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What Makes a Community Distro?

Editor’s note: At approximately 8:30 pm EDT on Monday, June 10, 2013 we decided to pull the plug on our Community Distro poll which is referenced in this article after we discovered that 90 votes were cast from the same IP address, evidently in Norway. All votes cast by this IP were for the same single distribution, evidently by an overeager fan of the distro wanting to improve its ranking as a community distro.

Due to issues of public trust, we have decided NOT to continue this poll with a manual count. We appreciate the time all of you took to participate, and we apologize for not being able to see this poll through to it’s completion.

**********

We love it when you make us think and last week you did just that.

On Monday, Christine Hall stirred-up the mud a little with her article Since When Was Ubuntu A Community Distro? The article was written as a tongue in cheek response to a post on another site, in which a writer had feigned surprise while lamenting the fact that Ubuntu was “no longer a community distro.”

Ms Hall feigned surprise right back, while asserting Ubuntu to never having been a community Linux distro, despite Mr. Shuttleworth and Canonical calling it so.

That assertion is not what stirred-up the mud, however; it generated not one ripple of controversy. Nope. That was fine. Our readership is pretty quick on the uptake, so no one had any problem with the concept of just-because-somebody-says-it-don’t-make-it-so, which is basically what Ms Hall was saying. After spending a lifetime watching television commercials, it’s only a tiny baby step from realizing that Cocoa Puffs are not part of a healthy breakfast no matter what the commercial claims to understanding that Mr. Shuttleworth was just trying to get some traction for his cute little commercial Linux distribution when he insisted it belonged to the community.

It wasn’t Ubuntu that mucked the rake. It was Ms Hall’s assertion that Red Hat’s Fedora is a community distro in name only that really got the discussion heated. Not that we minded, mind you. We kind of like being in the center of controversy sometimes. Especially if it gives us, and our gentle readers, the opportunity to think and learn something.

Here’s the passage from Ms Hall’s article that got things going:

“I had a bigger laugh when Ms Guacamole proved she still hadn’t quite mastered the journalism game, that she was still a little green if you will, by proclaiming Fedora to be ‘a completely open community distribution.’

“Hmmm…

“I think Red Hat might even argue with her a little on that. Fedora is Red Hat’s testing grounds. It’s where they throw stuff against the wall to see what sticks and what breaks. It’s a distro that some of us are afraid to try because we can’t afford to be bleeding edge. We have work to do and don’t have time to recover from being Red Hat’s guinea pigs.

“Here’s what Techmint’s Avishek Kumar wrote in an article posted just last Friday:

‘”Actually Fedora is a testing platform of Red Hat and a product is developed and tested here before entering the Enterprise distro.”‘”

Red Hat's community distro is FedoraIt appears that some people who work for Red Hat on the Fedora project somehow found Ms Hall’s article and took exception to it. They weren’t speaking for Red Hat, just for themselves, but it was obvious that they didn’t think it was fair to all the community volunteers at Fedora when folks like us give distros like Fedora and openSUSE second class status as community distros.

Quite frankly, they made a good case. One Red Hat employee who works on the Fedora project contacted us privately through email with these words:

“The reason I so vehemently dislike statements about Fedora being ‘just a testing ground for RHEL’ and ‘not a real community distro’ is that we’ve got an amazing team of volunteers who belong to the community outreach program, and when they hear that, it is incredibly demoralizing.

“They spend nights and weekends away from their families trying to build the Fedora community, participating in conventions and LinuxFests, they design content, publish articles, work to bring new community members on board… and then read this stuff. It’s enough to make them want to throw their hands up.

“…the Fedora community does AMAZING work in end-user space–from X to GNOME to apps to games, thousands of people give their own time to make ALL of Linux better (remember, we do everything in upstream, we don’t keep anything for our own distros). Then they hear that all that is ‘just a beta for RHEL.’ It’s incredibly objectionable.

From another Red Hatter connected with Fedora, we were given a good description of how development takes place within the Fedora project:

“Day-to-day, in practice, though, Fedora gets built by the people who build it – whether they’re RH staff or not. Most stuff that happens in Fedora just happens: someone with commit rights does something, and no-one complains. And lots and lots of non-RH people have commit rights to Fedora and ‘do stuff’ all the time. We have entire desktops and spins that are maintained by non-RH staff.

“Where decisions are actually made by some kind of decision-making body, there are several that aren’t RH-controlled, and even where a board or committee has a lot of @redhat people on it, they’re usually just making decisions based on their own discretion as to what is good for the Fedora project; they usually aren’t subject to ‘guidance’ from RH’s corporate hierarchy (not that it has much of one…) or considerations of ‘what’s good for Red Hat’. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that no @redhat person ever thought ‘hmm, is this going to be a problem for that huge Red Hat release next month?’ because I’m not an idiot and neither are you, but believe me, it’s not the kind of thing that’s going on _all the time_.

“So can we just agree to a kind of middle ground? No, Fedora is not a perfect ‘community distribution’, Red Hat ultimately holds the Fedora strings. But at the same time, in practice, Fedora isn’t some kind of Red Hat-directed RHEL sandbox where nothing happens without approval from the Red Hat Guidance Committee or something. In practice, the people who make Fedora mostly do it with an honest effort to make Fedora the best project it can be, regardless of RH’s concerns, and that applies whether those people are @redhat or not.”

We certainly never intended to belittle volunteers who are working hard to help the cause of GNU/Linux in consumer space or in the developmental process. By the same token, we can’t deny the fact there’s a big difference between distros such as Fedora and openSUSE, that fall under the ownership of larger commercial Linux distributions, and stand alone community distros with no commercial interests, such as Debian.

