made some pretty bold statements that haven’t been back up by rational analysis. All we know for sure it it really rubs certain Canonical managers and executives raw when externals question Canonical’s performance as a business and as a member of the FOSS ecosystem.

    So here I am very specifically and very politely asking the blog owner, as a Canonical manager, to define what success means for Canonical (not Ubuntu.) Continuing to answer the question asked of Canonical with answers from an Ubuntu project perspective misses the point entirely. Just like it would miss the point to lay the blame for Canonical’s use of a very bad CLA for years at the feet of the Ubuntu project. Canonical!=Ubuntu.

    Ancedotal evidence of the sort you hold up doesn’t actually address the underlying question. Is Canonical actually increasing market penetration or are they just eating into existing linux marketshare? Has Canonical actually grown linux beyond what it would have been if Ubuntu never existed? There’s no evidence in any metric I’ve been watching that suggests that the linux desktop market has actually grown at a faster rate since Ubuntu was introduced, if its grown at all.


  8. Don’t start sentences with a conjunction. It makes you come across as illiterate.

    I couldn’t read the rest, and maybe you had something valuable to say. lol.

    Anyhoe now I’m going to go and write an angry email to the aggregate site that links to this type of vapid garbage.

  9. I think that this article sends out the wrong message. It’s not 100% clear, and I don’t believe that you intended to say this, but what comes across is a message that the appropriate response to somebody propagating misinformation as the basis for criticising someone else, is for that person to adopt the same misinformation in its own behaviour – i.e. to play the same game. Or to put it another way, two wrongs make a right.

    I think that this isn’t what you meant, and I think you probably just wanted to let off steam about what you consider to be misinformation without having to address it head on, which is of course the prerogative of every blog owner, but it has come across a little rant-ish.

  1. Pingback: Links 31/8/2011: KDE Speed to Improve, Firefox for Tablets | Techrights

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