The Pitfalls (and Triumph) of the Open Source World

If you are taking the time to read this, then chances are - you used to watch my regular uploads under the infintelygalactic project on YouTube. You may also be curious as to why there seems to have been no real activity on that channel/project for quite a few months. So, my purpose in this (hopefully) brief blog post is to answer this question, give you my perspective on this project, as well as look at how this project might look moving forward. Hang to your hats while I breeze through a brief timeline of the infinitelygalactic project.

2010 - First upload reviewing openSUSE 11.3 Gnome to YouTube under the IG channel as a result of me looking for an open-source system and software that would enable a broke freshman to edit video.
2011 - Partnered with YouTube at around 5K subscribers which would go on to pay for all the production value increase over the following 4 years (cameras, editing, and new computer).
2012 - Really started investing time into regular uploads reviewing Linux projects, apps, operating systems.
2013 - Started to diversify content a little (some gadget reviews, gaming uploads, podcasts).
2014 - Began to stabilize my chronic distrohopping and settled into a great workflow with Ubuntu 14.04. This was the year that everything in the Linux world seemed to be forking and starting over for the sake of it. (Probably earlier than this - but this was when I noticed it).
2015 - This is the year that I was most satisfied with the quality and quantity of the content being published on the infintelygalactic project. I also began working a regular day job that relied upon the use of several services that were unsupported in Linux. (The end of 2015 was when I announced that I would be taking a break from YouTube after topping 40K subscribers.)
2016 - Began studying teaching at university as well as working. At this stage, I was no longer using Linux on a daily basis - but I was still tinkering on the side.
2017 - Rebranded IG project to ‘Master your technology’
Attempted to change my workflow away from the services I started using in 2015 to something more Linux friendly - including installing Linux Mint 18.1 on my main 15’’ MacBook Pro - to limited success.

So that is a brief history of the infinitelygalactic project, so the question is: where to now?

I suppose the trajectory of this project has always been based around what I was discovering about the open-source software world - in hopes that I could help others discover open-source alternatives too. But I discovered two things about the open source world in this process: 1) the open source community is amazingly productive, supportive, and impressive considering that so many talented people contribute their time and energy to projects they are passionate about - often unpaid. 2) Because everybody is so passionate about what they are working on, there is an aweful lot of duplication, endless forking, backwards priorities, and blind favoritism toward certain platforms or projects - meaning that introducing new users to this community means helping them navigate through a seemlingly endless amount of cruft to find something that fits their needs and is ‘user friendly’.

This was a goal I was passionate in pursuing as the best that the open-source world had to offer was still much better and cost effective (as in benefits outweighing the cost) than so many commercial offerings (think: Windows Vista, Windows 8, OS X). However, as time went by - these offerings got better. Much better. And at the same time, the Linux/open source world seemed to start chasing its tail. New display servers, forked desktop environments, shifts of priorities away from the desktop (what Linux distros did best) and toward touch-friendly tablet interfaces (Unity, convergence, Gnome Shell, etc). Change for the sake of change (and community politics), instead of stabilizing and improving what the community had already built from 2010-2013. Now I say this as my own observations over the entire landscape. I am by no means a developer or a knowledgable Linux/open source historian, I was - and still am - a Linux enthusiast - who thoroughly enjoyed finding awesome open-source projects and sharing them with the world. But as I began to survey the competition again toward the end of 2015 - I began to realise that this tail chasing had cost the Linux world its momentum toward user-friendliness, and the commercial software development world was starting to correct its blunders - thus making their devices, services and operating systems so convenient, stable and well integrated that running a Linux system among this mix became a chore.

Now I realise that this semi-walled garden approach is the goal of many commercial tech companies, but I strongly believe that technology is a tool - and you have to find what works best for you. While I saw great potential in many open source projects and Linux distributions, there was simply not enough resources backing these projects to make them truly viable long term. Consequently, the tools that were making me most productive were no longer open-source projects. Well integrated cloud storage (Google Drive and OneDrive) that could run on all my devices; a powerful, professional yet free video editor (DaVinci Resolve); and devices with touch/pen input and long battery life (Surface Pro) were just some of the examples of tools that I simply could not replicate in the open-source/Linux world. My time spent and interest in the open-source world began to dissolve, and as a result so too did the inspiration for the infinitelygalactic project. While I considered pivoting my channel away from open-source/Linux, nothing in the tech world interested me or inspired me in the same way - at least not enough to prioritize the time in my crowded schedule to create videos that would contribute anything more than the thousands of tech channels that enrich YouTube today.

To the future!
While this seems like a long and ranty post, there are glimmers of hope on the horizon for the open-source world, the Linux world - and therefore this project. To refer to a certain Star Wars movie that came out recently: the Resistance is all but dead - but boy oh boy, do those who have just joined the team have a lot going for them. As I look back at what has transpired this year, and look ahead to what I’m expectant for, there are some major, standout, blow-your-pants-off-awesome developments that are in the works. While I will mention some of these below, I just want to take a moment to appreciate the way that the open-source world bounces back. Yes, there has been regression, duplication, forking, underwhelming funding, and even more underwhelming releases in the last two years - but that has all paved the way for a glorious future. Was it necessary? We’ll never know. What I do know is that the future of the infinitelygalactic project is dependent on the open-source world becoming an exciting, innovative space for consumers to find quality alternatives to the major tech companies’ offerings and join the Resistance. My hope is that 2018 will be the year when that happens.

Here are just some of the recent developments that I’m excited about:
- Canonical refocusing on polishing upstream Gnome for its main Ubuntu releases instead of developing it’s own desktop environment. I’m excited!
- The release of Firefox Quantum - a worthy opponent to Google Chrome with quality sync between browsers and mobile app browsers.
- Self-enclosed apps capable of running on any Linux system (Flatpak etc) which means up to date applications no matter what distribution, dependencies, or any of that other stuff. Flathub is the bomb and has amazing potential for running stable apps on ever changing OSs.
- A healthy collection of combatible AAA gaming titles growing in number through Steam.
- Crossover announced compatibility with Microsoft Office 2016. This sort of compatability is just a necessity, despite the awesome release incoming from LibreOffice.
- Finally! Signficant updates (either realised or coming soon) to open-source stalwarts: Thunderbird, Geary, GIMP, and Kdenlive just to name the ones I’m personally interested in.
- Innovative distributions built around the needs of their users (everyday folk) combined with strong vision: elementary OS, Solus, Ubuntu MATE. With each version, these distros go from strength to strength without the duplication, regression, or stagnation we see from the major players.

Bright indeed.

Until next time,

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