At this point, we could throw our hands up, say we can’t cope and secretly declare to ourselves that we’ll never write another article that even mentions the phrase “community distro.” We could, but we’re not built that way. To our way of thinking, this is an opportunity to have an important dialog.

So we ask, what is a community distro?

We’ve always thought of a community distro as being one that’s not connected with a commercial distro. Projects like Debian or Slackware immediately come to mind. To our way of thinking, even distros that are based on commercial distros can wear the “community” label, so long as the commercial distro has no claim over the community distro. An example here might be Bodhi Linux, which has Ubuntu under the hood but isn’t officially connected in anyway with Canonical, as far as we know.

Where does that leave distros like Fedora? With all of their volunteers working diligently to build community, it seems unfair to say it’s not a community distro. By the same token, it seems unfair to distros like Debian to lump them both in the same category.

What do you think?

We invite you to join in a dialog with us in the comments section beneath this article–after you have taken our poll, of course.

Editor’s note: Article updated 6/10/13 at 8:50 pm EDT to announce premature closing of poll.

68 comments to What Makes a Community Distro?

  • Guy

    Fedora is not fully a community distro because a community does not have the final say, no matter how many brilliant volunteers they rope in. Red Hat are a brilliant example of a benevolent dictator & truly benefit the whole Linux community, but anyone who gets involved must be aware that it is their party: splitting Fedora itself off of Red Hat is a brilliant example of this.

    It must be said that this is also true of non-business Distros who do not have an elected leadership. A BDFL is still a dictator.

  • Balaji Devaraju

    I think a possible terminology to differentiate the distros would be Fedora and openSuSE are community-contributed distros and Debian and Slackware are community-governed and community-contributed distros.

  • biggles

    Is it necessary to use the “community” predicate? There are different types of distro with different communities attached to them I don’t think putting the cart before the horse is helpful. There are “Free” as in FSF distros, there are those that revolve around companies but may have independence to a degree and there are many more in between.

  • Andrew

    It’s true that many Fedora developers are volunteers, but maybe if they spent more time with their families and friends instead of haunting the lists they would be better people.

  • Backtracking now Christine?

    I mean ‘shoot and ask questions later’ seems to be what has happened here.

    Really, what I wrote about Ubuntu could be construed as ‘shock jock’ but it’s the only way in my estimation to get the community’s collective attention and get them to wake up and smell the moca java.

    They are borderline delusional to think they have input into Canonical’s decision making.

    I have avoided responding up to this point but would like to say I am most disappointed by your behavior.

    Now, with this story, you are actually trying to do ‘damage control’ which is a by-product of your ignorance. Tongue-in-cheek. Right.

    You might have done some research ‘first’ before going full bore with your fanciful fiction. Because that is just what it is:

    FICTION.

    I notice too that when it suits you, your posts go up ‘without’ your name.

    I suppose in your mind that means ‘you’ aren’t the one doing the backtracking here. Hey, Christine Hall didn’t write this story.

    Do enjoy your humble pie.

    Dietrich Schmitz
    Your Linux Advocate
    w-w-w dot linuxadvocates dot com

  • @Dietrich Schmitz Sorry, Dietrich. I’m not doing any backtracking here, and I’m sorry if it seems that way to you. As far as I’m concerned Ubuntu has absolutely never been a community Linux distribution, and Fedora still doesn’t qualify as a true community distribution. That doesn’t mean there’s not a community aspect to distributions like Fedora and openSUSE, but they’re not at all in the same ball park as as distributions such as Debian or Slackware.

    As to the byline on this piece. You will note that since we began running polls on this site, the articles surrounding the polls have been written as staff reports. This is done because everyone who is involved in the day to day operations of FOSS Force has equal input into what is included in these polls. The same has been true of our Friday news review since we revived it several months back. My byline is on this week’s review only due to the political nature of the post and our feeling that since I was writing it I should be able to freely answer for anything contained within it.

    BTW, I attempted to comment on your site last night to commend you on the good work you’ve been doing since the Prism story broke. I think your how-to stories on how people can protect themselves from Big Brother while online are very useful and a service to the community.

  • Andrew

    LOL @ “FICTION”. Dietrich, you have yet to spend more than 20 minutes researching any of the articles you have written. Just about all of them are nothing but speculation based on a sheer lack of understanding of context and community. You are the only fiction writer around these parts.

    It’s very obvious that you still haven’t learned anything, maybe you just aren’t hungry enough to get the message yet.

  • Andrew

    Christine, using an SSH proxy to a VPS doesn’t make you anonymous. Records are kept as to who owns that host and it normally has a unique IP. The data may appear to originate from another location, but it’s only slightly more difficult to identify the source.

    The only way to be reasonably anonymous would be to use a host with an IP that is shared with many but then you have the potential for identity theft via man in the middle attacks.

    Dietrich’s methods are not the answer, they are just lipstick on a pig.

  • @Andrew If that’s true, it’s not good. It would mean someone might be thinking they’re safe online in ways that they’re not. I’m certain that an ethical and dedicated journalist like Dietrich Schmitz will be posting corrections for the benefit of the visitors to his site who depend on his information if what you say is, indeed, true. When he does, he should thank you, Andrew, for making him aware of his error.

  • Andrew

    All they need is an IP address which anyone can trace back to a hosting provider, and with the right documentation a government (or even a corporation) can obtain records about whomever owns that host and / or logs from that host. Depending on the case, (and with a warrant) they could even mirror the port traffic and collect evidence against whomever owns it without the owner knowing.

