Tribalism is the enemy within

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Tribalism is when one group of people start to think people from another group are “wrong by default”. It’s the great-granddaddy of racism and sexism. And the most dangerous kind of tribalism is completely invisible: it has nothing to do with someone’s “birth tribe” and everything to do with their affiliations: where they work, which sports team they support, which linux distribution they love.

There are a couple of hallmarks of tribal argument:

1. “The other guys have never done anything useful”. Well, let’s think about that. All of us wake up every day, with very similar ambitions and goals. I’ve travelled the world and I’ve never met a single company, or country, or church, where *everybody* there did *nothing* useful. So if you see someone saying “Microsoft is totally evil”, that’s a big red flag for tribal thinking. It’s just like someone saying “All black people are [name your prejudice]”. It’s offensive nonsense, and you would be advised to distance yourself from it, even if it feels like it would be fun to wave that pitchfork for a while.

2. “Evidence contrary to my views doesn’t count.” So, for example, when a woman makes it to the top of her game, “it’s because she slept her way there”. Offensive nonsense. And similarly, when you see someone saying “Canonical didn’t actually sponsor that work by that Canonical employee, that was done in their spare time”, you should realize that’s likely to be offensive nonsense too.

Let’s be clear: tribalism makes you stupid. Just like it would be stupid not to hire someone super-smart and qualified because they’re purple, or because they are female, it would be stupid to refuse to hear and credit someone with great work just because they happen to be associated with another tribe.

The very uncool thing about being a fanboy (or fangirl) of a project is that you’re openly declaring both a tribal affiliation and a willingness to reject the work of others just because they belong to a different tribe.

One of the key values we hold in the Ubuntu project is that we expect everyone associated with Ubuntu to treat people with respect. It’s part of our code of conduct – it’s probably the reason we *pioneered* the use of codes of conduct in open source. I and others who founded Ubuntu have seen how easily open source projects descend into nasty, horrible and unproductive flamewars when you don’t exercise strong leadership away from tribal thinking.

Now, bad things happen everywhere. They happen in Ubuntu – and because we have a huge community, they are perhaps more likely to happen there than anywhere else. If we want to avoid human nature’s worst consequences, we have to work actively against them. That’s why we have strong leadership structures, which hopefully put people who are proven NOT to be tribal in nature into positions of responsibility. It takes hard work and commitment, but I’m grateful for the incredible efforts of all the moderators and council members and leaders in LoCo teams across this huge and wonderful project, for the leadership they exercise in keeping us focused on doing really good work.

It’s hard, but sometimes we have to critique people who are associated with Ubuntu, because they have been tribal. Hell, sometimes I and others have to critique ME for small-minded and tribal thinking. When someone who calls herself “an Ubuntu fan” stands up and slates the work of another distro we quietly reach out to that person and point out that it’s not the Ubuntu way of doing things. We don’t spot them all, but it’s a consistent practice within the Ubuntu leadership team: our values are more important than winning or losing any given debate.

Do not be drawn into a tribal argument on Ubuntu’s behalf

Right now, for a number of reasons, there is a fever pitch of tribalism in plain sight in the free software world. It’s sad. It’s not constructive. It’s ultimately going to be embarrassing for the people involved, because the Internet doesn’t forget. It’s certainly not helping us lift free software to the forefront of public expectations of what software can be.

I would like to say this to everyone who feels associated with Ubuntu: hold fast to what you know to be true. You know your values. You know how hard you work. You know what an incredible difference your work has made. You know that you do it for a complex mix of love and money, some more the former, others the more latter, but fundamentally you are all part of Ubuntu because you think it’s the most profound and best way to spend your time. Be proud of that.

There is no need to get into a playground squabble about your values, your ethics, your capabilities or your contribution. If you can do better, figure out how to do that, but do it because you are inspired by what makes Ubuntu wonderful: free software, delivered freely, in a way that demonstrates real care for the end user. Don’t do it because you feel intimidated or threatened or belittled.

