"Aaron, we owe you" or "Why I am happy that Nepomuk is not as popular as Plasma"

After more than two weeks of vacation I read up on my email and of course am also sickened by some of the stuff I have to read there. Let me open with a quote:

Here's a real suggestion: give us back our Desktops!

That is just plain sad! But it pretty much covers the topic of the whole Aaron/Plasma unpleasantness. Aaron and the Plasma devs are trying something really innovative here, trying to bring a new level of usability and beauty to our desktop. This is not an easy task but nonetheless they do it and IMHO they succeed. And what do they get for it: bashing and complaint over complaint.

Being a developer myself, I know how frustrating even one mail of the "your-solution-is-crap-do-it-this-way-it-will-be-easy" kind can be. But getting such a load of them over months. Man, and still Aaron continues to work on Plasma.

Even if it was not possible to have the old plain and boring desktop back, we should get over ourselves and give new ideas a chance! The whole KDE4 thing is such a brave endeavor. Introducing so many new things, knowing that KDE will lack features for quite some time, and doing it anyway because the desktop has to evolve somehow... why do so many people always only see the problems and never the opportunities? Or are they like me and shut up about it? Is that our problem: do we only speak up to complain but never to praise?

If that is the case, then here we go: I personally think that KDE 4 is a great step forward. I know that it will take some time to port all KDE 3 features. But all the new ideas, all the chances that were taken, make me proud to be part of it. Thanks and congratulations to all of you who took the chance!

I think I am one of those benefiting directly from the willingness to try new things. After all, the KDE developer community gave me the chance to bring Nepomuk into the KDE 4 mix, even though there are still usability problems around and the real benefits are not yet visible. The only reason I don't get beaten over the head all the time like Aaron, is that Nepomuk is not as visible, not as sexy as Plasma. And for once (after envying Aaron for nearly two years) I am happy that many users fail to understand what Nepomuk is or that I fail to explain and promote it properly.

Aaron, I am sorry, that I did not step up before. I, too, should know better. So today I do.

Addendum: I stopped reading the main thread on kde-devel after half the messages. Even I could not take it anymore. How could the Plasma devs and Aaron?


Most people are afraid of any change, be it for the better or worse. And now, when KDE is the primary desktop for millions of users worldwide, you get many comments like this. People that are OK with the changes rarely speak out, but those who oppose like to make sure their voice is heared - that's why most comments are negative. Another fact is that you cannot punch someone in the face over the internet, so anyone can insult, troll and virtually throw feces at anyone else unpunished. The day someone implements Fist-overIP protocol will mark the end of trolling, until then insulting comments won't cease appearing.

I'll say that I really appreciate the work you guys are doing, even though I'm sticking to KDE 3 for now. I'm sure KDE 4.1 (and the releases that'll follow) will be mind-blowing, and eventually the opposition will fade.

60s: drugs, sex, rock'n'roll
90s: bugs, sux, drag'n'drop

By Gleb Litvjak at Thu, 06/26/2008 - 10:29

Quote: "Here's a real suggestion: give us back our Desktops!"

I do not dispute the amount of time, effort and dedication that KDE developers have put into (say) 4.x. I even commend it. But negative user comments, which are nicely encapsulated by the above quote, suggest a few things:

1. KDE.org did not communicate with its intended audience/user base (enough) to prepare them for what they were getting into and, more importantly, giving up by going to 4. Happens every time in corporations ... "We signed up for this? Show me the spec!". Of course, there isn't a public spec for KDE4 or, if there is, it certainly didn't tread on the usability shortfalls and material functional give-ups.

And dumbing down ... the new KDE control panel, the infamous SLAB, everything shouts "Gnome Brainless Dub-Downs". Really, when it takes an act of Congress, 4 Shamans, and a bunch of entrails, plus a whallop of keen C++ programmers to merely change the font size of the clock, don't you think you might have gone a little too "Gnomish"?

2. KDE hyped, even over-hyped, 4 to the gills. It's only when 4.0.x turned out to be nothing more than a shell, a beta at (overstretched) best, that the gears shifted familiarly into the oft-used, "just wait until 4.1" refrain. At this point I see nothing to indicate that 4.1 will have half the usability of 3.5.9, so every time you do this to users you blow your credibility until the point where you have none left.

