Havoc wrote:

Thinking about a category like "social networking" as the goal just doesn't work for me because it predefines what we can do. (I'm also not a fan of goals like "a desktop" or "a web browser" or "a window manager," by the way, though in the past I obviously did think that way. If I were dictator of GNOME today the first thing I'd do is change the project definition on the front page of gnome.org to something broader and more open-ended.)

What I'd like to encourage is either thinking concretely about the details of user needs or the user experience, or thinking broadly about all the stuff the project could do in the big picture, and keep some allergy to thinking in terms of existing technology names or trends (even when they apply, to me they're just a bad place to have my head).

I believe there have been discussions about clarifying the definition of GNOME for a really long time, and this is an issue we need to tackle.

Here's how I would define GNOME (I expect some people to disagree, of course ;-)): GNOME is a community working towards one goal: making informatics useful to the user.

I don't like the computer term and don't want to use it (since we should not forget about mobile and embedded devices, and also consider other devices that might appear). Sure, informatics is probably not widely used in English and might not sound great (yet), but it's really the best term for this in my opinion. It's up to us to make it more widely used (similarly, we should make ISD widely known, but that's for another post).

This definition does not talk about freedom, but I don't think it's an issue. Freedom is one of our core values (if not the most important one), and we will continue to explain why GNOME being free/libre is essential. However, if it was just a matter of freedom, we could stop working on GNOME: there are already other free/libre projects playing in the same field as GNOME. If we continue to work on GNOME, it's because we think we are trying to achieve the right thing and because we love our community.

I guess a lot of people would have defined GNOME as a desktop. GNOME is not a desktop. We're already providing some software that goes beyond the desktop: it's our platform, which other people are using to build something different. Also, our current definition of the desktop is aging and limiting us: if you ask me, Rhythmbox is part of the desktop; but it's not part of the GNOME Desktop. We're blocked with the "should it be included in the desktop set?" question, which is limiting our vision. A lot of software out there is not in our desktop set, but integrates well with the GNOME Desktop. I believe we should continue to ship our software, but we should also be more open-minded and use a process like the GNOME certification to bless software (including ours). We should be able to tell people without any hesitation: you don't like nautilus, try the great Thunar! Is the GNOME panel (or, to be more correct, some of the applets) not optimal for the users? Why not look in another direction?

What we're trying to do is to let the user use his computer, his internet tablet, his phone, etc. This is our goal. This is a broad goal, but it's okay because it frees us. Technical details are important (bonobo? dbus?), but they are only this: details.

This goal could be a definition of the GNOME project, but I wouldn't define GNOME in the same way. GNOME is a community. Community of contributors and of users. GNOME can't live without those people. They love GNOME and they make GNOME worthwhile. GNOME is a community working towards one goal: making informatics useful to the user.