I think I may be done …

I don’t have a lot more to say about the Ubuntu Community Council’s decision, backed up by the SABDFL, to, in secret, with no consultation with the rest of the leadership of the Kubuntu community (i.e. the Kubuntu Council) remove Jonathan Riddell than I’ve already said to them in the series of emails I’ve just made public.

Since I got involved in Ubuntu development in 2006, I’ve known we had a SABDFL.  I’ve never particularly liked it, but I understood it.  SABDFL created and funded both Canonical and Ubuntu.  His sand box, his rules.  Fair enough.  What I didn’t know until this week though was that we had more than one.

I invite people to re-read the Code of Conduct and consider how that relates to how the Ubuntu Community Council has handled their dispute with Jonathan Riddell.  I think their actions in no way comport to either the letter or spirit of the CoC.  I had held out some hope that this secret trial and expulsion decision was not supported by the SABDFL and that he would intervene to help de-escalate the situation so we could reach a reasonable resolution and move forward as a community.

Unfortunately, he didn’t.  What he said was, “The CC is entitled to choose who they will recognise as their counterparts and representatives in sub-communities like Kubuntu.”  The CC is entitled to choose.  So in addition to a SABDFL, we have a CC that can for whatever reason determine anyone is unsuitable to be in a leadership position.  I mention this specifically as a warning to others in leadership positions in Ubuntu.  You are very specifically not free to criticize the CC.  I’m sure they will push back and claim the issue isn’t the criticism, but the way it was done.  That may or may not be true, only they know, but I do know that there was no consultation done with the Kubuntu Council to try and resolve this.  Since they operate in secret, there’s no way to know when one is near or over whatever arbitrary line they choose to draw.

I don’t know what Jonathan did or did not do.  The CC have declined to provide any information to support their rather extreme accusations.  As far as I can tell (for example), regarding the accusation that Canonical employees have trouble working with him, I haven’t been able to find any despite several days of asking people who work for Canonical that I know work with him.  I suspect I know where to find the Canonical employees in question based on one of the replies in the extended discussion between CC and KC members, “It’s been stressful to everyone on the CC, particularly our members who work for Canonical and are powerless in this situation”.  It would be nice if they were adult enough to actually say specifically who they are and not hide behind anonymity in making this accusation.  Personally, I think this probably says more about the appropriateness of having Canonical employees on the CC than it does about anything Jonathan may have done wrong.

In the end, I don’t think it matters much what he did or not do.  For me, the primary point is about the CC’s complete failure to follow the CoC and the SABDFL approval of that.  Almost exactly six years ago, I wrote a blog post talking about being here for the freedom, Back home from UDS Karmic.  I still am.  In retrospect, I think I was a fool to expect freedom in a dictatorship.

Except in the unlikely event this somehow all gets undone, I plan to wind down my involvement with Ubuntu and move fully to Debian (where I’ve also been involved in development for some time).  I still have Ubuntu systems to support and they will take time to migrate.  Additionally, the CoC requires me to “Step down considerately”.  I’m not going to just dump everything so an appropriate transition won’t be fast.  It might not be a bad idea though that if you’re thinking I’m going to do something that isn’t finished, check with me and make sure I still plan on it, since my motivation level for Ubuntu work has about hit bottom.

This is not the Ubuntu project I joined in 2006.  I would like to have that one back, but it’s not my call.  I don’t think I will ever feel comfortable in what it’s become.  I’ll most regret leaving behind a lot of great people I’ve worked with.  Fortunately, many of them are active in Debian too, so I’ll still see them there.

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22 Responses to “I think I may be done …”


  1. 1 Jonathan May 26, 2015 at 13:26

    Thank you for all the work you have done over the years I’m sorry this has gone this way for you. Back when I was doing documentation for the team you made me feel welcome and a part of the team even if I couldn’t code a lick.
    I hope things resolve in a good way for you

  2. 2 change May 26, 2015 at 17:11

    I don’t know anything about this situation. But I am thinking that today Canonical is focused on Mir, phone, convergence, snappy, server etc… They are not focused on building a traditional debian-based desktop distribution anymore. Maybe this is the root cause of the problem.

    • 3 Zor May 26, 2015 at 19:29

      The core problem is that Canonical never had any real focus and keep pivoting and jumping the last bandwagon. In order of apparition : desktop, server, developer services (think landscape), cloud, mobile, smart tv and now IOT. They’re everywhere and everything … yet nowhere.