3. Quote: "... trying to bring a new level of usability and beauty to our desktop ... not as visible, not as sexy as Plasma ...".

Yuppers, bling-time it is. And "... it will take some time to port all KDE 3 features" is at the root of KDE4's problems. If you aren't there, if you don't have a concrete schedule for bringing needed functionality from KDE3, then you don't have KDE4.anything. You have a new desktop metaphor which, at best, should be in the "gee, that's really neat category", not positioned and overhyped as the Second Coming of the KDE desktop. Think about it.

Stop hyping, stop "blaming the user" for all the bad/depressing comments, and start thinking how you are going to get out of this glitzy, bling-ridden Vista wannabe called Plasma. Or at least provide the "boring" 3.5 type of desktop as an option (not 3.5.9, that's dead, you folks say). It's YOUR fault, not the users'. It's not KDE4, it's Plasma and its poorly thought-out interaction and unusability with the average user, that's causing the problem. So suck it up, admit you are at the early stages of KDE4, that's it's not really usable yet (the acid test is whether a corporation would deploy it; the answer is "not on your life!").

Of course, it's very embarassing to have to tell users that 4 is just an early pipe dream, isn't it?

But what do I know. I've only been in the Systems/IT/IS business for more than 40 years, managed development divisions exceeding 400 programmers and analysts, etc. So I'm used to this "it's the users fault" type of crapola.

By burpnrun at Thu, 06/26/2008 - 16:56

The main kde 4 idea is to be a really innovative desktop. Don't like it? Stick with 3.5.x
Something I don't understand is:
How much those who complain have contributed to the project?
It's very easy to sit down and point fingers...
The folks are doing an amazing job on kde 4. I was frustrated myself when I realized that kde 4.0 was not a full replacement to 3.5, and I'm still using 3.5. But I really like the way it's going. I'm looking forward to 4.1 (perhaps 4.2, 4.3...).
So, what's the main difference between a big software company like microsoft? They keep delaying the software, because people pay for software, so people will throw eggs on they if the software is not good enough. An even after years in delay, they managed to released vista.

Luis Fernando Planella Gonzalez

By luisfpg at Fri, 06/27/2008 - 13:09

you are actually arguing the wrong issue entirely. which will only lead to a very disconnected thread of conversation.

see, we've said very clearly for the last year that 4.0.x is very much not intended for average user desktops. we've said that there are things that are incomplete and enumerated them. we've worked hard on bringing things up to snuff and i used to blog nearly daily with progress reports and status updates.

the issue at hand, for me, are people who say things like "bling-ridden Vista wannabe". it's not useful, it's not respectful, it's not something you'd say to my face if we were in person. (i know because despite being in front of a few thousand of you in person since 4.0.x nobody has once said that) the user community is, right now, full of a noxious gas that has nothing to do with the state of the software: it's about what is socially acceptable to do.

individuals among kde's various communities can continue being complete asshats, complete angels or something in between as they wish. but i have had enough of spending my time dealing with such a group of people.

i'm hoping for a social shift that brings actual civility back to things. where what you say here you might say to my face in person. where if you decide to be an asshat, that other people in the community step in to deal with it as being a non-productive addition to things.

that way developers, such as but not limited to myself, can spend our time and our lives interacting with people who not only have real concerns but can communicate them in a way that lets us do something about it (aka "make them happy, too"). in the meantime, by presenting your positing as you have you are helping to bring down the system of production that brings you the free software you use.

i wish i had the personal strength to endure it endlessly, but after being in the project for some 8 years or so and dealing with it full time for 3+ years ... i've found my limits. i hate withdrawing like this, but i'd rather be able to continue working on what i care about (the technology) even if it means turning away from something else i care about (the people who use it) than find myself turning away from it all.

so, as you can see, you're missive above is really about an issue that isn't even being discussed here.

By Aaron J. Seigo at Sat, 06/28/2008 - 16:34

The problem is not Plasma and KDE 4, the problem is that distributions (at KDE's request?) are moving to KDE 4 already, and KDE 4 is ***NOT*** ready to replace KDE 3.5 yet! KDE 4 is essentially still beta, but it's being promoted as a finished product. So, yeah... we're complaining about it. I don't think it's difficult to understand why. I try it again with every new version that hits the repository, but I always go back to 3.5 after less than an hour. It's that frustrating. And when I hear that the next version Ubuntu will not carry 3.* at all, I say to myself "then I'm not going to upgrade, or I'm going to switch window managers".

