Before we get into what we are doing now, I'd like to spend some time reflecting on historical context, our goals, and ambitions.
GNOME, of course, is what we design and build, and in some sense who we are. I'm pretty sure we're all here because we want to be, because we love it, and want it to be great. And perhaps most importantly are willing to do what is necessary to make it so. We are part of GNOME and GNOME is very much part of us.
We are also part of a larger Free Software movement. One of the most important parts.
And as we pull back even farther, we see that we are part of the upsweep of a wave that may transform the world as substantially as the agricultural and industrial revolutions before it. I'd like to share with you a bit of history that I find interesting and may provide some insight into our own time. It is widely known that, shortly after the invention of the steam engine, the philosophical writings of Rousseau, Kant, and others inspired revolutionary ideas in colonial America and France. What is less known is that some of these same ideas also helped form the foundations of modern aesthetics. And I'd like to look at that in a bit more detail.
Philosophers love duality. Not unlike hackers I suppose. Or computers. And this is one view of one of the the classics: empiricism vs. rationalism. And one of Rousseau's views on the matter.
And here is another example of that same division. This time, Kant's philosophy in the words of Friedrich Schiller. Empirical or sensual on the left. Rational or formal on the right. Pretty typical of the distinction made at the time.
He departed from some of his contemporaries in suggesting that there may be a third drive that tends to balance or harmonize the opposing drives. He called this the Play Impulse. And the object of that drive is life and shape in harmony.
A thing we call Beauty.
In and as a result of this play we improve ourselves. We learn and grow. And it affords a new form of freedom – an unfettered freedom – a freedom of the spirit.
Another important point is that the process of producing something beautiful begins with limitation, constraint, and exclusion. A thought must be formed and shaped and refined.
And we are left with a rather unexpected result: that in creating beauty, by discarding other possibilities, may yield a more substantial form of freedom.
So, what else can we take from this?
We may ask, as we often do, for whom do we create? What is our “target audience”? Well, who deserves to behold beauty and experience freedom? Who ought to be educated, elevated, and connected to the world? Who wants peace, happiness, and moments of contemplation? Who is permitted to participate in the future? These are human rights, Universal and eternal rights. And they are for everyone.
Though, of course, not everyone will agree.
It is my hope that a few will be touched by our work and, eventually, return to us as collaborators or, perhaps one day, as new leaders. And it is through this that we will remain sustainable. For more on this please see Shneiderman's Reader-to-Leader Framework.
There are likely other opportunities to find solutions in harmonious and dynamic balance.
And again we return to the question of what is GNOME? And this time I will offer a proposal.
We don't have that. Where should it go? Ubuntu / Fedora / Suse? I don't think that will work. Those boundaries are guarded jealously and they fight over the smallest (one) percentage of the market and mindshare. We have divided and conquered ourselves. And I think it is time that we reunite. If we want to change the game, think big, and demonstrate that we can truly be relevant we need to work together. If we want to change our approach from mere assembly to something that we design and construct with consideration in a unified and coherent way - then we need to start at the source. We need to start with GNOME.
What lies underneath is mostly just implementation detail. What matters is what we expose to the user and the developer. I propose that we take notes from Android, WebOS, Meego, and others and consider Linux an implementation detail and start to define the OS as we see fit.