    Unless the VPS was created with a fake identity and a fake credit card, it can be traced back to the owner. Running a Linux VPS doesn’t mean that you are safe either because you don’t control the source running on that VPS or any of the equipment around it.

    Just food for thought.

  • Christine,

    I am going to guess Andrew has a last name. For some reason he’s not up to giving it here. That shows a lack of integrity and confidence in that which he writes.

    You’ll find many, like him, who will engage in posting ‘swill’ all day long.

    It’s a hobby of theirs, I am afraid.

    BTW, I didn’t write that using an ssh wasn’t circumventable.

    Of course, all websites must maintain logs and furnish them when asked.

    But for general purposes, the story stands as a good way to keep your surfing private. Only the endpoint WAN ip is revealed which isn’t yours.

    And, for many who are in third-world countries who are blocked from accessing free information around the globe, it is an excellent way to bypass existing proxies.

    There’s no lipstick involved, just good solid ssh encryption.

    For certain, there will be no man-in-the-middle using RetroShare, but he’s playing “Devil’s Advocate”.

    There’s a reason the site I demonstrated is called:

    SILENCEISDEFEAT.COM

    Thanks.

  • Andrew

    To add a little more to that, even if it’s created with a fake ID, unless all connectivity to the VPS is masked by proxies that don’t log MAC addresses or source IPs it’s even possible to trace by source address connecting to the VPS. Using proxies adds to the risk of man in the middle attacks.

  • You’re kind of saying in technical terms, Andrew, what I’ve been planning on saying in my next column in layman’s terms.It’s hard to hide on the network from an organization with the resources of the NSA.

  • Andrew

    Thank you for being an honest and reputable journalist, Christine. I both enjoy and appreciate your work.

  • >”BTW, I attempted to comment on your site last night to commend you on the good work you’ve been doing since the Prism story broke. I think your how-to stories on how people can protect themselves from Big Brother while online are very useful and a service to the community.”

    I use DISQUS. I find no trace of any comment from you.

    I don’t think you ‘attempted’ hard enough. ;)

  • A copy of this has been emailed to Christine Hall:

    Hi Christine,

    I would like to update you on ‘Andrew’.

    My guess is that it is Andrew Wyatt, who is the founder of the now defunct Fuduntu Linux.

    He has, for whatever reason, decided to go on his own character assassination crusade against me.

    The funny thing is and both Katherine and I were his biggest proponents and we both wrote stories about our most ‘favorite’ distro, which we both used until he made the public announcement for ‘end of life’ of the project. In fact, if you look on my site, you’ll still see the top story is about Fuduntu, which received over 20,000 pageviews with 15,000 in one day. That would make me what? A protagonist? Yes? :/

    The project per the announcement was to be made available for maintenance updates through end of year 2013.

    That changed to being pulled off-line on short notice by the Founder.

    The members of the project then announced that they were forking openSUSE to a then chosen name of FuSE. All well and good.

    I opted to cover the story with my own story: “Confused by Fuse”.

    Clever. You have to do whatever you can to grab the reader’s interest.

    Anyhow, I used a “pull quote” from a story from Susan Linton of OStatic which said the quote was from one of the project’s members (not Andrew Wyatt).

    The bats from h3ll ensued. They danced on my head with football cleats for a bad pull quote? The quote was corrected to say that Andrew Wyatt said it. I’d call it a major overreaction on their part.

    That would have been the end of it only I am quite willing to be forthcoming with my readers and I reminded them that openSUSE is ‘still’ financed by an interop agreement originally created in 2006 between Microsoft and Novell and renewed for another four (4) years by Attachmate’s subsidiary SuSE Gmbh in July, 2011.

    Mind you, I have a right to give an opinion. I wrote that I couldn’t endorse SuSE or openSuSE because of that relationship, in the full knowledge that Microsoft have put out major innuendo that some 230+ patents of theirs are ip-infringed by Linux and announced without any form of substantiation to this very day.

    The 2006 Novell-Microsoft interop agreement was ‘window dressing’ because in December of the same year, Microsoft was up for a DOJ Antitrust hearing to decide if the ‘oversight’ of their activities should be renewed for another year.

    So, Microsoft was merely trying to ‘play nice’ in front of the DOJ. Microsoft is never nice. Look at Novell now and also look at Nokia.

    Anyhow, that’s the scoop. I didn’t like their choice to fork to openSUSE and said so. Free country.

    I think Andrew has become unhinged.
    Just the other day he tried to connect to me on LinkedIn.

    I disconnected from him because of his antics with the Confused by Fuse story, why would he think I’d want to reconnect with him? Odd.

    Oh, also, the likelihood of a man-in-the-middle attack with silenceisdefeat dot com are miniscule. Andrew is merely playing “Devil’s Advocate” and seeks any opportunity at this point to discredit me.

    I am sincerely behind what I write and I would not put up such a story if I felt it posed a significant risk to reader’s activities.

    I have assuaged for ‘years’ that people get off of Windows, which is a collander security-wise and global crime-rings can exploit it like shooting fish in a barrel because of defects in the legacy WinNT kernel.

    To sniff on a shell account would mean that the user would have to have root access and set up ARP emulation (acting like a router polling packets).

    The accounts for shell are quite restrictive, especially on this one (silenceisdefeat dot com) being BSD. That simply isn’t going to happen.

    Alright, just thought you should know.

