Case For More Accurate Reporting In Open Source?

Recently, a popular pro-ubuntu website, posted a poll regarding the changes in the GNOME 3.x ‘Files’ Application (or as I like to call it “The Artist Formerly Known As Nautilus”)

The article referenced the amount of cleanups / modifications being made to the code to make it simpler for end-users to navigate — many of which, I will add, having been converting “end-users” to Linux for close to ten years — I agree with wholeheartedly, however, the article stated:

Amongst the features you will find missing in the version of Nautilus (now renamed ‘Files’) are ones you may have used on a daily basis, including:
  • Compact View *removed*
  • ‘Type Ahead Find’ *removed*
  • ‘New file’ templates *removed*
  • Application Menu *removed*
  • ‘Go’ menu *removed*
  • F3 split screen *removed*
  • ‘tree’ view *removed*
  • Bookmark menu items *removed*
  • Backspace shortcut to return to parent folder *removed*

Of those, the thought of the `New file’ templates removal scared me a bit, as I tend to manually add templates to end-user installations for Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Images (PNG), E-Mails & Text Files — at least that way, users who are worried about the differences between Explorer and an Ubuntu or Red Hat installation can at least find their way to create the basic filetypes the same way.

So, I went to check the relevant changelog in git, which is here — and I find the feature is, by far not removed.

Infact, a better term for it would have been “adjusted” — the code has been altered in order to only show the menu if there are templates installed. Even Jon McCann, the developer of said “removal” had used the following description for the patch in question:

Hide the New Document menu if no templates are installed.

Given Ubuntu still don’t ship default Templates with their distribution (there’s an 8 year old bug about it here), I suppose yes, it will mean that menu will disappear from the default Ubuntu configuration — but that’s still not removed not by a long way.

Indeed, there’s even talk about it on various mailing lists, such as this one (on that, the template system is actually quite powerful if you take the few hours to configure it properly and it seems to make a world of difference for new users coming from Windows space, especially when they’re not immediately recognising the icon for a particular application.) — Though, I would hardly call it a “worrying development” that downstream ignored such an obvious request for 8 years, therefore a particular “feature” is effectively rendered “useless”.

Still, the issue i’m getting at here is not the feature itself, it’s the fact a widely read Ubuntu fansite can use the word “Removed” when the feature was “Modified” — especially when that particular article will be indexed by many search engines as a popular article, so it’s highly likely “mainstream media” may find it a lot easier than say this, or Jon McCann’s article on the most recent developments to Files.

I wonder (and it’s the reason I sit here at 3am local time writing this up, having had this thought for a few weeks now): Is this kind of reporting behaviour actually hurting GNOME’s image going forward, especially as we move into the newer development realm of 3.x — I mean, GNOME 3.x is a lot different to anything we’ve seen before from a shell point of view, but in terms of the underlying applications, the evolution is really no different to the changes between GNOME 0.x and 2.x — or Windows 3.1 and Windows 8 — a case of trying to make it easier for the people using the software, while embracing and supporting new technologies.

Now my thought turns to “how best to do that?