The Gregs are entitled to their opinions, and folks like Jono and Dylan have set an excellent example in how to rebut and move beyond them.

I’ve been lucky to be part of many amazing things in life. Ubuntu is, far and away, the best of them. We can be proud of the way we are providing leadership: on how communities can be a central part of open source companies, on how communities can be organised and conduct themselves, on how the economics of free software can benefit more than just the winning distribution, on how a properly designed user experience combined with free software can beat the best proprietary interfaces any day. But remember: we do all of those things because we believe in them, not because we want to prove anybody else wrong.

182 Responses to “Tribalism is the enemy within”

  1. John Bowman Says:

    Nice article Mark. You make Canonical sound like a place I would enjoy working at. When can I start?

    While reading this and thinking about how nice a quality that is of a company to have, about the only thing that came to mind was wonder at how the actual employees are regarding the work that they do. Is it all about the individuals works contributing to the overall product or is it a “we’re all in this together” type of an environment. If its the latter, then sign me up!


  2. fhd Says:

    I agree a 100% here. In fact, I regard the behaviour you described as tribalism as one of the central problems (still) holding humanity back.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Excellent blog post, Mark.

    Quote: “2. “Evidence contrary to my views doesn’t count.””

    Then I scroll down and see:

    “I delete nasty comments – your opinions are welcome but please keep them polite and constructive.”

    Feel free to consider my reply being nasty.
    No more comments.

  4. 80 Says:

    That’s true: “tribalism makes you stupid”, i’m looking forward how you will improve collaboration with upstream communities (not only GNOME or Debian but also Xorg -where Canonical is non-existent-, linux kernel, core tools, etc …) instead of whining that “others distribution” doesn’t want to synchronize with Ubuntu. I’m eager to see ubuntu be more community-driven (I’m amazed that all members from the Ubuntu community council are not elected but rather named by you).

    Don’t misunderstood, people are not hating ubuntu or Canonical, they’re just disappointed about the ratio “effective contributions to the growth of free software”/”boasting about our leadership and blablabla”.
    Maybe critics were a bit harsh, but you shouldn’t pour oil over fire and shut your ears to critics even constructive ones. Greg had a point in his blog post, if you don’t build up your expertise by working closely with upstream, you’ll never make it. You’ll never be respected by the free software community with such rants (after all, you’re the guy who tried lure openSuSE developers on their own mailing-list, have you ever think that you should calm down ?)

  5. mark Says:

    Evidence does not have to be nasty.

  6. Jimbo Says:

    In terms of number of employees and amount of revenue generated, Redhat is a substantially larger company than Canonical, so why on earth would anyone expect Canonical to contribute as much code as Redhat? It seems the only way anyone could be offended by Ubuntu is if they are basing the comparison not on code vs. company size but on the code vs. amount of mindshare that the companies are able to generate. I don’t think anyone at Canonical should have to defend themselves because their distro is able to generate lots of mind share with everyday computer users.

  7. Máirín Duffy Says:

    “One of the key values we hold in the Ubuntu project is that we expect everyone associated with Ubuntu to treat people with respect. ”

    That’s cool. Did you ever end up apologizing?

  8. Grant Says:

    Excellent blog, Mark. I teach IT at 16+ level in the UK, and I have a pastoral role for one ‘tutor group’. I’ve bookmarked this blog post and, I hope you don’t mind, I am thinking of using this in a session on equality, diversity and ethics with my tutor group next academic year (Sept. onwards).

  9. Shishimaru Says:

    Well said,mr. Shuttleworth. This post make me think about lot of things.
    Just choose what is right to do and keep it straight on,without strange problems.

  10. robin Says:

    Good read, and a refreshing view. I really can’t stand fanboy attitudes even when I am a strong advocate of something. I use Ubuntu and OS X daily and think both are amazing. It’s unfortunate that I am on the receiving end of relentless teasing and cynicism from both sides for not using one or the other exclusively.