  • Meanwhile, back at the point with no mud to sling:
    The origin of the distributions have little to do with the extent of their community. When it comes to Fedora, we should not forget that Red Hat had an extensive community before they split into Fedora and RHEL. And the Fedora releases are not exactly what comes out as RHEL. The relationship between Opensuse and the various business entities have been changing, but there is a community which contributes greatly. Debian has nothing BUT a community, and Slackware has been a commercial entity from the beginning, with an extremely loyal following.
    Linspire – or as it was called, Lindows – had a tiny community, but was a popular distribution for purchase. And Mandrake had lots of ups and downs.
    So if a distribution is community-defined and decided by community, Slackware is no community distribution. The kernel is no community project.

  • I am willing to correct any factual statement in my stories found to be incorrect.

    In fact, I am vetting how Fedora governs itself insofar as their board voting is concerned with Adam Williamson of Red Hat.

    It would appear that at this time the board appointed Red Chair has a ‘veto’ vote, according to this statement:

    “https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Board

    that explains the purpose and structure of the Board. It’s 50% elected,
    50% appointed by RH, and the RH-appointed Chair of the board has the
    casting vote (and indeed an all-out veto), though I don’t believe that
    has ever been used. In practice, the FPL is usually the Chair (Robyn
    currently holds that position).”

    If this is confirmed to be true, I am going to retract that Fedora is 100% community operated.

    –Dietrich

  • Eddie G.

    All I see here are people eating which distros get their input from corporations and which get them from a grup of people who do NOT own a corporation. For cheese & ceackers sake people! In my mind it really doesn’t MATTER chich it is?….I USE Ubuntu Linux….on my laptop…but my “Distro Of Choice”? for handling the day to day needs I have…from office documents to emails? FEDORA! And I don’t mind that Red hat may “own” them. As long as there are people out there who are contributing their time…energy….waking and sleeping hours….and even time with family, in order to produce a sturdy, stable, and elegant product….then what does it matter if Red Hat is the one who makes final decisions? And I KNOW there’s a “possibility” that one day Red hat could “pull-the-plug” on Fedora, but do you REALLY think that would STOP the Fedora Project? it would march on with the same talented people, cranking out the same great distro. I guess for those who MUST nit-pick and get anal-retentive about it…there’s ALWAYS going to be a controversy about what “makes” a community distro from one that is not, but for the rest of the world, there’s SO much more to think about, ponder upon and consider! Like for instance, can someone tell me why there are so many dang-nabbed desktop environments out there?…how is one supposed to choose JUST one?…ir boggles the mind! LoL!……just my two cents!

  • Andrew

    > He has, for whatever reason, decided to go on his own character assassination crusade against me.

    Oh Dietrich, here you go thinking you are somehow important. You are talking out of your ass, forgive me for replying. I didn’t seek you out, I’ve been reading FOSS Force for a while now.

    > The funny thing is and both Katherine and I were his biggest proponents and we both wrote stories about our most ‘favorite’ distro, which we both used until he made the public announcement for ‘end of life’ of the project. In fact, if you look on my site, you’ll still see the top story is about Fuduntu, which received over 20,000 pageviews with 15,000 in one day. That would make me what? A protagonist? Yes? :/

    Katherine was a proponent, you just expected constant free support. Lets not rewrite history, you only wrote that article after a series of favors.

    > Anyhow, I used a “pull quote” from a story from Susan Linton of OStatic which said the quote was from one of the project’s members (not Andrew Wyatt).

    > The bats from h3ll ensued. They danced on my head with football cleats for a bad pull quote? The quote was corrected to say that Andrew Wyatt said it. I’d call it a major overreaction on their part.

    Oh, you know this isn’t what happened but you’ve deleted all of the evidence. You were corrected, which was all well and good. How you handled it was where you had the problem – and that part wasn’t even with me. Nice bit of revisionism there.

    derp

    > I think Andrew has become unhinged.

    I haven’t become anything, but this is your typical reaction to anyone that replies and corrects you. Spin it around and pretend that person is angry. I believe this lead to me telling you to grow up (which is why you banned me from Linux Advocates if I recall).

    > Just the other day he tried to connect to me on LinkedIn.

    Oh, you. Do you really think you are that important? I told LinkedIn to connect to all of my contacts that I wasn’t already connected too, you just happened to be in the list. You’ll note that I didn’t reply to your “what do you want” response. That’s because I care so very much about you, chump.

    > I disconnected from him because of his antics with the Confused by Fuse story, why would he think I’d want to reconnect with him? Odd.

    My antics? The best part of that comment is that anyone is welcome to look at my feed and read the truth, at least what more than a dozen of us were able to collect and screenshot. Some prominent people in that list.

    > Oh, also, the likelihood of a man-in-the-middle attack with silenceisdefeat dot com are miniscule. Andrew is merely playing “Devil’s Advocate” and seeks any opportunity at this point to discredit me.

    This is absolutely untrue, I don’t care to discredit you. It’s pretty pathetic that you still think you are that important, I’m just pointing out the facts. Any technically savvy person can see right through your articles, and not just that one.

    > I am sincerely behind what I write and I would not put up such a story if I felt it posed a significant risk to reader’s activities.

    Well then, you should consider correcting it because it doesn’t improve anyone’s security; it just moves the goal post.

    > I have assuaged for ‘years’ that people get off of Windows, which is a collander security-wise and global crime-rings can exploit it like shooting fish in a barrel because of defects in the legacy WinNT kernel.

    Windows has nothing to do with it.

    > To sniff on a shell account would mean that the user would have to have root access and set up ARP emulation (acting like a router polling packets).

    Root is just one unpatched and / or undisclosed vulnerability away, or one bad admin. You should try googling mirror ports because that’s how most of us sniff traffic off node.

    > The accounts for shell are quite restrictive, especially on this one (silenceisdefeat dot com) being BSD. That simply isn’t going to happen.

