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the case

Published Mar 12 2013 via RSS

Natural ecosystems are wonderful things full of complexity and beauty. There are few ecosystems on this planet that are occupied by only one or two species. Most are a complex meshing of variety, though it is not uncommon for there to be dominant species (numerically, positionally) within them.

Interesting things happen when you change an ecosystem, however. If you remove a species, particularly a populous one, it leaves an opening full of suddenly unused resources in its wake. This opening usually fills up quickly with other species, often creating instabilities that over time even out until the system reaches a new equilibrium. Change the environment in some way (more water, less water; more heat , longer cold; etc.) and previously successful groups may find themselves marginalized, once again creating opportunities for others to grow and proliferate.

An interesting example of this happened in the North America with the removal of wolves from regions by humans which led to deer populations exploding which led to eating more vegetation, including tree saplings, which caused a retreat of the forest, which changed the water flow and produced more grass land, which marginalized other creatures that relied on these features ... eventually a new equilibrium was found. As predators slowly made their way back into the ecosystem, the equilibrium shifted again.

There's another way of shaking up an ecosystem: evolution of new successful traits. Every so often a new very successful trait will emerge in one or more species that causes similar shifts in equilibrium. Dinosaurs, humans, .. there was  remarkable blooming of adaptation in the Cambrian in which life went from simple organisms weaving their way through algal mats to something more like we'd recognize today: predators and prey, armor, speed, carnivores, .. It was all invertebrates and shelled animals, but it was a significant shift.

Ok, what does this have to do with anything that belongs on my blog here? :)

Over the last couple of years, desktop Linux has being going through changes in the equilibrium of our ecosystem. Huge ones; and they are analogous to the biological phenomenon above. Successful projects of years past have faltered while new projects have emerged in a glorious array of colors and forms. There have been shifts in strategy and traits. There are vacuums within the market, and there are new comers who are doing great and reframing the question entirely.

This can be seen in the purchase, resale and renaissance of Qt; in the emergence of Android; in the difficulties some of the Gtk+ based desktops have been experiencing; in the arrival of new contenders that are tightly bound to specific distributions. This is exciting and presents opportunities .. and dangers.

Through all this, the KDE community continues on, pushing forward year after year, release upon release. New stars emerge, such as Krita, while veterans such as Kontact refind their mojo. The KDE desktop interface built around Plasma was shown to be the most popular in several polls last year, often with double digit gaps between it and the nearest alternative. Fifteen years and KDE is still going strong and adjusting, adapting, innovating, supporting.

The key to all of this has been community: the community of developers, the community of users, the community of entrepreneurs, the community of big companies that, together, support KDE and make it what it is. With that in mind, I will be writing a series of blog entries, to which this is the introduction, about the properties of KDE that make it worthy of such community support.

I am embarking on this journey for a few reasons:
  • to explore these ideas in search of fresh insight
  • to remind ourselves around KDE what is important so that we never forget and build on them rather than discard them
  • to share with others who may not know about KDE and its products why KDE is deserving of their support
I will be covering a variety of topics, including:
  • How KDE manages community
  • How KDE works with businesses
  • How KDE works with others
  • KDE's take on branding
  • Leadership and coordination within KDE
  • How KDE innovates
  • The technology niches KDE fills right now
  • How KDE is primed to fit into the technology disruptions of the next decade
  • How KDE has achieved long term consistency over its history
I don't know which order I'll tackle these .. I'll probably let the muse guide me there. In each article, however, I will try to present the past, present and possible futures relevant to teach topic. In doing so, perhaps others will gain more insight into what KDE is doing and, perhaps even more importantly, how it is doing so.

Ultimately, I hope that it will give some readers new reasons to support KDE in its efforts. In a sense, I'll be making the case for why KDE is a desktop community worth your investment of time, effort and support and why KDE technology is a terrific choice for the GNU generation.

My overall thesis will be simple: KDE is built on systems of sustainability which we can rely on for the long term and practices which encourage Freedom and openness in ways that fundamentally matter and reward all of us.

As always, feedback in the form of support, agreement, challenge, disagreement, questions and new observations are not just welcome but desired. The only ground rule is that we'll keep the conversation constructive in the process.

See you tomorrow :)

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