Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth Tires Of Critics, Moves Key Ubuntu Developments Out Of Public Eye

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Canonical CEO Founder Mark Shuttleworth says parts of Ubuntu 13.04 will be kept a secret, out of the public eye until its unveiling.

The move, which he writes about on his blog, will sure to create a firestorm in the Ubuntu community, which has in the past rained criticism on Unity, the interface Canonical developed for Ubuntu two years ago. You can read the full story about Unity here. Ubuntu is built on the Debian Linux distribution.

The news comes on the day that Canonical introduced Ubuntu 12.10, with a number of cool enhancements that were all developed in the open.

Shuttleworth admits that the skunkworks approach has its detractors. He said they have tried it both ways, public and private, and figured critics will be critics whether you discuss an idea in advance or not. Waiting to release means the company can craft something and be judged by something that is ready. He also cites the news value of making it a surprise:

Working on something in a way that lets you refine it till it feels ready to go has advantages: you can take time to craft something, you can be judged when you’re ready, you get a lot more punch when you tell your story, and you get your name in lights (though not every headline is one you necessarily want ).

A trusted community of developers will get access to work with Canonical on some 13.04 surprises such as “webby (javascript, css, html5) to artistic (do you obsess about kerning and banding) to scientific (are you a framerate addict) to glitzy (pixel shader sherpas wanted) to privacy-enhancing (how is your crypto?) to analytical (big daddy, big brother, pick your pejorative).”

ExtremeTech points out that the approach is similar to what Google does, for instance, with its Android platform. It develops in-house and then releases Android to the community.

It’s clear that the criticism has had its effects on Shuttleworth. One thing strikes me as odd. He talks about the news factor. It makes it seems like he is more concerned about the public relations than he is about the community. I doubt that, but his statement does raise questions about his feelings about the community.

Ubuntu is reaching out well beyond its desktop roots into the cloud. It is integrating deeply with OpenStack. How this new release policy for 13.04 will impact integration is a question that may have an easy answer. Still, it is the kind of matter that Shuttleworth and his team need to think through clearly in the months ahead.