  11. halfbabycaked Says:

    All in all, Greg saw this “yadda yadda yadda” coming. I am certainly not nasty if I point out that it’s not constructive by a long shot to close your post by referring to those who think differently than you do with “The Gregs”, a derogatory definition of those opposed to whom is deemed righteous (here embodied by Jono and Dylan) and whose example should be followed. This is highly contradictory, and invalidate the whole point you’ve been struggling to make throughout your whole post. Sorry, but you’re not different from the tribal attitude you’re pointing your finger against!

  12. Lee Cowdrey Says:

    Amazing commentary on the current world we live in, from a technology perspective personal aspiration tends to lead towards allegiance rather than favouritism. People sometimes just forget the latest gadget, piece of software, technological breakthrough or idea stems from what someone else has managed to achieve in the past. Without IBM and Microsoft originally crafting the personal computer, most homes around the world would not now benefit from the Internet and instant communication it brings.

    To this end it does not matter who made a major contribution or whether the reward was financial or personal satisfaction. Since the dawn of time we all have been building upon other peoples success and as Mark stated so accurately people will always group together based on an opinion or belief, it is unfortunately human nature.

    Like the various communities behind Ubuntu, Debian, Gnome (and majority of FOSS) the general public tend the favour the under-dog and that drives tribalism; this has already been seen with Apple’s own rise from the flames with new phrases being introduced to describe them and fan the fires of rivalry.

    A new convert from a proprietary market space will be vocal and that is good as long as it remains constructive and beneficial. We all need to remember, life is full of choices; choices come from opinions, personal opinions are formed from our own minds and surroundings (education, marketing, fellow peers and of course our friends and families).

    Free speech provides a platform for opinions to be shared and everyone is entitled to their own opinion but never forget the same way you may believe day follows night, your neighbour may believe night follows day. The net result is the same, another day to make something better, easier or more enjoyable to benefit us all.

  13. mark Says:


    Canonical has more than 100 developers working full time on free software. How we organise our work may be different to the way you think it should be done, but it’s hard to argue that it’s an insignificant amount of work. And I’m glad that, even though our contribution may be pooh-poohed, it’s regularly emulated. We’re raising the bar for the way things get done, which benefits everybody. Yes, we could hire a lot of people to work on the kernel. But the kernel is already the world’s biggest single collaborative project – it doesn’t need our help. Design in free software, on the other hand, has come forward in leaps and bounds since we pushed it to the top of our agenda.

    I have never said that other projects should align with Ubuntu. I’ve said that (a) cadence works, amply demonstrated now in many projects. (b) interdependencies between projects suggest that having a cross-ecosystem cadence would work even better, and (c) there is now lots of good evidence that 6 month cycles plus 2 year meta-cycles is a good pattern: it keeps conferences and events at a predictable time of year, it finds a balance between the hardware crowd who want new software every 1-2 years to take advantage of the latest hardware, and the software crowd who don’t want to change their API’s that often, but can handle a 2-3 year cadence. I think the FLOSS ecosystem would be better off with a cross-ecosystem 6/24 month cadence, and Ubuntu would align with that, not the other way around.

    And finally, the “ratio” of contributions is very narrowly defined: the survey tracks “commits to projects on GNOME hosted infrastructure”, which neatly excludes all the projects we underwrite that happen not to be there, but have been very helpful in making a GNOME desktop the world’s most popular Linux desktop. We’ve tried submitting our work through the GNOME processes, but been blocked by people who say that “they may want to follow a different design”. In the past, code talked, now apparently it doesn’t. Anyhow, my view is that it’s hard to take numbers to heart when the numbers systematically exclude all the things you work hard at.