    Ok, keep believing that – but don’t tell others that it’s a safety net because that’s just irresponsible.

    > Alright, just thought you should know.

    Read: Still trying to save face.

  • Andrew

    > If this is confirmed to be true, I am going to retract that Fedora is 100% community operated.

    Perhaps next time you’ll do the homework before you publish. That’s pretty much all anyone has ever asked of you.

  • @Andrew

    Your new nickname: The Stalker

    You even read my LinkedIn profile. What the h3ll for?

    @Christine,
    Sorry, but I am afraid he has issues.

  • @Eddie G – I agree with you. It doesn’t really matter. Actually, it’s probably easier for a purely commercial distro to be rock solid for a variety of reasons (there’s a firm hand on the helm, there’s money available to cover development costs, etc).

    So this isn’t about which makes the better distro. It’s solely about how we define a “community distro.”

    Some people like to use community distros because they perceive community distributions to be more…perhaps, organic. Some people like use community distros because they have a more egalitarian feel to them–there’s less of a barrier between the user and the developers.

    But again, this isn’t over whether the community model or the commercial model makes for a better distro. That’s a whole ‘nother discussion. This is just aout how we in the FOSS community choose to define “community distros” or community software projects in general.

  • Andrew

    Oh Dietrich, so I clicked your name when I opened your email, so what.

    I’m a stalker because I clicked your name in a linked in message that you sent me, and I read FOSS Force, oh poor poor pitiful you.

    You’ll stoop to any low to feel good about yourself, so sad.

  • Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

    I really don’t think that anyone is trying to discredit you Dietrich. They are just trying to get you to wake up, publish facts, do your research and stop censoring anyone who disagrees with you.

    Andrew also connected with me on LinkedIn a few days back, I’m very disappointed to hear that you didn’t seek me out especially Andrew. I’ll get over it though… Just.

    To add to the technical information mentioned about privacy, the ‘solution’ offered by Dietrich is nothing more than a band aid on a gaping wound. More misinformation.

    –Anti-Chump
    www dot dietrichschmitz dot co dot uk

  • Andrew

    @Christine my opinion of community vs non-community is pretty cut and dry. Any distribution more than 50% controlled by the community is a non-community distribution.

    Fedora, Ubuntu, and possibly (but I’m not certain of) OpenSUSE are not community distros.

    Debian is, Fuduntu was, etc.

  • @Dietrich Schmitz Isn’t calling all users of Fedora “chumps” a little harsh? I don’t know, but I think probably a large percentage of Fedora users already know that Red Hat has a veto–they own the distro after all. I think most users of Fedora on the desktop use it for the same reason that I use Bodhi or Eddie G uses Ubuntu on his laptop. We have an affinity for that distro and it suits our purposes.

    There’s no rule that a distro can’t have commercial aspects. The GPL is very clear that there’s nothing wrong with making money from free software–although it’s admittedly a difficult trick to pull-off.

  • Andrew

    Sorry, no edit button:

    Any distribution not more than 50% controlled by the community is a non-community distribution.

  • @Christine,

    chump
    /CHəmp/
    Noun
    A foolish person.
    An easily deceived person; a sucker.

    It’s not designed to be polite. It’s designed to get people to ‘think’ about what they are doing.

    You can’t assume what people may know.

    So, at the risk of being ‘rude’ (horrors, he said chump), I use whatever technique to communicate my message that works best.

    I can live with being called a shock jock.

    But I won’t live a lie and won’t sugar coat the truth.

    And I will correct myself when I am wrong and admit it.

    That’s being intellectually honest.

    –Dietrich

  • Dietrich: yes, what I wrote to you is correct (although you should really ask someone for permission before quoting from a private communication: as it happens I don’t mind you quoting that at all, but it is bad form to quote publicly from a private mail without permission).

    As https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Board states, the makeup of the Fedora Board is that it’s 50% appointed by Red Hat, 50% elected, and the RH-appointed Chair (who is usually the Fedora Project Leader) has a veto. I don’t believe the veto has ever actually been exercised, but it does of course mean that everyone understands that ultimately Red Hat gets to make the call if some really huge controversy arises in Fedora and needs to be settled.

    I agree with Christine that it seems odd to suggest that people are ‘chumps’ just because they use a distro with a structure like Fedora’s. Fedora’s structure isn’t secret, we’ve never made any attempt to hide it, and most people who use Fedora are perfectly aware of its organizational structure, and presumably either like it or don’t mind it, or else they wouldn’t use it. The Fedora project page and Fedora wiki are both perfectly up-front about the relationship between RH and Fedora.

  • @Andrew

    You’ve looked at my profile several times preceding your linkedIn connect request.

    It’s no coincidence you came here to reply.
    Apparently you’ve got nothing better to do with your time.

    Stalker….LOL

  • Andrew: it seems like a weird definition to try and make – this binary distinction between ‘Community Distribution’ and ‘Not A Community Distribution’. Just about all Linux distros have some element of ‘community’ input, and the exact format and structure of each distro is pretty different and unique. It seems a bit futile to try and apply very simplistic binary labels to them. We’re not on Twitter here; why not just accurately characterize the nature of each distro, and discuss the practical consequences of each structure?

  • @Adam

    That’s okay.

    Why would I expect anything but ‘party line’ from you?

    Seriously, let’s get real. I’ll err on the side of letting people who come to my site know about it at the risk that they might already know.

    Chumps, you included. Heck, I even call myself one:

    http://www.linuxadvocates.com/2013/06/fedora-community-members-are-chumps-and.html

    It’s not that bad and it has a nice ring to it.

