Oxygen redux: Can do Vs. Should do

September 12, 2007

The always wise and sagacious Chris Rock once tackled my favorite topic of Can Do vs. Should Do as tersely as possible: “Sh*t, you could drive a car with your feet if you want to.  That don’t make it a good f*cking idea.”

DeCSS.  Abortion.  Cloning.  Iraqi occupation.  Nuclear power plants.  Almost every interesting debate is Can Do vs. Should Do.  Why?  Because it’s the freaking 21st century and we can do a hell of a lot.  Until recently, people weren’t asking “Should we pay millions of taxpayer dollars to land on the moon?” or “Should I hide a webcam in my bathroom so I can watch my family take showers?”  Debates get even more complex when people can’t even agree on Can Do vs. Should Do.  Homosexuality?  Being a carnivore?  Good grief.  People can’t even agree if there’s choice involved; but I digress.  You should be used to that by now.

Over time, and especially in the Information Age ™ we still have the old Can Do vs. Should Do dilemmas on a daily basis (should I shoot my nemesis with a musket in his sleep and stab him with a sabre when he isn’t looking) but we keep getting new ones.  Philosophy and morality are struggling to keep up with technology and provide guidance.  Fortunately we have things called Social Contracts which are frankly just extensions of the Golden Rule or as Jesus so eloquently put it, “Behave and quit bothering each other.”  But I digress.

The point: can you pull Oxygen icons from SVN and plaster them all over?  The licensing permits quite a lot.  Should you?  I don’t know about you, but to me it’s like yelling Surprise! before everyone else at a birthday party.  Or telling people that a friend of yours is pregnant before they do.  A simple daily case of Can Do vs. Should Do.  Would you want someone to tell your parents you’re engaged before you do?  Would you want someone to show off your last two years’ of work before you do?  “Sh*t, you can airdrop propaganda fliers over Prague saying Wade has a Rubik’s Cube lodged in his colon.  That don’t make it a good f*cking idea.”

The good news is: At least we have the choice with KDE community work.  When did Wade switch from being a KDE enthusiast to KDE contributor?  When I didn’t have that choice involving an abonimation called Windows ME.  Plenty of software doesn’t give use the Choice ™.  They’ve made it for us.  We’re an open community with an open source code repository.  And these new options are novel to many.  You put 10 pounds of candy in a kindergarten class every morning and kids will eat ungodly amounts..hopefully their gluttony will taper off over time as they learn their limits.  The same with Oxygen eye candy.  See how I did that?  Candy and eye candy?

31 Responses to “Oxygen redux: Can do Vs. Should do”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    “Behave and quit bothering each other.”

    That must be from one of those new age translations! : )

  2. Louis Says:

    My gosh! I wouldn’t want everybody to know about that Rubik’s cube either! There are much less painful ways to solve those, you know. I used to just peel the stickers and replace them. Never tried using my sphincter. 😉

  3. wadejolson Says:

    Look ma, no hands!

  4. Paul Says:

    I don’t get the controversy. Someone goes out and gives written permission to use the icons for other projects (AKA license). And then there is controversy over people using the icons for other projects????

    It is like yelling “FREE POPCORN” and then complaining that people are eating your popcorn.

    And what exactly is wrong with sharing the oxygen icons with others? It is just like sharing code.

    Who is complaining and why?

  5. fish Says:

    I fully agree with Paul. If you don’t want people to use it, change the license. End of story.

  6. GeniusDex Says:

    It’s not about people just eating your popcorn, it’s about people eating your popcorn before it’s ready.

  7. Ethan Says:

    This is silly.

    I can understand that the creators of Oxygen don’t like the idea of people using an unfinished product. But if it’s to the point where they have to say “DON’T USE THESE,” they really shouldn’t be distributing them publicly under a license that says “you can use these if you want.”

    Honestly, if I have a product that I don’t want people using, I don’t give it to them and say “well, you can see it, but don’t do anything with it please.” I say “I’ll show it when it’s ready for you to look at” and be done with it.

  8. Chris Fritz Says:

    Looking at it as “free pop corn”, as in Paul’s example, wouldn’t it be more like putting out free pop corn to watch during a movie, and having people come and eat it before the movie?

    I suppose the solution there would be to say “this pop corn is not free until just before the movie starts”, and the Oxygen solution would be a non-free licences “until KDE 4.0 is released” at which time it’s relicensed as free.

  9. Diederik Says:

    I agree here.