  14. It’s not about tribalism, Mark. « Greg DeKoenigsberg Speaks Says:

    […] why is that, whenever this question comes up, the answer is always some variation on the theme HATERS GONNA HATE instead of actual […]

  15. mark Says:


    Yes, this is probably “the same old song-and-dance about how everyone collaborates, and everyone competes, and everyone wins, and the strength of the open source model, and not a fair comparison because Red Hat is so much bigger, and distro wars are bad, and can’t we all be friends, and yadda yadda yadda” that he anticipated. Except that I really mean it.

  16. Alket Says:

    @Máirín Duffy I don’t think that Mark should apologize, it obviously was a joke, treating this joke too much becomes something “serious” without reason.Don’t forget , the Canonical CEO is Jane Silber.

  17. David Krider Says:

    THIS is what Canonical has done for _GNU/LINUX_.

    If they have spent more time generating more MINDSHARE for free software than actually enhancing the CODEBASE, I say SO BE IT! I don’t hear Dell toying with the idea of installing Fedora or OpenSuSE on their laptops. Yes, you can get RedHat or SuSE on their servers (I don’t know about Ubuntu LTS; I haven’t checked), but Microsoft proved — a long time ago — that the desktop drives the server closet in commodity operating systems.

    I’ve spent several years each running Slackware, then RedHat, then SuSE, then Gentoo, and now Ubuntu. Canonical’s strict adherence to their code of conduct is almost all the reason you need to see why Ubuntu is winning hearts and minds. Arguing about code commits is like arguing about security vulnerabilities. Everyone’s got a point, from their point of view. The bottom line is that Canonical has done something for “libre” software that NO ONE has done before, no matter how much revenue they generate (RH), or how long they’ve been around (Debian).

  18. mark Says:

    “none of them do any of the heavy lifting in GNOME”… sounds pretty tribal to me.

  19. Fab Says:

    Hmm… Very smart: If you don’t like a debate, declare it invalid. That’s about the oldest trick in the politician’s handbook. It does not change the facts, however.

  20. John Says:

    Once again Microsoft and Apple get to point and laugh at the Linux community. This petty behaviour from both sides is what is holding Linux back.

    There seems to be this core of old school Linux users who are very upset at the success of Ubuntu because it has happened so quickly and get so much exposure. They are seen as the Microsoft of the Linux world. This has generated an us and them situation. Everything we do is great, everything you do is rubbish (from both sides).

    I have a friend who has been using Linux for 15+ years and recently switched to Ubuntu from Gentoo for his Laptop because of the ease of getting up and running quickly. He was surpised when I asked him about the antagonism towards Ubuntu, comments like “Ubuntu is an African word meaning ‘I can’t configure Debian'” as he had not read much on Ubuntu before then. But you just need to read the comments on any article about Ubuntu to seen this antagonism.

    Yes, the majority of Ubuntu users like myself do not contribute code upstream or to Ubuntu directly. I do, however, try to give meaningful contributions in bug reports and answers in forums where I can as I do like to tinker and have a computer science background. I struggle to get into code contributions as I work in a country dominated by Microsoft and I have to work in Microsoft technologies like .net and SQLserver and in the evenings I have to spent time with my family rather than learning the languages of Linux (the Mono schism is almost as bad as the Linux-Ubuntu one)

    I have moved my wife, brother-in-law and parents onto Ubuntu and when we finally get our business up and running I will probably look to use Open Source as much as possible.

    Some non-Ubuntu people see people like me and the others I’ve brought onto Ubuntu as free-loaders but they miss the point. Linux will never be taken seriously until it reaches critical mass. Yes these types of people will never add a single line of code directly but by increasing the user base they encourage software companies to start to consider porting software to Linux.

    So please, both sides stop behaving like whining children and work together and stop making Linux the laughing stock of the rest of the computer community!

  21. Andrew Ampers Taylor Says:

    Anon. at 1:29pm says:

    Quote: “2. “Evidence contrary to my views doesn’t count.””

    Then I scroll down and see:

    “I delete nasty comments – your opinions are welcome but please keep them polite and constructive.”

