Seems like the windows controls are in the wrong place, or at least not correctly ordered. Hope this won’t be the default theme as that would be annoying.
And with this, a comparatively innocuous first comment on the new artwork for Ubuntu 10.04, a veritable shitstorm of criticism has rolled across the web — making it all the way back to my favourite Linux podcast, where I first heard about it at length.
The chronology of notable events goes something like this…
March 3rd: The new artwork is announced by Alan Pope (aka Popey) & Jono Bacon in the UK, and in North America by Ars Technica. That same day the kbps blog is (near as I can tell) the first to cry foul on the new window-button placement, drawing a direct comparison to Mac OS X — tantamount to heresy for Linux users.
March 5th: A solution to get the window buttons back where they belong is posted by Daviey. It’s not a trivial thing to do.
March 10th: Ivanka Majik is the first person from the Ubuntu design team to respond to the window buttons issue, a full calendar week after the first posted complaint. Hot on her heels is Mark Shuttleworth himself, replying to a filed bug on Launchpad:
The issue is not a bug, it’s a difference of opinion on what is the best result. We may change it, or we may hold it.
March 12th: Scott Ritchie, another Ubuntu designer, speaks his mind on the window buttons, and makes the screen grab above available for me to use in this post. W00t!
March 17th: Shuttleworth again on Launchpad:
No. This is not a democracy. Good feedback, good data, are welcome. But we are not voting on design decisions.
The shitstorm kicks into high gear.
To OS X and Windows users this may all seem very strange — not the bitching about the OS, but the idea that users could have any say about it in the first place. And that a CEO of a major software company would reply on a message board. Multiple times.
The answer can be found in a famous essay from late in the last century, now showing its age a bit but quite revolutionary for its time. It’s Eric Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar — you can still read the original online like I did, or I can just give you the gist of it here:
The Cathedral would be very much like Apple, going to extreme lengths to protect the secrecy of their covert opps, then summoning the unquestioning masses to foist new products upon them, as in: “Snow Leopard: No new features. $29.99!”
Torvalds’s style of development — release early and often, delegate everything you can, be open to the point of promiscuity — came as a surprise. No quiet, reverent cathedral-building here — rather, the Linux community seemed to resemble a great babbling bazaar of differing agendas and approaches out of which a coherent and stable system could seemingly emerge only by a succession of miracles.
Yet the rise of Linux and this very essay are credited for persuading Netscape to go open-source, paving the way for the Mozilla Foundation and ultimately the Firefox browser. You are using Firefox to read this on a desktop computer, aren’t you? If not, let’s fix that right away…
So with Linux, the line between developer and user is blurred enough that if you’re not happy with a particular distribution you can roll your own. Some forward-thinking software makers will even help you with that.
Given this collaborative environment you can hopefully now see why this window button debacle is such a big deal. As much as anything its about the community not having a say, when having a say is precisely what makes this community so unique.
My two cents?
I’ve read from a couple of sources that the buttons needed to be moved because system notifications were getting in the way of window navigation. I’d venture a guess that the Ubuntu-specific ordering of the buttons — that is, from left to right:
(1) Maximize (2) minimize (3) close, as opposed to OS X’s (1) close (2) minimize (3) maximize…
Was done as a purely pragmatic move to keep Apple’s army of legal drones at bay.
That said, I also think that the new window buttons suck. What do you think?