Diversity or Dilution: Part II

Ok, so I’ve decided that I was compiled with -vv enabled by default so I thought I’d split this up into 2 parts.

Please read the first part if you want the whole story.

Brand dilution is, I suppose, something that could happen pretty easily to Ubuntu. From a community/distro perspective I think brand dilution would manifest itself as decreasing ability of users to figure out just what exactly Ubuntu is. Is it:

  • an easy to use Gnome desktop for all human beings?
  • an enterprise ready, full service distro? I
  • a Linux development platform?
  • for Educational institutions?
  • Low-end machines?

and the list can go on. With all of the *buntu distros or derivatives out there, how are people to know what is what? 5 of the top 100 distros at DistroWatch have clear Ubuntu labeling with even more derivatives that aren’t so directly branded. The danger I suppose lies in the idea that eventually “Ubuntu” might not really mean much of anything. I guess that’s not inherently a bad thing, but it sure would be a shame. Ubuntu stands for many good things, like Freedom, Community, Accessibility, and Usability. It would really be sad to lose that as communities and developers divide and spread out.

So what prevents this from happening? I can see a couple things.

1. Like I said in Part I, encouraging derivative to engage with the Ubuntu community and develop from within Ubuntu might help. In one respect this is sort of like a hen keeping her chicks close so that she can keep them safe and keep track of them. For derivatives, sticking to the same standards as the main Ubuntu projects it helps them to keep solid support and security and gives them more access to help from other derivatives , Ubuntu developers and Ubuntu infrastructure.

Some side affect should occur because of this approach:

  • as time goes on, rather than adding layers to the stream of software development, derivatives can keep the stream short because they are working within the Ubuntu repositories. It is hard enough to keep things flowing back upsteam to Debian and software authors, imagine if we start having derivatives of derivatives of Ubuntu?
  • the various derivatives are developed in syncronization with Ubuntu. If Ichthux, Fluxbuntu, etc. (having all their packages in Universe) are freezing when Universe Freezes, and producing betas when Ubuntu produces Betas and even releasing the same time as Ubuntu, then I think it gives the user less to have to worry about (What version goes with what and when will it be updated?) and keeps stability and quality up.

2. Creation of a central place (hopefully on http://www.ubuntu.com somewhere) where Ubuntu and it’s many offspring can be organized and showcased in terms of what the users need to see. They are not as interested in names as much as tasks and what they can do with their computer. A teacher looking for educational software should be directed (via Google, or a colleague, or the Ubuntu website) to something like http://www.ubuntu.com/education where they will find out about how they can set up a classroom computer lab using Edubuntu, a school server using Ubuntu, and a multimedia station using a multimedia derivative. In this way we are keeping brand recognition by using Ubuntu’s website a kind of derivative funnel or clearinghouse that helps connect users to the derivative they need, without confusion and dilution. We can be a one-stop-distro-shop while not having Ubuntu itself be a one-size-fits-all OS.

Focusing more on what derivatives do, and not on what they are called and helping derivative developers and communities to partner with existing Ubuntu projects will, in my opinion, help us keep wonderful diversity without causing dilution and confusion.


One thought on “Diversity or Dilution: Part II

  1. You bring up a lot of good points, and I do sort of thing that all of the derivations may be more harm than good.

    I think an ideal solution would be to have one ubuntu, with one installation cd. During installation, you pick between GNOME, KDE and XFCE, and that installs the respective desktop environment and packages.

    The seperate derivations could be handled as meta-packages. So by working more closely with the ubuntu devs, “ubuntu multimedia” (or whatever derivatives are out there) may have a meta-package in the official repos.

    After installation, you could go to system> administration> upgrade my ubuntu.. This would be a tool showing some of the meta-packages people have put together. The end user who wants ubuntu with video editing et all would just install ubuntu normally. then, click “upgrade my ubuntu” and select “ubuntu multimedia tools”

    I really think this is an ideal solution, and while it’s not one step a way.. it’d be nice to end up there.

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