OpenSUSE seen by a long time user

I have recently asked on suseitalia what the users know about the openSUSE board and its election process because I had the feeling many of the community users didn’t know anything about it. My suspect is confirmed, at least by the few answers received in the thread, which surely have no statistical value.

However, in the same thread, a long time SuSE and openSUSE user, ferdybassi, made a more general comment about openSUSE and its community, pointing out some of the problems I believe are damaging the distribution myself. I will translated his comment (italic), and add my view.

Surely they are chaotic in organizing resources, communication and work, and of course the distribution suffers of that…

I know what the board is, but I have to say (maybe I’m wrong) I don’t care much about it. I don’t care much about it for various reasons:

  1. I don’t understand what power it has… Is it only one of the not much listened communication channels? Is it a reference for something? In the end, if you look at its composition, you see that it is made always by the same people.
  2. The confusion in the organization – communication – management mirrors the confusion in the distribution. It is not nice to say, but openSUSE, differently from other distributions, maybe worse in quality, has no direction. From 10.0 to 11.0 we had millions of updater applets, million of ways to install, manage and search for packages, things that came and went from the distribution in a release cycle… Unfortunately the team is confused, we can’t expect the distro not to be in the same condition…
  3. In the end, board yes or board no, I think the team is an oligarchy, if not a monarchy. A lot of us asked to the monarch to change the update policy in suse ( )
    and what happened? Nothing… So what is the influential power of the community, of the board, of teams or whatever name you want to give to a group of people around openSUSE?

However, in spite of the critics I often do, I think openSUSE is even now an excellent distribution…but I think it is relaxing… It lost some of it strong points, it missed some trains, and it made some objectively wrong choices…

I share most of his view. SuSE first, and then OpenSUSE has been my confortable Linux home for six years now. I can literally say that all what I did with Linux was done with SuSE. However, as ferdybassy wrote, openSUSE now has no direction, suffering from continuous changes to core elements, without a clear plan on where to go and what to do. At least this is what it seems from an external observer that hangs around the openSUSE community, and I don’t like the idea that my favourite distribution is in this situation! 😈

I think openSUSE has two key problems:

  1. It is hard to communicate inside the community and to find information.
  2. It is hard for users to contribute, and sometime not motivating.

Let’s elaborate a bit on these two points.

It is hard to communicate because too many media are used: blogs, mailing lists, forums, videos, tv, IRC, and important information is not consolidated anywhere. The wiki is in desperate need of love, and of a better indexing system because it is hard to find what you need in the current situation, even if it is there. This, of course, doesn’t depend only on the openSUSE teams, but also on the community, which is probably not active enough (myself included) and surely not big enough.

About users contributions, I think it is often too difficult and too bureaucratic to contribute to openSUSE, and also quite frustrating. The answer to this has been the definition of procedures, but these procedures need to be simplified, trusting the community members more, with the goal of increasing the integration between users, community and developers. Moreover contributors should be motivated, and this happens for certain aspects, and doesn’t for certain others. For example, a beta-tester is not motivated by the slow release of updates, limited to very serious security bugs (a policy that comes from SuSE, but not suitable for openSUSE, whose final release quality is not always ideal). Translators are not motivated at all by continuous changes to strings and by the lack of respect of string freezes. They are examples, of course, based on my experience, but they give a perspective.

I sincerely hope this will move to some reflection more than to some defensive answer, in the interest of everyone in the openSUSE world.