On sysadmins, programmers, and reconciliation (a response to Zed Shaw's post)

Zed Shaw posted a response to my article on why people hate Launchpad. Apart from causing the number of readers to skyrocket by an order of magnitude, it's given me some new perspective on the problem. As always, I love feedback, especially if people agree with things I say ;-)

Assuming Zed's right (and I think he's at the very least got a point), my previous list of grievances splits up into two things:
  1. Things that make Launchpad more like Github. In Zed's terminology, make Launchpad less of a sysadmin place and more of a programmer place. Following Zed's conclusion, these are bad changes.
  2. Things that make everyone's life easier and aren't necessarily about one group versus the other. As the contrapositive to Zed's conclusion, they are good changes.
Now, I think at least some of the UI changes from that list are in that last group. Particularly the code browser UI issues (and they are legion -- Loggerhead is on occasion hard to like) are something I don't really see how anyone could object to. Concrete examples are:
  • Renaming "View branch content" to "View code". "Code" is a word programmers scan for. To quote Zed's article: code, code, code. Contrary to popular belief you can actually access trunk's code with a single click from the project's front page! It's just cleverly hidden.
  • Merging the branch and branch content pages, embedding Loggerhead in the page like Github's file browser, instead of making it a separate page. Sysadminny types probably wouldn't ever have looked at that page in the first place.
  • Removing dead project features (like translations, blueprints, answers) for J. Random User
There are, of course, also ideas that would piss off the syadminny group, like moving series around or putting a Github style code browser on the overview page. (Probably explains why I dislike that last feature.)

But yeah: if you fixed every single point in that list of perceived flaws, my in-brain mockup of what Launchpad 2.0 would look like would still decidedly be Launchpad and not Github: which is probably what Zed is talking about. And, like he said, that doesn't actually have to be problem.

I agree that both Github and Launchpad would be very hard-pressed to transform into something everyone likes, but the "why" of that wasn't quite clear enough in my head yet for me to write a blog post about it (my posts are bad enough when I'm convinced I do know what I want to say). Zed's article helped quite a bit there.

The difference is I have no idea what this third system that caters to both in the same place would look like yet. Zed probably has a better idea of what he's talking about than I do.

My idea is different. It's probably a bit worse, since you'd have N places where code live instead of 1, but at least in the short run it seems like less effort to end up with a working thing. The idea goes like this: if Github and Launchpad are really different beasts catering to different beasts, maybe we shouldn't try to make them be the same, and instead let them cooperate. This is why I think (well, hope) the idea of bridging Launchpad and Github -- having them play nicely together in the same sandbox instead of the current situation we're they're direct competitors -- may have some value to it.

I'd really like some feedback on Github fans on that. I know Launchpad people are going to like it since they can pretty much just use Launchpad and don't have to care Github exists. I'm hoping people don't find Launchpad so revolting that using its bug tracker and merge proposals (as cited in that article I linked, features at least as good on Launchpad as on Github) becomes a contribution blocker.