    I fail to see the correlation of these two points.

    If I write: I think Mark is totally wrong because… Mark would publicise my post. It will disagree with him, but it would be polite and constructive. There is a difference between being rude and disagreeing with someone.

    But it is an excellent post, and worthy of the great Tutu!


    And, I will take note and write a thousand times: I must be nice to souties 😉

  22. sep332 Says:

    No one expects Ubuntu to be ahead of RedHat in those metrics. Greg’s problem is that Canonical claim that they are leaders in Linux development (especially GNOME) when clearly they are not. It’s not Canonical’s output that is the problem, it’s their grandstanding.

  23. mark Says:


    Similarly, “if you don’t like a contribution, declare it invalid”. The “facts”, the basis of the accusation being leveled at Canonical, are dodgy. We have made many contributions that are excluded from the framework of the analysis. There are many Linux companies and individuals who work their hearts out on projects that I personally don’t use. That’s not “no contribution”, that’s a life devoted to the very same goals that I have.

    It’s appalling for someone from GNOME to say that all the work of the KDE devs is a waste, or “no contribution”. It just turns our mutual, noble pursuits into a sorry swamp of petty squabbling. The point is: we all have large teams of smart, good-hearted people who are working flat out to improve FLOSS to meet the needs they think are important. There’s not one practice that Canonical is being accused of that you won’t find examples of from any other participant, if you’re willing to look closely.


  24. mark Says:


    Where do we claim that we are the leaders in Linux development? I don’t think I’ve ever accepted an award for Ubuntu without being at pains to point out that our success is the result of the work of thousands of other organisations – from Debian to GNOME to the linux kernel development team.

    It’s true that lots of people have adopted Ubuntu, and sing its praises when in fact they are delighted by something done by someone who had nothing to do with Ubuntu, except to be generous enough to publish their work in a way that we could integrate and share. But that’s not our fault, and frankly it happens all the time the other way too. There are plenty of things in other distributions that began in Ubuntu, either directly as Canonical projects, or in the broader Ubuntu community. And of course, occasionally someone who loves one of those distributions does an upgrade and raves about the “cool new stuff in XXX” which was actually built in Ubuntu. That’s just life, people make mistakes. How we react to others mistakes says a lot about us.


  25. Paul Smyth Says:

    I’m not going to repeat my post on Greg’s blog so I will simply say Ubuntu is the fist distro that I have confidently been able to recommend to my 66 year old Mum. My kids love it too and in my opinion have taken an ugly duckling called Gnome and helped mature it into a beautiful swan. At last someone realises that how the interface looks matters, consistency matters, the users matter!

    Now, my wish list:
    @ubuntuone email so I can dump Hotmail
    Synchronise packages option on Ubuntu One making disaster recovery simpler
    Blu-ray playback (bit more complicated I know lol)
    Landscape consumer version reasonably priced so that I can manage my Mum’s PC remotely.
    All of which I will happily pay for, keep up the good work.

    Paul Smyth

  26. cgable Says:

    “In the past, code talked, now apparently it doesn’t.”

    I am not a developer, but I can imagine that code can’t talk everything. So one should look into why it was rejected in the process. Perhaps it was lack of communication, planning and coordination on the beforehand? I can’t imagine that the reason was just because the code was from a different “tribe”. Processes involving humans are not automatisms that work without a lot of patience and communication. Giving up and saying “take it or leave it” is a bad solution, imho. 🙁

  27. Lex Says:

    I just want quote this comment:

    All the work would be more easy, maybe you can think about it… 😉

  28. Máirín Duffy Says:

    Hi Alket:

    I’m certain many women in FLOSS have war stories that would pale Mark’s LinuxCon 2009 ‘jokes’ to a trifle in comparison (I do). That doesn’t mean the apology many of us have requested is uncalled for. I sincerely hope that the requested apology has already been given. If not, it would be a nice gesture before the 1-year anniversary of the incident.

