November 9th, 2010
So, some meta-thoughts on the whole Wayland-Ubuntu thing.
On one level, I think it’s all rather silly. It’s funny how many blog posts and even news articles on reasonably respected sites pop up praising Mark’s ‘courage’ and ‘vision’ – this for, remember, an announcement that the distribution sponsored by his company wants to use a certain bit of technology in future. Mark didn’t do any work on Wayland. No-one at Canonical did, either. Implicit in this is that Mark’s vision of ‘let’s use this neat thing’ is a lot duller than Kristian’s vision of ‘let’s write this thing that will be neat’ (Kristian Høgsberg being the guy who mostly writes Wayland).
Yet, here’s the thing. Wayland’s been around for years. Anyone who’s moderately involved in Linux graphics stuff – even just an interested observer like me, hell, like anyone who reads Phoronix – knew about it already. The vision was out there for anyone who cared. Yet still, Mark saying ‘oh hey this looks neat’ becomes a huge splash. Why? I don’t know, really. Because Mark is Mark, I suppose.
I’d get much more excited about a blog post from an engineer – oh happy day if it were a Canonical engineer – saying ‘hey, look at all this neat work I’m doing to make GTK+ work with Wayland’ or ‘hey, look at these improvements I’m making in nouveau to support Wayland use’ and then noting ‘this is because we want to take Wayland to the desktop’. But maybe that’s just my prejudice. I think it’s kind of sad that it seems like you need a Glorious Leader to have the world sit up and take notice of something, but especially in software, it seems like it’s the case. For some reason, the tech press and a lot of people interested in tech like to hang off the grand pronouncements of a Glorious Leader; a charismatic guy (it’s always a guy) who’s happy to make grand pronouncements and co-opt whole reams of trench work by others into his own Glorious Vision. The archetype is Jobs, of course, but Silicon Valley is littered with Gateses and Ballmers and Ellisons and so on. When they stand up and say something, the world apparently takes notice – even if it’s something that people actually doing the grunt work have been talking about and have known about for a long time. Maybe it’s good for us to have our very own Glorious Leader in this mould. It seems to work, in some way – apparently, contributions to Wayland have been up since Mark’s Grand Pronouncement hit the wires. I wonder if that’ll continue.