Last week-end, just before leaving for some travel, I became aware that gnome-panel was being forked into consort-panel (btw, I commented on that post, but I guess it was a bit too late since it's stuck in the moderation queue).

Now, let me start by stating clearly that I have nothing against forks: people are free to go this way, and that's cool with me. However, I quickly got confused for three reasons: I thought it was clear that volunteers are welcome to maintain gnome-panel, I thought I had explained to Ikey in June 2012 why some changes would be blocked from entering fallback mode but could hopefully happen in a not-too-distant future, and I'm getting explicitly blamed here and there for putting roadblocks.

I usually don't mind being blamed, but I prefer when it's for good reasons ;-) Of course, as a maintainer, I reject patches. There are usually good reasons, including the fact that there's a design philosophy that a module like gnome-panel had to follow since it was fully part of GNOME. Rejecting patches is part of the maintainer job. It doesn't mean that contributions are not welcome, but I guess it can be perceived as such... Another task of a maintainer is to enable people to keep the code alive, and in the case of gnome-panel, it was clear to me that having the fallback mode as part of GNOME 3 was a blocker to do so. It took more time than I would have liked, but this is something that got fixed when the fallback mode got dropped of GNOME 3.

With this in mind, and to clarify why I got confused by the fork announcement, here's a quick timeline of events in 2012, related to the fate of gnome-panel, covering what I was aware of until the blog post from a few days ago:

  • June 24th & 25th: I get a mail from Ikey about some patches he wrote to revert changes that were done in gnome-panel 3.x. I answer that this can't get in at the moment, due to the fact that the fallback mode is an official part of GNOME 3 and has to work the GNOME 3 way. I also mention that this direction of gnome-panel could change if the fallback mode is dropped from GNOME (and that I would step down as maintainer if gnome-panel becomes actively developed again). As far as I know, this mail discussion (six mails) is the only time I've interacted with Ikey until I commented on his blog post a few days ago (no other mail, nothing in bugzilla; there might have been some irc chat, but I don't keep irc logs).
  • June 25th: I start a thread on desktop-devel-list to see if we still need to keep the fallback mode as part of GNOME 3.6, and I invite Ikey to participate in the thread (in the private mail discussion mentioned above). A decision is taken, and it's to keep the fallback mode for now.
  • end of August: I start the DropOrFixFallbackMode feature page for GNOME 3.8, because I feel the fallback mode in GNOME is not getting enough love. This feature page explicitly mentions that some people would like to improve components of the fallback mode to work differently, and that dropping the fallback mode would enable these people to step up and push for what they'd like to do.
  • December 5th: I send a mail to a small group of people who I know might be interested in keeping some fallback components maintained, to help them start on their work. Clearly, I failed to include Ikey in the discussion, but only because I had forgotten about our discussion from June.

The ironic point here, at least to me, is that it's Ikey's mail that triggered my push for the fallback mode to be dropped from official GNOME so people could work on gnome-panel with more freedom. Which is what seems to be wanted.

Anyway, let me take this as an opportunity to remind everyone that people are welcome to become maintainers of gnome-panel. It'd be preferable to maintain it in the GNOME infrastructure, but I guess even just forking it with full history on gitorious/github would work. No need to rename, no need to follow the GNOME 3 design, etc. If full forking+renaming is preferred for some reason, in the end, that's fine; I'd be curious to know what good reason exists, though.

And as usual, you're welcome to blame me for X, Y or Z :-)