    The “calling surprise!” before everyone else is a nice example. Oxygen has the dilemma that it’s developed in the open, you’re free to share it and it’s existence fairly known to KDE contributors. In the same way, all visitors for a surprise party know about the surprise.

    That information is shared in your the group. Do you have take measures so people keep it quiet? (e.g. a NDA contact not to tell about the birthday surprise). Or can you trust people not to blow it?

    If people still disagree I hope they at least understand how they’re hurting the ones that shared the information with you in the first place.

    Does that require a license, or are people mature enough to understand a higher goal here that also requires the same open license.

  10. Diederik Says:

    > And what exactly is wrong with sharing the oxygen icons with others?
    > It is just like sharing code.

    Would you want KDE 4.0 to look unique and cool, or …do you want it to look like a rip-off of GNOME / Vista / Mac OS because everyone else picks what KDE was planning for? That’s the fr*ggin issue here! 🙂

    If people can’t deal with that it seams KDE has to be less open about it’s idea’s and vision. And that would be a huge loss for everyone.

  11. fish Says:

    Well, the KDE camp kept telling us that Oxygen will be *so* much more than just an icon-theme..


    A new user-experience…

    If this were true, NOBODY would be worried about the KDE3 Oxygen-Icons because KDE4 with Oxygen would be a lot different and better anyway. This makes me think…can’t Oxygen hold up with its promise or why all the noise about this? If you guys are so worried, I guess Oxygen on KDE4 won’t be much more than just icons coz otherwise nobody would whine about the KDE3 and Gnome icons…

  12. Kathryn Says:

    I LOVED this piece – even if I didn’t get all the technical aspects. If people spent more time doing what they should do instead of what they could do then the world would be a nicer place to live.

    Oh, and I love the Jesus paraphrase. I think you hit it pretty much right on the money. 😉

  13. Paul Says:

    > Would you want KDE 4.0 to look unique and cool,
    > or …do you want it to look like a rip-off of
    > GNOME / Vista / Mac OS because everyone else
    > picks what > KDE was planning for? That’s the
    > fr*ggin issue here!

    Same as code:
    Would you want konqueror to look unique and cool or …do you want it to look like a rip-off of safari because everyone else picks what khtml was planning for?

    Of course we would want GNOME to look similar to KDE, it would be great for usability if GNOME apps and KDE apps look consistent. Heck, many distros have unified the theme for gtk and kde apps for this very purpouse. Also, if GNOME improved on these icons, we can take the improvements back.

    So best case scenario (just dreaming here I know) would be if GNOME adopted oxygen as their default icon set/widget style, and collaboration was established with KDE.

  14. Thiago Macieira Says:

    Last I checked, you *did* use your feet to drive. Just not to steer… 🙂

  15. Well apart from the walppaers, icons, sound theme, widget theme cursor theme, the rest of the oxygen work we cant guarentie it will be available in kde 4, the plasmoids for example, but heven there you can see much of your work…
    Im not overlie preocupied about the icons beeing out there kde is the only one losing here couse its a marqueting issue…

  16. […] Talking about different types of limits in computing: “Not everything we want to build can be built; Not everything we want to build should be built.” Can Do vs. Should Do? Morality and maturity in decision making in a field that has fewer and fewer limitations? Has Grady been stealing my material? […]

  17. SubSOnica Says:

    I am concerned more and more things like this happening, as it would stifle community participation (specially along newcomers):


    Dont get me wrong: It is totally right for you to ask: Please don’t disclose the Icon Set before Kde4 is launched or before the 1.0 version of the theme is ready, but on the other side, the licence allows it, and people will do it if they feel like it. This notwithstanding, Im sure that if you POLITELY ask anybody willing to disclose the icons before official release not to do so in order not to be a spoiler and better help the project’s buzz at launch time, they will be more thn happy to comply with your wishes. That’s the nature of FOSS.

  18. Alexandre Says:

    Paul, could you please for at least a second distinguish a separate icon theme from the whole GNOME project? That would be really neat of you, since not everyone seems to be reading carefully and people might think that it were actual GNOME developers who published Oxygen icon theme.

  19. Bob Says:

    The damn thing was released under licenses that allow this sort of thing.

    Don’t act like a child because someone did with the license allowed them to.

    BTW – this sort of childish behavior really, really doesn’t help KDE adoption….

