As a newcomer to KDE I was struck by the singular fact that nothing he said was new per se. When he kidded the community for falling short with documentation and global teaming I was put in mind of our similar struggles in Maemo. So in one sense it was refreshing that that we weren’t the only ones to battle managerial sort of demons and in another frustrating in that his points appear to reinforce the idea that open source communities can’t establish the same degree of discipline as corporate efforts.
This is something we encountered at maemo.org when attempting to implement a usable software quality assurance process. We were looking for balance between chaos and clampdown and stymied by the fact that contributions tried to pull the dialog kicking and screaming into one or another corner (as an aside, it was this very experience that led to our feedback project for MeeGo).
Aaron explained to his audience here that consensus doesn’t always mean 100% agreement and he is correct. A manager of mine once explained that I didn’t have to agree with him, but I had to align. When I understood what he meant I saw the beauty in that statement. His point of course was that ultimately someone had to break logjams and naturally that’s the guy in charge.
But in open governance models there’s very often a public perception that there is no one in charge– indeed, the sense is that there shouldn’t be anyone in charge. Yet how successful is any project erected in anarchy? I know of none. Yes, “anarchy” is often a necessary early component of brainstorming but even that process is supposed to eventually lead to norming and performing.
As KDE grows it will need to at least borrow elements of governance and coordination from corporate models. But at the same time, I think we all understand that even corporations have not managed to perfect that model and that bureaucracy (clampdown) is a common consequence of corporate management run amok.
Aaron wrapped up by challenging the KDE community to adopt elegance as its mantra, in recognition of the success companies like Apple have enjoyed with high visual appeal in their user experience. The designer in me concedes the point, and hopes KDE finds its way to an acceptable elegance. At the same time, the engineer in me has a bottom line desire for performance, and I will gladly sacrifice some eye candy for quick click-throughs. But I am an atypical user and what KDE needs to achieve here is general consensus. Hopefully they will find it.