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KDE Neon and the value of communication

An article on KDE Neon riled up the Linux community, so I dug a little deeper to try to clarify the situation.

KDE Neon Linux distribution

Last week I wrote a little article about something that I felt was a truly terrible idea – the KDE project's announcement of their own Linux Distro… dubbed "KDE Neon."

The reaction, by portions of the KDE community, to that article would be best described as "a bit intense." People were angry with me for writing something that was so negative towards a KDE project. People were angry with the KDE community for allowing such a project to exist. People were… angry.

While everything I wrote in that article was true – based on the information available at the time (including the KDE Neon website itself, the announcement, an interview, and an email from the KDE Board) – there was a large contingency of KDE community members that felt my article was incorrect. So I decided to dig a little deeper.

I joined the KDE Promotional mailing list (to both gain some additional clarity around the issue and to offer my assistance in helping the KDE project communicate their vision to the rest of the world) and reached out to the KDE Board as well as the KDE Neon team. Discussions were had. Colorful, intense discussions. But, in the end, it became clear that much of the root cause of the disagreements stemmed from an underlying lack of clarity and communication about what KDE Neon actually is and how it relates to the rest of the KDE projects (including KDE's Desktop Environment – Plasma).

This situation has improved somewhat thanks to these discussions. There seems to be a clear desire, among many involved with KDE, to get better at communicating their vision(s) to the world. So, in the interest of helping them do that, here are some items that have been posted since that original article to help clarify the KDE stance on "KDE Neon."

First and foremost, the KDE Neon team has updated the FAQ section of their website to address the following questions. I am including the relevant portions here in their entirety.

Is this "the KDE distro"?

Nope. KDE believes it is important to work with many distributions, as each brings unique value and expertise for their respective users. This is one project out of hundreds from KDE.

Is it a distro?

Not quite, it's a package archive with the latest KDE software on top of a stable base. While we plan to have installable images, unlike full Linux distributions we're only interested in KDE software.

What is KDE Incubator?

The KDE Incubator is a process through which projects get integrated into the KDE Community to become official KDE projects. At the end of incubation stands a fully integrated KDE project that complies with KDE Manifesto. Any project that can feasibly comply with the manifesto is free to apply for incubation, regardless of whether projects with competing goals are already produced by the KDE community.

The idea that "KDE Neon is not a distro" seems to be shared by many… though not all. The following is a quote from an email from the KDE Board to the KDE Neon team:

"The voting is over and the membership was clear in that KDE can have a distribution and that the KDE Neon team is well-suited to do this task. The board is committed to help the project move forward and put everything at hand to make it happen."

There was also this blog post statement from David Edmundson (KDE Plasma Maintainer):

"Hopefully we'll see neon flourish into an awesome distribution over time."

However, I have seen some potential confusion in an article reaching a conclusion that this might be in some way problematic for other distributions to deploy KDE software. To make sure we're all on the same page, I wanted to give a clarifying statement from the Plasma mantainer.

Plasma is and remains distro-agnostic. It's in our interest to help all of our distribution channels. As long as distributions continue to keep up with the dependencies we need and work well with us, we support everyone as best as we can."

Clearly there's still some confusion over what KDE Neon is (distro or not?), but it's great to see this slowly getting hammered out.

I should also note that I reached out to Jonathan Riddell, the founder of the "KDE Neon" project, to ask if he'd like to do an interview where he could make sure his stance is clear to everyone – and, if he wasn't interested in that, if he'd simply like to make a statement about the KDE Neon project and how it fits into the broader KDE community.

His (entire) response: "awa an boil yer heid ye twonkle"

Which I took to mean "no thanks."

This is something I'll be keeping an eye on – as I've heard so many people expressing their concerns over what this project means for other distros (some of those concerns being the reason I wrote the original article in the first place). But I want to take a moment to thank the members of the KDE Board, and the KDE Neon team, that took the time to meet with me over the weekend. I'll be rooting for the KDE community – in hopes that continued improvements in vision and communication keep happening.

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