      All the talents they drained from Debian in 2004 are long gone. Ubuntu lost is soul along the way but sadly a lot of people haven’t realized yet.

  3. 5 helga May 26, 2015 at 17:43

    I read through the mailing list. You did such a good job trying to make that whole mess right. I’m very sorry that this had to happen and I hope you find solace in the Debian community.

  4. 6 Jace May 26, 2015 at 18:05

    Scott , you’ve been a “voice of reason” so many times in discussions within the ubuntu community, and you’re doing it again.

    My thanks for all your efforts, and I’ll be moving away from ubuntu as well.

  5. 7 crhylove May 27, 2015 at 01:13

    Good luck. Debian just rigged a ridiculous vote to switch to systemd. Linux mint has an awesome community, but Ubuntu and Debian are upstream, so we’re getting fucked too. Obviously the NSA or somebody malevolent had figured out how to destroy open source and they are firing on all cylinders. 😦

  6. 9 Jonathan Carter May 27, 2015 at 04:11

    I was shocked reading and catching up about this topic this morning. I think suspending Jonathan from the KC is harsh and unfair.

    What else can I say… welcome to Debian? 🙂

  7. 10 Sinclair May 27, 2015 at 06:06

    my comment on Phoronix, for whatever it is worth:

    This is not about Mir or Wayland or systemd or whatever. Jonathan has worked hard for the Kubuntu distribution. That he has asked questions about how *buntu use funds coming from outside can not be wrong in itself. If he has used the wrong channels, so be it. In none of the quoted IRC or mails do I see any abusive language that should make anyone shed tears. Of course I am not wading through years of email and IRC but the quotes are not, to me, in any way abusive or offensive. Mr. Riddell is not any appointed leader but he is sure seen as “brand leader” of Kubuntu and KDE and this just does not make much sense. To also lose Scott K will hurt what is a great KDE distro. The Ubuntu CC and Mark S needs to reflect here on what I see as a really bad decision

  8. 11 bigjools May 27, 2015 at 06:22

    Thanks for your work on Kubuntu over the years Scott. I still prefer it over plain Ubuntu.

  9. 12 miahfost May 27, 2015 at 06:44

    I look forward to your contributions to Debian and thanks for all you’ve done already in Kubuntu and Debian. While I don’t use Kubuntu, my colleague next to me at work does so I get to see it a lot. It’s an excellent system.

    I’m sorry about you’re having to go through this nonsense with Canonical but I think your principle of supporting Free Software is the important principle to stand by, which you’ve done.

  10. 13 Keith Zubot-Gephart May 27, 2015 at 16:22

    I use Kubuntu every day, and your contributions have been invaluable from what I can tell. Sad to see you go, but Debian is the mothership, so I know you’ll do good work there too, and hope you’re ready to beam the rest of us up if it comes to it 🙂

  11. 14 Kay Hayen May 28, 2015 at 10:51

    Hello Scott,

    reading all the publicly available information, I can fully understand your stance. I would like to invite you to work on Debian. It has the drawbacks of democracy, but what exactly would prevent the Kubuntu people to work on it as a base.

    They do have clear trademark rules, and after the systemd change, are in a very good position for modern desktop with Stretch.

    I left Ubuntu back to Debian a long time ago (8.04 or something like that), for lack of reasons to use it over Debian. From what I can tell, Debian has become more likely to work, and you taking a snapshot of Debian testing and calling it a release and Ubuntu doing that with Debian unstable, it’s not so sure, if you wouldn’t come out better. Mint has shown that both works, as far as I can tell.

    I was surprised that Kubuntu was kept alive for this long anyway. It was never welcome, or first class part of the “community”, was it?

    As for Mark, I can kind of understand, how he wants to reduce stress for his people. Even if KC was correct in its requests (and Jonathan was just the guy following up I understand), it’s still just load to Ubuntu, which has severely lost focus on the free desktop.

    So, please, don’t get lost to the cause of freedom. Find a new home, and try to take others with you. Debian can be too democratic, and hard to work with, or so I read (I am very happy with it). But it’s at least it sticks to its rules and it *wants* and loves forks by default.