    I could have said much worse. ;)

    Kumbayah……

  • Andrew

    Dietrich, get over yourself already you are just making yourself look like a bratty little child.

    @Adam I didn’t intend for that sound like a bad thing because I didn’t mean to imply it was either good or bad. My opinion is just that if the community doesn’t have the power to make all of the decisions for the product (good or bad), it isn’t really a community product.

    Community developed, yes; but community controlled, no.

    I think it’s perfectly fair to desire to accurately characterize the nature of each distro instead and that would probably be my preference also, but that wasn’t the subject of the article.

  • Christine: just to reinforce a point from above – as Morgen points out, this is incorrect:

    “That doesn’t mean there’s not a community aspect to distributions like Fedora and openSUSE, but they’re not at all in the same ball park as as distributions such as Debian or Slackware.”

    Slackware is no community distro: it’s a straightforward dictatorship. Patrick decides what goes in Slackware, it’s a very simple structure. In fact this is probably the most common form of Linux distro governance structure, if you just go by numbers: the majority of distros have a (usually) Benevolent Dictator who basically calls all the shots. This is because distros are usually started by one person, who then remains in the ultimate position of power in them. The typical history is that a person decides they want to make a Linux distro; usually they do a half-assed fork of some existing major distro and it sinks without trace, but if it becomes at all successful, it gets a user community and a fairly small development community, all of whom are simply anointed by the distro’s dictator – he chooses who gets commit rights, and he can kick ‘em out or reverse their actions if he likes (I’m saying he because it almost always *is* a he). The ‘true community’ distro, as you’ve defined it, is very much an exception – heck, the only one I can actually think of is Debian. I’m sure there are others, but that’s the only one that leaps to mind. And even Debian has something of a meritocratic element, doesn’t it? Whether explicit or just a matter of ‘convention’.

    Again, this simple ‘community / not community’ distinction really doesn’t seem to hold up. It’s rather like the very simplistic ‘left wing / right wing’ distinction in politics which masks a huge range of other distinctions.

  • Andrew: fair point indeed, and if we’re going to try and stick to simplistic definitions, yours seems as good as any.

  • @Andrew

    Score one for Andrew:

    ” if the community doesn’t have the power to make all of the decisions for the product (good or bad), it isn’t really a community product.”

    Exactly my point. It’s a charade. And if we believe we are operating as a ‘community’, we are the chumps.

    I’ve allowed myself to believe it.

  • Dietrich: calling it a ‘charade’ implies some sort of intent to deceive, or bad faith, on someone’s part, which I don’t think you’ve demonstrated at all. It seems to be clear that you got some sort of mistaken impression about how Fedora operates, but it isn’t clear that someone set out to hoodwink you or pretend that things were other than they are.

    The fact that ‘the community’ does not, as Andrew defines it, “have the power to make all of the decisions for the product (good or bad)”, hardly means that there is no community, or that “we are [not] operating as a community”, whatever it is exactly that you mean by that…

  • Andrew

    @Dietrich – my comment went right over your head it seems. It isn’t a charade, because it is well defined and there have been no attempts to hide the facts (as Adam pointed out via the private email you went public with).

    It is neither good nor bad that Fedora is controlled by RedHat. RedHat created Fedora, and they primarily fund it. It makes sense that they choose to retain a controlling interest. While I’ve had disagreements with some members of the Fedora community, I have no reason to believe that RedHat has used its controlling interest in Fedora to harm Fedora or control it.

    There is no “score” to be had. You only believed it to be true because you failed to properly research the subject before publishing your articles. The failure is your own, and no-one elses.

  • @Andrew yes it’s all over my head. This post was the genesis of another story of Christine’s which was about me and a story I wrote about Ubuntu not being a community Distro.

    All over my head. If you insist on answering me, then it only means that you consider what I write important enough to respond to.

    Don’t respond to anything I write if you’d like to stay consistent.

  • @Adam @Andrew First, I agree that discussing the merits of one distro over another would probably be more fruitful. But again, I think that some people want to be involved with a project that doesn’t have the business angle build into it (as much as that’s possible–there’s always bills to be paid).

    I like a variation on an idea put forward early today by Balaji Devaraju that we could roll something like Andrew’s notion into. How about defining distros that are 100% community managed and developed with no for-profit motive as community distros–as we have been doing. For distros like Fedora or openSUSE that have a great degree of community involvement but which are operated under the guardianship, if you will, of a commercial, for-profit entity like Red Hat or SUSE/Attachmate, we can use the term “community-contributed distros.”

    I like this solution because it does not dilute the meaning of a true community distro while, at the same time, recognizes the community involvement in distros like Fedora.

  • @Adam

    Have you ever heard of “a little bit pregnant”?

    There’s no such thing.

    And, there’s no in between for whether a Distro is community or non-community based.

    Got it Chump? ;)
    Welcome to the chumpsters.

    Start coming to terms with the issue, community that is.

    I don’t care what you think of me.

  • Andrew

    @Christine, some people might find a wiki article or some documentation on the pros and cons of various distros to be helpful when making decisions on which ones to use or contribute too, but ultimately I think they will all find their own way to their preferred distro regardless.

