Courage, Class, and Canonical

Why words matter, and can come back to haunt you.

Once, about 10 years ago, my wife and I were visiting Atlanta and happened to get herded from the CNN tour into CNN's lunchtime live-audience show, where the guest that day was (then) up-and-coming Oprah protégé Dr. Phil McGraw.

The topic that day was, of course, relationships, and somewhere along the line it struck me to ask Dr. Phil a question about how children factored into fixing troubled relationships, since my own kids were 7 and 3 at the time. He said something that actually got filed under "sage advice" in my brain.

Essentially, McGraw said, it's important to remember that when the kids see parents fighting, it's important that they also see you making up. Otherwise, their impression is that you are always fighting.

I'm boiling it down, and the whole thing is simple to begin with, but when my wife and I get into a fight, I alway make sure the girls are aware of the apologies that eventually come. (Usually, from me.)

I believe the same holds true in the public world too. As a reporter, it's all too easy to get wrapped up in the start of a conflict, and then move on to the Next Thing without following how the Last Thing got resolved. It's a disservice to the reader, and it doesn't help anyone.

Which is why I think it's important you take the time to read Greg DeKoenigsberg's blog entry "Old Wounds," which he posted yesterday in response to Thursday's rant against Canonical for their low ranking on number of commits to GNOME, based on a recent census study.

DeKoenigsberg's initial blog kicked off what would become a firestorm of debate in the Linux community, as Canonical and its supporters highlighted the other types of contributions the makers of Ubuntu have made to Linux and open source, while the other side of the debate argued that additional contributions did not offset the need for Canonical to contribute more code to upstream projects.

This is not a point from which has DeKoenigsberg backed away:

"It is my very strong, honest, and believe it or not, largely impartial opinion, that after five-plus years of building a global brand on top of the GNOME platform, Canonical should be doing way more to sustain that platform. And although I understand and agree with the arguments that Canonical contributes in many important ways, I contend that it still isn’t nearly enough. Not if you want to claim the mantle of leadership," DeKoenigsberg wrote Sunday.

The tone of this most recent blog entry, however, is far different from last week. In a very honest and self-aware missive, DeKoenigsberg laid out exactly why he lashed out in anger at the findings of the GNOME Census, then again later at Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth's response to the debate, a broader argument against tribalism.

I met DeKoenigsberg at a recent conference at Notre Dame this summer, and he struck me as someone who knows more than a thing or two about how open source development works. But after reading his open apology to Shuttleworth, I now have an even greater respect for him, particularly on a personal level.

DeKoenigsberg's story reminds us all that behind the code, the business strategies, and all of the words that are thrown out at each other in the Linux community, there are still real people with real emotions running this crazy, chaotic show.

Today, one of them stepped up and demonstrated some real class.

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