    • 15 skitterman May 28, 2015 at 11:09

      Don’t worry. Debian isn’t new to me. I’ve been involved in Debian development for years. This isn’t as much a switch as a shift in emphasis.

  12. 16 Julek May 29, 2015 at 17:19

    Thanks Scott for all your involvement. I’ve been using Kubuntu since 5.04 and could never switch to Ubuntu. As long as there’s a simple upgrade path from Kubuntu to its possible successor I’ll follow it. Actually I’ve even switched from 32 bits Linux to 64 bits without formatting, due to the fact the system to which you’ve contributed is so powerful.

    So if Kubuntu merges with Mint or whatever I’ll follow it (but I’d prefer the upgrade path is simple, just as migrating from Ubuntu to Mint)

  13. 17 Jerry L Kreps May 30, 2015 at 15:26

    I’ve read all the posts and agree with your evaluation of the situation. Since Jonathan isn’t going to resign and the Kubuntu council supports him SABDFL will have to make a decision to either block Kubuntu’s access to Canonical resources (I have no idea how closely entwined they are) or back off. Regardless, Blue Systems is paying the bills and what it decides to do will determine what happens to Kubuntu. My hope is that Blue Systems continues to support the developers who are paid to work on Kubuntu, and also the move to a Debian base.

    I found Kubuntu and KubuntuForums.net in January of 2009 and have stayed with them every since because KDE is the cleanest and most functional version of the KDE desktop without being chained to a dominating corporation like Novell chained SUSE. SABDFL appears to have changed that relationship. KubuntuForums is too friendly and capable of a forum to leave. It wouldn’t surprise me that it opened a “Kdebian” or some such subforum, in the future. It answers questions for just about any distro AND for Windows too, and you won’t see an RTFM reply to any question there.

    I’ve favored since KDE 1.0 beta appeared in the SuSE 5.3 September 1998 release. If Canonical cuts off Kubuntu’s access to the repositories and or servers I will be moving to Debian KDE sooner rather than later.

    Keep up the good work, Scott. A LOT of people will be following you to Debian.

  14. 19 txwikinger May 31, 2015 at 17:29

    Reblogged this on txwikinger's blog and commented:
    I am sorry to hear that, Scott. I can undestand your feelings and have to say I feel in similar ways. I have wound down my participation over several years now, mainly because I saw the same deficiencies as you describe here. I never understood why a community that was suscribing to the CoC was so willing to take divisions and divisive actions as normal way of operating.

    I hope our paths will cross again in the future on other exciting FLOSS projects.

  15. 20 Varun June 5, 2015 at 03:39

    What happened is definitely very sad. But people must realize that Ubuntu is no more a domain of freedom it talks about. The sooner the better.

    Just a tiny example of how far and wide this sense of dictatorship prevails : http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=2278836

    The official reply there (post #4) basically translates to – “We’ll do whatever we want, whenever we want, with whoever we want…. without even letting you know, let alone discussing first”.

    My trust in Canonical was shaken long ago when I first got a hint of how much their words and deeds really match about ‘valuing the community’ : https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu-website-content/+bug/1172422 . But with the action and response in the forums thread linked above, and now such a shameful conduct by CC backed by SABDFL himself, I’ve lost my faith in the entire Ubuntu ecosystem.

    A warning from me too, to all those who still think Ubuntu is “Community driven” and so a good place to contribute their volunteer time and energy.

    I didn’t want to “poison the well behind” as Mark once said in his blog. But with the rapidly deteriorating ethics of Ubuntu, it is probably time to abandon all hopes of “things will improve given some time”, and speak up to let volunteers know what they are (or are going to get) involved with.

    Besides, my idea of ‘who is actually poisoning the well’ happens to be different.

  16. 21 Some Dude on the Interwebs June 12, 2015 at 11:00

    My sympathy to you.

  17. 22 Marcus Wellendorf July 9, 2015 at 06:31

    Since Shuttleworth said he would be a friendly dictator, I didn’t trust him. I am a German, so I am especially sensitive about dictatorships. And as a south african Shuttleworth does know about dictatorships, too. He made his decision.

    There was always a chance this confrontation would come and now he might think, he will win something. I think it’s necessary for all people with interest in free software to leave the Ubuntu project. That will not change back to a better situation.

    It will change a lot. I am looking forward to the new worlds of linux systems. This experiences will be important for future generations, too.

    Best!
    Marcus


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