Just because you're grinding the organ doesn't mean I have to dance

Q: How do you know when the next Ubuntu is close to release?

A: When the Canonical vs. the community posts hit Planet Ubuntu.

I've joked in the past that every single release of Ubuntu has to have some tempest-in-a-teapot event occur that causes people to get upset over the current direction of Ubuntu. And sure enough this latest release of Ubuntu and post-UDS discussions have delivered: Unity changing to QT, Ubuntu moving to rolling releases, Mir taking over the role of X server, cats sleeping with dogs, mass hysteria. It never fails; there's always some design decision that comes out of some meeting that causes people to go irate in the community.

But it's not that they are necessarily bad decisions. You could make a pretty good case for each of those decisions. They all have technical merit at some level.

No, what generally causes the most amount of anguish is that the community isn't consulted.

There's a phrase I'd like to think I've coined: "Just because you're grinding the organ doesn't mean I have to dance". I think it's pretty apropos of how Canonical seems to treat the community. They grind the organ, and the community puts on a show, and those who dance the best and brightest get the goodies and gratitude. And every decision that comes down changes the tune a little bit, and the good little community dances away.

Now, if it's a particularly good tune, I don't mind dancing. Hell, I might even involuntarily dance along to a great tune every now and again.

But when the expectation is that the community will dance no matter what, then we have a problem.

Greg, the most even-keeled person I've met, quit the community in a blog post today over similar reasons. He's no longer willing to dance.

A lot of what was built up for Ubuntu was built on the idea of a community where ideas with merit were implemented. With the last few releases it feels more like the community is just there to take direction from Canonical, and act accordingly. The organ grinds, and we dance away.

I've noticed in our own loco that there's not a lot of joy in the dance. We dance because that's what's expected of us, not because we're excited. We know that if we stop we no longer get CDs or stickers or recognition. Our Pavlovian response is to keep dancing because that is what the organ grinder expects of us.

We're told to trust the organ grinders, yet we are not trusted to know the purpose of the grinding. That will come later. Keep dancing.

Always in motion. Keep dancing.

Do your Global Jams. Have Release Parties. Keep dancing.

Keep the community strong, fix bugs, help with documentation, package applications and keep them up to date. Keep dancing.

Keep dancing.

Should you wear out, there's always more who will keep dancing. Keep dancing.

And so the community dances and dances away to the sounds of the organ grinder. Is it a good song? Who cares, just keep dancing away. That's what the community is there for; keep dancing.

Just because you're grinding the organ doesn't mean I have to dance.

To quote the great bard "Men Without Hats": We can dance if we want to.