    Many of us are aware of the likelihood that the comments were not intentional, and apologizing for the upset they caused in the female FLOSS community clearly would not admit intention. Unfortunately, just the same as if I had accidentally spilled coffee on a co-worker – there are still negative consequences to unintentional offenses and I’m afraid for someone in Mr. Shuttleworth’s position and the context in which they occurred, the comments are of more impact to the perception of the FLOSS community as a whole than say wayward comments by a single arbitrary developer on a mailing list.

    I also have to disagree with you if you intend to assert that employing a female executive absolves a company’s male employees of any offenses towards females.


  29. BigWhale Says:

    Well said.

    Nevertheless, fanboyism and flamewars are fun when they are waged among friends for fun. A heated debate and a flamewar can in fact be a constructive thing and one party can learn a lot from the other. All in a good manner with no disrespect of course.

    All in all, I love the ridicule and mockery of the whole ‘being a fanboy’ thing, that’s I perform my Linux talks wearing Ubuntu t-shirt with a pink notebook running Windows.

  30. Michael Says:

    Well, that’s interesting to read this article, because from my own experience, there is a lot of “tribalism” coming from some people who themself consider as part of the Ubuntu community. Not directly, but I have seen some who either said “we should not present other distro because people do not understand ( ), or who said to debian booth “can you push a little, we are ubuntu, we need a bigger table” ( LSM 2010 ), and others.

    Other example of issues come from stuff around gwibber (, , i have looked at the issue because I package gwibber ), the way Jono Bacon depict others community in his book ( page 233, of the Art of community, while I found the process of Fedora to be more transparent, since the FPL is regulary changed ), etc.

    All of this are small incidents, but when you aggregate them, you have the feeling that there is something, some kind of trend of not caring of others project outside of ubuntu.

    I am well aware that not the whole Ubuntu community is like this, and that there is also lots of other people who are trying to help, even among Canonical employees, but I think that the way you solve this ( ie, silently ) do not good in the long run to remove the feeling that Ubuntu community is self centered.

    The way that Jono responded ( “we are working a lot, but we do it our way on our rocking awesome bugtracker”, bugtracker that is still very ubuntu specific code, even 1 year after being open sourced ) is just another step into the wrong direction.

    No one told that Canonical does no work. People say that you appear to work for you only, which is different.

  31. rascal999 Says:

    Pushing UI changes without reason promotes tribalism.

  32. Kazade Says:


    Seriously? You are bringing up a slip of the tongue nearly a year later. A statement that could be taken ambiguously anyway, and was quite obviously without malicious intent. Mark speaks to an international audience of people who have different levels of sensitivity about different issues including sexism. He can’t possibly apologize every time someone takes offence at a choice of words like that, he’d never be able to say anything!

    IMHO it’s ridiculous that such a big issue was made out of his phrasing in the first place. Just be the bigger person and move on. If it was malicious in any way I’d side with you in a heartbeat, as would many others, but it really wasn’t.

    P.S. Congrats on the engagement 🙂

  33. Alexandra Says:

    I think that tribalism is in the field of free software is not pleasant, but quite natural phenomenon …
    for example:
    Formation of Linux users are usually held in three stages.
    1. “Windows must die”
    2. “Hey, why do you use this distro?” man, I’ll tell you what’s what, because I read wikipedia and support forum, I am omniscient. ”
    3. “Wow! This new distro may something that, what I had so long sought, but there’s no much of what that I’m used to …’ll write about this idea on forum”

    just now a lot of users at stages 1 and 2, because stage 3 need experience and real skills. this is growing up) but for those who do not want to grow needs control of moderators, but they are minority.
    so that this problem is unlikely to be fatal, just need to control the extremists)

    // and sorry for my english)

  34. anzan Says:

    Thanks for this, Mark. While I do not always agree with Canonical or Ubuntu’s decisions, the pervasive tone of decency, which you do much to maintain, is why I use Ubuntu rather than Debian or any other derivative.

