User:Pfrields/Who defines user experience

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Contents

Issue

If the Desktop spin is the default offering of Fedora, does the Desktop SIG define the user experience for all of Fedora?

Background

The Desktop SIG is made up of anyone who wants to create, debug, test, discuss, and integrate a software stack to make Fedora an excellent distribution for personal desktops and laptops. That stack extends from hardware drivers through user applications. Frequently the most substantial discussions are held in upstream communities where this code is originated by the members of the Desktop SIG. However, they use the Fedora desktop mailing list and the Fedora desktop IRC channel to channel the upshot of these discussions into the Fedora community.

User experience is not just the desktop enivronment used by a user. It includes the integration of strategic/business goals and psychology in a multi-disciplinary approach to product creation. Therefore the answers to this question are very different depending on what "all of Fedora" means. If it means "all of the Fedora Project," then the answer is necessarily "no." Many of the web applications and other systems that are part of the Fedora Project's work fall outside the desktop use case.

However, if that phrase means "all Fedora spins," the answer is more complicated. Fedora spins are a combination of software from the Fedora repositories that receive a trademark approval by the Board. The Fedora trademarks including the name "Fedora" are owned by Red Hat, and administered on behalf of the community. These trademarks have a substantial value because they have a connection not just to the ideals of the Fedora Project but also to the attributes and behaviors of the software available in Fedora. These attributes and behaviors come from a combination of software including the kernel; SELinux and other security mechanisms; system initialization scripts (initscripts); the X GUI; freedesktop.org *Kit; and other subsystems such as udev, software management, and network management.

A secondary mark is available for use on Fedora Remixes, to which less stringent rules apply for software combinations. Fedora Remixes can make a wide variety of changes to software functionality, while still being associated with the Fedora Project as an upstream provider. Remixes are not able to use the Fedora trademarks themselves, but in return are able to deviate from the standard behaviors and attributes of a Fedora system. In a manner of speaking, spins trade flexibility for branding.

The Desktop SIG works on originating software throughout the Fedora platform, from hardware drivers through to DE and user applications. However, the Desktop SIG is not the only group working on such software. For example, SELinux, tools, and libraries that affect all of Fedora also have widespread impact on Fedora functionality. The more superficial a Fedora user's interaction is with the distribution, the more prominent the Desktop SIG's work appears to be.

This question might be begging another deeper question: Should we offer products that depart significantly from the default offering? How would that work?

If the answer is yes, that is a de facto answer to the question of whether spin SIGs get to define their own target audiences. And if they cannot do so, then conversely there is less of a need to provide such a capability.

Possible solutions

Canonical has sidestepped this particular problem neatly, by refusing to grant trademark usage to any of the communities producing offshoots of their default product offering. This strategy has less to do with any particular audience consideration than it does with avoiding brand confusion and -- more importantly -- resource contention. Because there are not strict controls on the offshoot products like Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and so forth, they can depart significantly in their software attributes and behaviors. But the tradeoff is that these products are firmly differentiated from Ubuntu itself.

So this presents one alternative: "official Fedora Remixes" (called OFRs only for convenience) that are not trademark-approved spins. However, this solution presents several problems:

  • How does the Fedora community ensure that changes made by a Fedora Remix owner do not add to the workload of developers, triagers, and other contributors? If a change is made to an underlying subsystem to make that OFR better for its intended audience,


Risk/benefit analysis