Mobile Linux characters have been acting out lately like they were in a bad adventure movie.
Maemo lopes slowly and reluctantly toward its fatal date with the sunset. MeeGo blinks in the same sun and finds its full commitment gone. And like a battle-tested Phoenix, Tizen emerges from the ashes of twice-burned, thrice-shy skepticism.
Such is life in the largely undeveloped desert ecosystems outside the expanding stockade walls of Appleworld, Microsoftia and the remaining fading few.
I knew something was developing on, under or around MeeGo for the past few months but until I dropped down in SEA-TAC airport last Tuesday evening I had no idea it was so drastic an overhaul. Of course “drastic” is in the eye of the beholder, and just like Maemo-to-MeeGo before it, the Tizen announcement has polarized those affected into two basic camps: those seeing the change as necessary and evolutionary versus those seeing it as unnecessarily destructive.
As noted in the previous article here, I’m trying not to rush into judgment. Yes, the move to an HTML5 focus is disruptive but is it necessarily destructive? Well, many Qt developers thought so at first, but Nomovok’s assurance that they will provide support for Tizen + Qt should encourage most if not all.
Developers are an important part of any software-oriented community, of course, and that was especially true of Maemo. But community goes far beyond coders. The enthusiasts need to be sold on Tizen, too, and that isn’t going to be easy. Will it require another Dublin-scale event to sway the cynics? It sure couldn’t hurt.
And then there’s governance. Intel was more hands-on than Nokia was with Maemo, and there were grumblings about MeeGo governance and transparency. This is noteworthy since only the diehards stuck with the migration from the former to the latter. Now the move to Tizen threatens to fragment the open source community even further. Keep in mind that many are still trying to keep Maemo alive in some fashion, and it didn’t take long for the dedicated MeeGo community to float similar proposals. OpenSUSE was quick to reach out and offer one possibility, and there will surely be more.
That said, I do expect Tizen to attract its own following regardless of skepticism. Many will undoubtedly be drawn from web-centric developer pools, in all likelihood including the uncertain WebOS community (unless the rumor of Amazon.com acquiring that operating system prevents a mass exodus). At some point I expect to see further convergence in the mobile Linux realm. It’s inevitable.
I’m personally on the fence for now. I invested in Maemo– that went bust. Put even more effort into MeeGo– poof. But as with many bloggers who devoted miles of text to both ventures, it’s the rebranding that mostly affects my participation. After all, I have yet to write a line of code for either (although I am preparing to try my hand at Qt) and have been mainly involved in community building, cultivating and advocating. Most of the projects I have worked on will translate well to Tizen; indeed, I see starter activities like MeeGo Greeters as necessary for speedy ramp-up. Same for solving essentially unanswered questions such as “Why MeeGo?”.
But I’m not just going to analyze and criticize. I have some more suggestions:
- Pick a talking head, and have them talk. There were times of silence in Meegoland, and that’s just not acceptable. Even a frequent “we still can’t say much, but here’s what we can say” can do wonders. And try to limit messages to the owner of the message to ensure accuracy… but by all means make them highly available!
- Forget the “because we say so” answers. Just excise that habit completely from your response vernacular. They do damage to your credibility. Same goes for automatic defense of any decision– you might just be in the wrong. If strong, knowledgeable members of your community say so, be prepared to hear them out… and if you must counter, do so with facts, not emotion.
- Foster some fun. At AppUp Elements 2011, Bob Duffy asked our community panel what the AppUp/Tizen communities could do better. I suggested contests, and I see them as an easy, popular way of injecting fun and excitement into the experience. Consider this: you only really need one reward offered in any contest, not one per participant. And people thrive on fun competitions. AppUp has already held some cool coding contests, and Meego did so with tee-shirts for conferences. More, please. Maybe create a Ministry of Fun?
- Support regional/local outreach. The Linux Foundation was right to let this activity grow organically from grass roots, but stronger support would have been helpful. We were working on budgets for this at MeeGo, but I’m guessing the shift to Tizen is what stifled that. I’m expecting that to be revived now.
- Kill the Genie. Seriously. What a creepy mascot. And how does it associate with Tizen? Why not design something around the actual concept of Zen? If you don’t, though, I will. Maybe a contest?
- Speaking of branding: the logo font has got to go, too. It makes me think of balloon animals. Let’s change it. Significantly.
There are others, but I’m tapped out for now. More to come as I get to it.
One thing I will say that’s been done right so far is one of those small-but-big details: a .org for the domain. That speaks volumes. Now let’s hope the rest of the walk matches the talk.
All thoughts welcomed.
(and in case the joke of the headline doesn’t translate universally, it’s a play on the old “Me Tarzan, you Jane” line related to Tarzan movies)