  35. Carla Schroder Says:

    I’m with Mairin. All the talk about community, respect, and “Evidence contrary to my views doesn’t count” rings rather hollow when Mr. Shuttleworth couldn’t even bring himself to offer a timely, simple apology for a very public series of disrespectful, crude, exclusive comments. The ultimate tribalism is the tribal leader excluding himself from following his own rules. We’re all imperfect, and nothing mends missteps better than saying “I was wrong, I am sorry, I hear you and I will do better.” Leaders lead by example.

    Regarding Greg K’s blog, I’m not sure what he’s mad about; the criticisms that Ubuntu does not try hard enough to work with upstreams, and doesn’t contribute enough code, or enough of the right kind of code, are common complaints. Are they valid? Does it matter? I don’t know, and after reading all of this I still wonder, since Mark’s response is more about why people shouldn’t criticise Ubuntu than addressing the actual criticisms.

    Marketing, building sales, support, and distribution channels, working with Tier 1 and independent vendors, attracting a new generation of enthusiastic users and contributors, and serious effort in developing a better Linux UI are areas where Canonical excels, and where no other Linux distribution has had any real success. The retail desktop arena is littered with the corpses of failures; it’s an ambitious and difficult market segment to tackle. In some ways the major Linux distributors are just as slow to adapt as the proprietary world. For example, wide-screens and netbooks—is any major Linux distributor besides Canonical designing UIs that fit well on these so-called wide-format screens, which are really square screens with inches lopped off the bottom because they’re cheaper to produce? Most of the Linux netbook distros are either Ubuntu derivatives, or some weird “cloud OS” thing that assumes the users don’t really want local apps. (I don’t count the goofy, borked efforts from the likes of HP, ASUS, etc because they’re not every good, they’re larded with proprietary gunk, and they’re not really interested in genuine openness.)

    I think Ubuntu has given the entire Linux/FOSS world a much-needed boost, and good new energy in directions that nobody except end users was all that interested in before. I think we can do without the lectures on manners– they’re non-responsive, and glass houses and all that.

  36. Open Sources » When is free riding…not? Says:

    […] way up to the tippy tippy top of user space”). Canonical/Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth responded, decrying Greg’s imputed “tribalism” as “the great-granddaddy of racism and […]

  37. Anonymous Says:

    I’m rather disappointed in this argument. Instead of taking level-headed criticism, and addressing the obvious limitations of the author’s arguments/statistics (commit timeframe includes years canonical didn’t exist; canonical has less than 1/16th # of employees so a finding of 1/16th or greater is good; canonical’s contributions may be increasing year-by-year and looking at that stat would be much more informative), you have introduced a Red Herring (tribalism).

    You’re not helping the rest of the community get behind Ubuntu by distracting us from the real issues, and it also doesn’t help that you’re categorizing/tribalizing people with terms like “The Gregs”. You need to address these issues head-on with level-headed arguments, reassurances, and concrete evidence that you are and will be addressing their concerns.


  38. Oz Says:

    As everybody knows we have seen this kind of discussions before. I constantly feel that most people miss the constructive part of Canonical/Ubuntu criticizing. Well, at least I happen to think that the point is this: While Ubuntu is a nice distro and all that, it really seems that Ubuntu developers are not doing much work *with* others. I mean together. Ubuntu people are on their own Launchpad land working with Bazaar, tools which nobody else of the major players use. I know Ubuntu people are good people who treat everybody nicely and feel that Launchpad and Bazaar are cool but it’s still effectively Ubuntu’s own corner, not a “working together” case.

    On the other hand Red Hat people are sort of spread all over the development land and do work with everybody. In this sense they are heroes because they are real team players who have managed to work together with (and as part of) many different projects, not just on their own corner.