Nothing to see here. Move along.

By wolfger at Thu, 06/26/2008 - 11:52

till Nepomuk and Strigi get accused of eating everyone's CPU and IO time. Then the "Angry User of Tunbridge Wells" gang will be after you and Jos with personal attacks and a deep sense of personal injustice, I'm afraid - I saw this happen to Joe Shaw and Beagle.

I hope before that happens we'll have a way to deal with these, and an effective way to communicate 'disruptive' technologies' strengths and weaknesses so that the positions do not become as entrenched as they have done around the Plasma 'cashew'.

By Will Stephenson at Thu, 06/26/2008 - 13:44

I would say nepomuk is almost ready for primetime already, I built it and installed it from trunk, and it works perfectly =)
Strigi otoh. I managed to piss off, it went 100% cpu and ate 50% of my memory before I managed to kill it (not as bad as when mlocate goes crazy, though, it has so much heavy IO it's impossible to type "killall"). But on my laptop it runs perfectly =)

By martin sandsmark at Thu, 06/26/2008 - 17:58

> Or are they like me and shut up about it? Is that our
> problem: do we only speak up to complain but never to
> praise?

Yes. But that's quite normal, actually.
As there is a saying in german: "Nicht geschimpft ist gelobt genug" :-/
In English "no news is good news" is somewhat similar, just a bit nicer :-)

Beside that, from time to time we get our hugs and "thank you"s from users and co-developers :-)


By Alexander Neundorf at Thu, 06/26/2008 - 21:18

First off as I agree that KDE 4 isn't completely ready I have been watching its development with interest. When I first heard what Aaron did with the Desktop Icons I myself went WTF but after his presentation on Folderview I was impressed. I like the concept and inception of it myself. Granted more needs to be done with KDE4 and I probably won't jump over myself till 4.2 (maybe 4.3 even) but lets be serious. KDE 4 isn't just a new version its a new vision and when successfully implemented will be light years ahead of Windows. I have seen this argument a lot. I remember when the GUI started taking over the CLI (I love the GUI a lot more, though I can use a CLI.) Everyone screamed no. However, those that scream the loudest only represent a small fraction of users. Most others want new, improved and easier to use interfaces. The ability of folderview is absolutely amazing and before all the darned nay sayers ruin KDE we all need to keep in mind what innovation and and development is.

To the developers keep it up. I can't wait for KDE4 to be production ready.

To all those who scream foul. Sit down, shut up and hold on for the ride of your life. Cause when this baby is ready for the masses it will be nothing like the old clunkers you are used to.

Shaun Marolf (technoshaun)

It isn't about it being free. Rather, its about the freedom it brings.

By technoshaun at Sat, 06/28/2008 - 00:01

It's true that people just love to complain, yet rarely praise. Probably because one usually expects stuff to be working and doing what you want it to do. And when it does, one rarely notices the effort that's gone into that.

Actually, I find myself complaining a lot about KDE4, too, although not publicly. However, and that is what's more important, I've been monitoring the changes throughout much of the development history, always trying a new build. And always finding myself saying, "yep, there's been a lot of improvements". But also, that there is still room for much, much more.
Inspired by this post I've just checked out a current openSUSE KDE4 Factory build. And, what can I say, I'm impressed. Once again you can simply see the changes after just a few minutes, and that's a good sign.

However, I still went back to KDE3. The KDE 3.5 series is simply an amazing piece of software, and for KDE4 to overtake it in terms of stability and maturity will take some time, but I'm optimistic that at some point it will offer the funtionality of it, and easily go beyond that.

Actually, I kind of feel sorry for the devs (actually, Aaron specifically, because he seems to be such a nice guy, and plasma takes the brunt of the complaints), because people usually say "it's crap" or "looks very promising, _but_ ..." and the like. It's been in development for years, and until people are willing to use it on a regular basis, it will probably take another one. Which means they're basically releasing software that few people want to use, or use right now, anyway.

With KDE4 they've taken quite a risk, I guess, but I'm sure it will pay off in the end.

... that's just been on my mind for a while. (even if this post is a bit dated in todays blogging world *cough*)

By thora at Mon, 07/07/2008 - 23:08