  20. Sunny Rabbiera Says:

    What in the hell is this???
    Its supposed to be open development, what are you working for Microsoft or something?
    If you didnt want people to mod it you should have never posted the original material you idiot…
    go back to redmond where you came from, I am not using this stupid icon set when KDE 4 comes out…
    up yours

  21. JP Says:


    I just have a question, If the developers of oxygen didn’t want people to share their icons with other people, why did they put it under that particular cc license? If they wanted to keep it secret, they could have put it under an all rights reserved license, and then on launch day they could have changed it to CC ShareAlike.

    The way I see it, no matter how cool an idea like open source and open information is, there will always be one d*uche that does something unacceptable with it. Under a “normal” lisence, you could seek legal action against said d*uche. With such a license as the CC ShareAlike, you have no power to say anything.

    Because of the one d*uche, we have things like rigorous speeding laws (on the highways), 4 hours of airport security, and music pirates that keep DRM in place. The one d*uche will always screw stuff up for everyone if you let him/her.

    Further, the person that “stole” the Oxygen icons is not even being that bad of a d*uche. He was never disallowed to release these icons, so he is not doing anything “wrong.”

    Just so you all know, I agree that this guy is an a** h*ole, but I can’t say anything against him/her. They acted within their rights.

  22. Nnyan Says:

    You guys have GOT to be kidding. This is an open source project which was “supposed” to be more then just icons. The fact is you released it with licenses that allow reuse. If you guys are so uptight about being the first to release then don’t use a license that allows this.

    Amazing that open source projects have come to this. You should be HAPPY that others are using your icons since that is the spirit of F/OSS. Instead you guys show the world that you’re not better then the closed source people and are in fact a bunch of sissy’s getting their panties up in a bunch b/c someone did something first.


  23. Matt Says:

    I don’t think the popcorn analogy is apt. The popcorn isn’t gone, there’s an unlimited supply of it. If you weren’t ready for people to eat it, you shouldn’t have put it out.

    Neither is the yelling surprise or pregnancy. If I’m publicly announcing either of those things beforehand on a visible, publicly accessable website, I really shouldn’t be surprised when knowledge of my efforts through word of mouth exceeds the range of my own voice.

    I really don’t get it.

  24. Dr Gonzo Says:

    If you want to keep your stuff secret until you decide to release, then don’t license it with an open license until you’re ready to release. It’s just that simple.

    Nobody made you use the licenses you chose. Since you’ve chosen them, you legally have to abide by them, and getting ticked about people doing things the license allows is really nobody’s problem but yours.

  25. Bible Nut Says:

    Fortunately we have things called Social Contracts which are frankly just extensions of the Golden Rule or as Jesus so eloquently put it, “Behave and quit bothering each other.”

    I believe what you are looking for is “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.” You might also use “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

    As much as I realize it is a paraphrase, it is a poor one.

  26. […] few days later, Wade Olson of KDE’s Marketing Working Group attacked the theme packager in his own blog post, calling the second-hand theme morally suspect and a violation of the Social […]

  27. […] few days later, Wade Olson of KDE’s Marketing Working Group attacked the theme packager in his own blog post, calling the second-hand theme morally suspect and a violation of the Social […]

  28. meren Says:

    OMG. People keep saying “If you don’t want people to use it, change the license”. Yeah, such a smart advice. It’s a shame authors didn’t think about it.

    This is not something that can be solved by “protecting” stuff by changing it’s license or by keeping it secret till the release date. This idea requires something which it’s one of the most important things in open source worlds foundation: humane.

    So don’t defend the coarseness with cheap attorney arguments. Think about it.

  29. […] push other developers away from their work”. In the first case we have a designer and a spokesperson who express disagreement with people not having respect for their (or, rather, Oxygen designers) […]

  30. […] Понатаму авторот на текстот на Linux.com продолжува со неговите критики и вели вака – „A few days later, Wade Olson of KDE’s Marketing Working Group attacked the theme packager in his own blog post, calling the second-hand theme morally suspect and a violation of the Social Contract. Commenters on his blog cheered as well, and soon began to attack the theme packager in comments on the theme’s page at the art portal gnome-look.org.“ И сега од тука па натамо типо веќе и претерува со погрешно израсување и погрешно претставување на некои други мисли. Ова како да е намерно напишано некако – најверојатно типо е Гномаш. Директна врска до изјавата на Wade Olson. […]

  31. […] concetto di OS non ha pensato che la gente spende energie e tempo per realizzare piccoli sogni.Sia Wade Olson che Nuno Pinheiro hanno lamentato le proprie ragioni.Naturalmente le Oxygen messe a disposizione di […]

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