    I hope that repeating those points is not invalidated by calling it just tribalism. Personally I appreciate everybody who works for free software. So really, thanks everybody. 🙂

  39. Michael Says:

    Mark wrote: “So if you see someone saying “Microsoft is totally evil”, that’s a big red flag for tribal thinking.”

    Is it? What if someone said that the USA Government was totally evil? The USA Government is killing millions of people right now? Is that not considered evil? Sure the USA government might do some things that appear not to be evil, but the underlying reasons are to maintain their control and power.

    This is the same with M$. M$ is evil just like every for-profit business. For profit businesses are evil because they make something called profits which are the result of exploitation. For profit companies discriminates against people who cannot afford their services (which turns out to be most of the humans in the world). Businesses surely do “good” but their motivation is evil just like the USA Government’s motivation which is to maintain their power and money. M$ is a really good example because they have destroyed many other companies throughout their history, stifled innovation, and restrict freedom of thought thanks to patents (just like the USA who destroyed many nations and free people – genocide on the native Americans, over-throwing sovereign nations, and flat out war).

    Are those people really tribal or are they presenting a culmination of their thoughts based on evidence and experience?

  40. thornad Says:

    I don’t think all tribalism is bad.
    Just like not al globalization is good.
    Tribalism is an extention of individualism.
    It is good in my optinion to have very different communities, opinions, etc, and to have groups supporting those opinions and so on, as long as “we agree to have different opinions, and not think someone is less valuable because of their difference”, but rather understand that them being different is what makes us being unique.
    One thing we shouldn’t have is consensus. Then we are fucked. I grew up in a communist country. Consensus sucks.
    I lived many years in US and in EU. Melting pots suck. Homegenizing sucks.
    Many tribes with many different opinions living consciously respecting each other (with occasional fights, arguments and other psychological dynamics)… that is something I’m looking forward to.


  41. Máirín Duffy Says:

    Hello Kazade,

    There is a difference between apologizing for every ‘slip-of-the-tongue’ and making multiple badly-received remarks as part of a major professional event’s keynote. This is especially true when multiple prominent colleagues in the FLOSS community have requested an apology. Since the comments offended folks of the same nationality, I’m not convinced that international audiences are a factor.

    Mr. Shuttleworth has done an admirable job of reminding us of tribalism and the merits of being respectful to each other in this blog post. It’s certainly easier to preach the advantages of mutual respect when you yourself have been slighted – a little more difficult when you discover you’ve delivered a slight. The medium is the message, and the message would be more inspiring if its author exemplified it in both directions.


  42. Luke Says:


    Point well made and understood. 🙂

  43. Luke Says:

    Oops, changed PC.. Luke == Kazade 🙂

  44. mark Says:

    True. I apologize unreservedly to all offended by my poor choice of language on that or other occasions.

  45. mark Says:

    Being individual, and standing up for the things that are really important to YOU even if they are not important to others, is wonderful. But tribalism is when you turn the fact that some other group of people have things that are important to them into a basis for categorical anger and demonization.

  46. Anonymous Says:

    >Ubuntu is, far and away, the best of them.

    Now that’s some very artistic form of expressing one’s tribalism.

  47. Pages from playbooks « Larry the Free Software Guy Says:

    […] To recap, here is Greg’s blog item, and following it is Mark’s response. […]

  48. Máirín Duffy Says:

    Thank you very much Mark. I really appreciate that and I’m sure it will make a big positive difference to my female colleagues as well.

  49. Contribuciones a GNOME – Red Hat 16%, Canonical 1% | Ubunlog Says:

    […] is de enemy withim – Mark Shuttleworth Compartelo: ENTRADAS […]

  50. Martin Owens Says:

    Frustration seems to cause a lot of the problems. We’re frustrated about the Microsoft problem, the Apple problem and the Public perception problem.

    But like an anarchist collective of college students our frustration with the guy down the hall who keeps on leaving the toilet seat up seems to transcend any frustration we may have for the man.