  • Christine: sure, it seems reasonable to me. It’s still not exactly how things look from where I’m sitting, but of course, I’m hardly unbiased =) Just for interest, though, let me put it this way: I’ve been working on Fedora for Red Hat for over four years now, and I’ve never once run RHEL (well, I used a highly indirect virtualized RHEL for an RHCE training course once. Never bothered to take the exam.) Or, in fact, any other Red Hat ‘product’. I work on Fedora, only on Fedora. I go to FUDCon (or, Flock, now…) where I work with all the people who do stuff on Fedora – RH staff and non-RH staff, without distinction. If there’s a major problem in GNOME I’m panicking about, I go and yell at Matthias Clasen, who works for Red Hat. If there’s a major problem in KDE I’m panicking about, I go and yell at Kevin Kofler, who most definitely does *not*. I don’t get mails from Up On High subtly suggesting (or directly demanding) what I ought to do about Fedora QA. It just doesn’t work that way. In practice, Fedora really is what it purports to be: a bunch of people, some of whom work for Red Hat and some of whom don’t, building an OS which has a completely independent existence from RHEL. Is it possible RH could start changing its attitude towards Fedora? Sure. I don’t advocate trusting that companies which are, generally, a Force for Good can be relied upon to continue to be such. But if that comes to pass, we can deal with it then. Fedora is structured in such a way that the ‘right to fork’ is well maintained. Do I suggest that you count Fedora in the same bucket as Debian, or Arch, or Slackware? Nope. Generally speaking I’d put Fedora in a bucket with Ubuntu, OpenSUSE and Mandriva as the major corporate-sponsored, free-as-in-beer, community-ish distros. But whatever the theoreticals, I find Fedora a pretty awesome place to work (or else you wouldn’t find me triaging bugs with a community member at midnight on a Sunday, and threatening to send him for a bodychecking training session with Zdeno Chara, as you might have done had you been hanging around on #fedora-qa last night). I don’t get paid for that crap. :P

    Dietrich: your approach seems weirdly and unjustifiably confrontational. I’ve no bone to pick with you.

  • Andrew

    > I’ve no bone to pick with you.

    Won’t matter with this guy. Inb4 you are just mad about something unrelated and are applying it to him, or insert random insult here. Oh, too late for the random insult I guess.

  • I have no argument with you on that Adam. I use commercial distros and am not one to base my choice of distros on whether a distro is noncommercial or commercial. I look for what works for me, what will get the job done.

    This whole discussion began last week over a reply I wrote over what I thought to be an erroneous assertion on another web site regarding “community distros.” But it didn’t start because I have a preference of one over the other. In fact, the point I was originally trying to make last week is that you can get it wrong and still get it right. If you’ll notice, my original article the only thing negative I had to say about Fedora was that it was too bleeding edge for my taste.

    However, that article brought up a long discussion here on what does and does not constitute a community distro. The purpose of the poll we’re conducting now isn’t meant to determine that one distro is better than another because one is “community” and one isn’t. The poll is simply for the purpose of seeing how members of the FOSS community define the concept of “community distro.” If you read the article above that accompanies this poll, you’ll see that is the exact stated purpose of this poll.

    That knowledge of how the FOSS public prefers to define “community distribution” can be valuable to everybody. Or not. Again, our purpose was not to define whether a distro is viable or not by its degree of community involvement. I said that last week. And I’ve been saying it over and over this week. I’m getting tired of repeating this point over and over when all we want to do is see how the community defines “community distro.” :-)

  • Dietrich: your approach seems weirdly and unjustifiably confrontational. I’ve no bone to pick with you.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that Dietrich needs to get his medication adjusted.

  • Christine: well, I mean, it’s not my place to tell you how to spend your time, and I think we’ve both made our points, but just to say it one last time, the whole enterprise of trying to define what a ‘community distribution’ is seems a bit of a hiding to nothing to me. But what would I know, I’m just the monkey. =)

  • Again, that’s not what I started off to do. But that’s where the discussion turned and I’m just following it through. Like you, I’ll be happy to move on to something else.

  • @Christine

    I could say your prior story about me and my story was filled with passive hostility and lack of forethought.

    But I’m not going to.

    Oops. Sorry. Where’s the white-out?

    Now you are getting personal? How are your comments even appropriate?

    Christine, since you are not getting personal, I will say you are ‘clever’ and actually talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.

    Sorry I don’t buy that you have the acumen to grasp all of the issues. And from what I have seen, your stories are mostly fluff, superficial and it usually takes you one or two stories to catch up with me.

    So, try to hold back the snarky, snarls. And bone up on the issues.

    :)

  • FOSS Force

    It appears that we will not be finishing this poll after all. It appears that this afternoon, nearly 90 votes were cast, all from the same IP address which is evidently in Norway. All votes being cast by this IP were for the same single distribution, evidently cast by an overeager fan of the distro wanting to improve its ranking.

    Due to issues of public trust, we have decided NOT to continue this poll with a manual count. We appreciate the time all of you took to participate, and apologize for not being able to see this poll through to it’s completion.

  • FOSS Force: running a ‘fair’ internet poll is pretty much a doomed enterprise. For a start, any time a poll gets any kind of news traction at all, you can be sure at least some of the major distros will have a thread in its forums encouraging people to vote early and vote often…

  • @Adam Williamson We’re very well aware of that Adam :-) . We’ve been publishing web sites since 1999, so we’ve seen all the tricks and we know they can’t be circumvented completely. We can’t stop a run on the bank. However, we’ve always tried our best to limit voters to one computer, one vote, so that poll results, though unscientific to the max, will have some degree of meaning. In a case where we can see we’re obviously being subjected to fraud, we’d rather either bail out of the poll or to publicly reboot.

    Although the polls are mainly conducted for fun, we use the results to guide us editorially so we can better serve our audience. We don’t need great accuracy to sniff to see which way the wind blows.

  • LinuxCanuck

    Ubuntu is not, nor has it ever been a community based distro. Mark Shuttleworth has said that he is a Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life (SABDFL). That makes Ubuntu a benevolent dictatorship. To that end Ubuntu has solicited community input, but nobody is fooling themselves that the community has the final say. To call Ubuntu a community based distro is to distort reality, one which Ubuntu has gone to great pains to make clear.

