Last Tango in fdo (was Re: Tango, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Desktop)

Havoc Pennington hp at
Fri Nov 11 20:32:05 PST 2005

On Fri, 2005-11-11 at 15:39 +0100, Lubos Lunak wrote:
>  I originally wanted to include a hypothetical example of how just this 
> perception can lead to standardizing (even de-facto) on some spec just 
> because somebody wrote that spec and pushed it to fd.o, ignoring feedback 
> from others (or with others not caring), then implementing it somewhere 
> "because it's a standard" and then others eventually implementing it "because 
> it's a standard and you're bad 'cause you don't support" it,

Really, you feel too guilty about things ;-) There's no moral obligation
to support a standard. Standards (and specs) are a tool to improve the
user experience, but sometimes (often?) you can do better by ignoring
them. I know I feel free to do so, though it's good to avoid doing so in
a way that breaks users of the spec (e.g. don't use the same filename
but a different format, or pretend to speak the standard but don't, that
kind of stuff is annoying).

EWMH is a good model. It specifies enough that alternative window
managers are pretty well possible to write and use, but doesn't try to
encode the entirety of a WM implementation in the spec.

If I were writing a desktop that wasn't GNOME/KDE/Windows-like though, I
wouldn't use EWMH. For example I don't think you could write the OS X
window manager using EWMH really. I certainly would not decide that my
new desktop *had* to be basically GNOME/KDE/Windows-like in look and
feel just so I'd be EWMH conformant. I'd first decide what the desktop
should be like, and if it were then possible to use EWMH I'd do that.

In other words EWMH encodes a particular user experience and if that
wasn't the goal of my project I would not even blink about ignoring the

Is Skype evil for doing their own protocol instead of SIP? I really
don't think so. But they probably benefit from some of the specs since the app works under both GNOME and KDE ;-)

>  including some 
> URLs mostly related to the 'Desktop Notification spec' because I'm afraid 
> KDE4 is actually going to have KNotify crippled down exactly this way,

If you don't think the desktop notification spec is good you shouldn't
use it. We had a bit of a flamewar about it on the GNOME side in fact:

(I don't think those were the main posts in the argument, but enough to
show that the argument existed - basically the claim was that the spec
was unrelated to the good UI design we had. Don't know what the latest
status is.)

> - getting rid of 'standard' from in favour of 
> 'specification' (that includes standards.f.o hostname - that'd actually have 
> to be done by an admin); this should preferably also include people stopping 
> to say 'freedesktop standard' at all

A couple years ago (approximately) we had this same conversation and I
made a pass removing that word everywhere except in the urls; I left it
in the urls to avoid breaking links. Of course, since then we broke
links about 50 times with various crappy wikis.

Anyway, it's been done before and if more instances of "standard" have
appeared, please kill them off. Go ahead and break the links, then we
won't have to have this thread every month. ;-)

My guess at why Standard is so visible at the top of the page right now
is that to get the link standards/foo in MoinMoin you have to make a
category called Standards or something... 

> - make the wording on the front page and on the standards, er I mean 
> specifications, page more specifically say that those are in no way formal 
> standards that everybody is obliged to follow, but rather make a better 
> distinction between those that are now widely used and are de facto standards 
> and those and those that are more or less just proposals or so

I did this also long ago, at that time I split this page up into 3

My 3 categories are still there from back in the day, plus someone seems
to have added more categories.

Also back when I spent a lot of time addressing these very complaints
that are happening again ;-) I wrote the last paragraph on this page:
Maybe you can improve that or make it more visible.

> - get rid of all the formally blessed standards listed in the specifications 
> page, it just helps the wrong perception (and besides, CORBA there? WTH?)

There's value to having one page that lists all the specs (and formal
standards) we are using, just for documentation purposes. Maybe add a
separate section for "formal standards originating outside freedesktop"
or something? Dunno.

>  BTW, I also think some of the stuff there should be actually moved to a 
> different category - some things like 'System tray protocol' or 
> 'startup-notification-spec' are now supported at least by both KDE and GNOME 
> and that's IMHO good enough for them to be in the de facto adoption/agreement 
> category.



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