    As for Fedora, it may have some of the hallmarks of a community based distro, but it in the end is a tool of Red Hat. They can pull support and change the rules any time they choose.

  • That’s correct @LinuxCanuck . You Canadians are very smart! ;-)

  • Ricardo

    I just wanted to chime in, one of Adam’ Williamson’s posts put this definition in my head: corporate-sponsored community distro.

    That seems like the perfect (for various degrees of perfection) definition of distros like Fedora and openSuse.

    So, we could have:
    - Community governed distros (Debian)
    - Community developed distros (Bodhi, Mint)
    - Corporate-sponsored community distros (Fedora, Ubuntu, openSuse)
    - Commercial (for-profit) distros (RHEL, SUSE, Slackware?)

    Does that sound right (to anyone else but me)?

    Cheers.

  • Ricardo

    Re-reading my post, I don’t think Slackware qualifies as a Commercial for-profit distro: in my mind that category is for “only if you pay” distros and Slack is freely donwloadable.

    Tough topic, but at least Christine got (most of) us thinking!

  • @Ricardo – I like the way you’re thinking.Slackware I think falls outside of all these boundaries. Maybe we can put it in a category of it’s own.

    I like your classifications, but… :-)

    I’m not sure Ubuntu belongs with the corporate-sponsored community distros. Maybe. But I think it’s community aspect is much less than with Fedora or openSUSE. It’s really kind of a freely available commercial distro and the community aspect is kind of lip service, part of the sales job. That’s not intended to be a knock on Ubuntu. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s one of the absolute best consumer oriented desktop distros out there. But my take on it is that it’s purely commercial. Mark Shuttleworth wants to be Steve Jobs, he wants Canonical to be Apple and he wants Ubuntu to be OS X and iOS rolled up into one.

  • Ricardo: commercial distros tend to have their communities too, they’re just *different* communities. If you pay Red Hat ten million dollars a year for your RHEL licenses, you get quite a lot of input into how RHEL works, and you’re certainly a part of the ‘RHEL community’. ;)

    But yeah, that seems like a broadly reasonable way of looking at it. I’d make Slackware and the vast horde of similar ‘benevolent dictator’ distros like PCLOS etc into their own bucket.

  • On a boringly practical level, one thing I’ve always been curious about but never curious enough to research – anyone know how much package maintenance in Ubuntu is done by non-Canonical people? That is, the maintenance of packages that diverge significantly from upstream Debian, not just counting upstream Debian maintainers as ‘Ubuntu maintainers’. In Fedora, OpenSUSE, Mandriva there are a lot of not-@sponsor contributors, probably more numerically than @sponsor (it’s usually in the 50/50 ballpark in terms of packages maintained / commit count) – anyone know what this is like for Ubuntu?

  • Andrew

    @Adam: I’ve heard it’s just one employee. They recently moved him to the basement so the other employees didn’t have to continue to hear him ramble about his stapler.

    Rumor has it that he conspires to burn the place down over his paycheck.

    :D

  • “I’d make Slackware and the vast horde of similar ‘benevolent dictator’ distros like PCLOS etc into their own bucket.”

    Agree!

  • Andrew

    @Christine +1 that. Having a benevolent dictator isn’t really a bad thing (as long as they are truly benevolent); meritocracy vs democracy.

  • Ricardo

    @All: in a sense maybe Slackware and Ubuntu have more in common than different, both are commercial, governed by a BDFL, but freely downloadable.

    @Adam: my only reason to put RHEL and other as commercial for-profit is that they not freely downloadable, you have to pay for support. I’m not familiar with these distros but I never thought they don’t have communities, to me that’s a given (heck, even Windows has a community) but maybe I should have clarified a bit.

    The bigger difference probably would be the kind of community: users only vs. users an developers.

    BTW, just as Christine, I’m not judging which distro or category is better, just trying to categorize them, which turned out to be a fun excercise and a good way to make my head hurt at the same time :)

  • Ricardo: the commercial distros actually act a bit more like the free ones than you might think: major customers certainly contribute directly to the development of RHEL, sometimes. If a customer reckons the best way to get a bug fixed in RHEL is just to write a patch and send it to Bugzilla, we’ll take the patch. We’re not proud. =) There aren’t any non-RH people with direct commit access to RHEL though, indeed, so there’s an obvious qualitative difference there.

    I agree that the categorization doesn’t really imply that any of the methods is obviously better than the others. Personally, the key questions for me are usually something like…

    i) can I and others contribute sensible changes to this project with a reasonable expectation that they’ll be accepted?
    ii) does it seem reasonable to trust this project to make vaguely sane decisions for the foreseeable future?

    Some people add a clause to i) about ownership of their changes. Personally that doesn’t bother me much, but that’s because I’m just the monkey and changes I can submit are usually trivial. I’m happy to send stuff to Canonical even though I then have no further ‘ownership’ over it, fr’instance, because anything I can contribute is usually along the lines of ‘two line patch to fix an obvious typo’ or ‘fix a silly bug in the build system’ than anything substantial, and I just want to chip in and make stuff work. Really, each person’s criteria are going to be different, ranging from RMS on one end to the ‘I just use whatever seems like the shinest app right now’ at the other. Meh.

  • Great article Bruce. I highly recommend it to everyone following this thread. I’m also recommending another article I found today to anyone who’d like to continue this discussion:

    http://linuxblog.darkduck.com/2013/06/two-tier-linux.html