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Name: Benjamin Otte
Member since: 2003-12-13 23:49:51
Last Login: 2007-06-14 06:29:44

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I'm the lead developer of the Swfdec Flash decoding library and its associated tools. I've been one of the lead developers of GStreamer during the 0.8 development and release cycle, but have since reduced my activity in the project. I've also done various work on the Gnome stack, in particular panel applets, Gtk and its theme engines.

My IRC nick is Company. You can find me in the GStreamer channel, in the Gnome channel or write me an email to

I'm living in Hamburg, Germany.


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3 months

I’ve been in my new job for 90 days now, as some internal software reminded me recently. It suggested I’d reminisce about it.

I have to say it was a very interesting experience and I like it a lot. I have yet to get more involved in Fedora processes, but I guess that will come after having met more Fedora people at my first FudCon. I’m also slowly getting back into GStreamer development, which works quite well so far. The hardest part is convincing various people inside the company that GStreamer is not “a buggy piece of crap”, which is kinda hard when they show up with weird gst-launch pipelines that expose bugs in 5 or more different elements. On the one hand the flexibility of gst-launch is great, on the other hand it sucks if it doesn’t work once you try something out of the ordinary. Wonder how to solve that…
And I didn’t manage to get the Cairo guys to release Cairo 1.10. If somebody knows how to fix that, please do it.

I also wanted to point out two things that surprised me about my job, one of them very positively, the other not so much.

the great thing

Red Hat engineers are great at working together across communities. If a kernel guy has a problem with GStreamer, they poke me and if I have a problem with building rpms, I can poke its maintainers. I feel that in the “upstream” world, developers often stay in their own community and don’t reach out to others. This leads to ugly workarounds in code and bad blood between people when they blame each other for bugs. I think Red Hat is a model for this and they should go out into the world and give talks about how we achieve this.

the not so great thing

We envy Ubuntu’s fame. I often see people post links to news sites or blogs where Ubuntu gets praised for a new feature that was written by Red Hat people (and of course it was in Fedora so much earlier). And then everybody makes nasty jokes about Ubuntu just stealing all the fame and giving no credit.
It would be a lot nicer if we could be happy that the Ubuntu community likes the software we write. We would be happier and feel better about helping Ubuntu people. Of course, it would be nice if the Ubuntu world would credit us a bit more for our work, but then we probably need to market the stuff we do more.

Syndicated 2010-04-10 00:03:11 from Swfblag

Can I say this?

Diversity is not a good thing.

Everybody complains when there’s more than one Open Source project for a given purpose – GNOME vs KDE, Swfdec vs Gnash, … And we all agree that the Internet is fine with IP and doesn’t need support for Appletalk or IPX. So why is diversity suddenly a good idea for i18n and l10n?

We don’t need more women in Open Source.

See question above. Also, I’ve never seen any studies on this. Is gender equality something important for progress in Open Source? All the papers I know only point out that there’s too little women. I’ve never seen questioned if that’s maybe a good thing.
After all, we know that proprietary software is worse than Open Source. And more women work on that.

The current ways Open Source attract women are a failure.

There are lots of very vocal groups about women in Open Source. But I’ve not seen them make a difference. There’s still way too little women. How come?

Syndicated 2010-02-14 17:45:27 from Swfblag


It’s accepted wisdom that all men are created equal. A lot of people derive from this the idea that all people should be treated equally and have the same rights. It’s the basis for democracy after all. As such, many communities strive to achieve equality and even set it as their explicit goal.

However, in recent times there were two cases that made me doubt in equality as a good goal for any community. The first was the discussion about Fedora’s target audience, in particular defining the target as someone who “is likely to collaborate [...] with Fedora” which excludes a whole lot of lazy or uninterested people. The other is Lefty’s surveys where nobody wondered that the surveys assume everyone’s opinion is equally important.

Then there are a lot of places where not having equality is normal and everybody would look at you funny if you were to advocate it. Meritocracy is a very positive world in the open source development communities for example. It’s a known fact that the maintainer decides which patches go in and which don’t. (Luis Villa gave a talk about this at GUADEC 2003. Slides don’t seem to exist anymore.) So what’s the right way here?

I had a discussion about this with my girlfriend and we found a lot of similar places in the real world where groups wanted to appeal to everyone and ended up being unrecognizable from everyone surrounding them: The Greens for example became just another party without any differences. Apple is in the process of losing it’s style – you’re not special anymore if you have an iPhone or an iPod – everybody has one. And Google does evil these days. All of them saw an increase in “market share” in the process though.

So it seems that in the end it all comes down to this: Is it worth giving up one’s values for more market share?

I personally think everybody who tries to be inclusive is betraying his foundations and original goals. I’m not goint to call it “sells their soul”, because it sounds cheesy, but that’s how it feels to me. So GNOME, please do not give up requesting Freedom. And Fedora, please continue to target the people involved in being bleeding edge. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Syndicated 2010-01-17 13:02:23 from Swfblag

Happy New Year

First of all, I need to excuse to my fellow blog readers for never posting a link to the video hackfest conclusions. The page still looks spot-on, maybe apart from the timeline. I’d add half a year to it.

I’ve also just started my new job in Red Hat’s desktop team. The job description so far just involves hacking on the same old stuff: world domination. I haven’t heard Flash or browsers mentioned, but I think I’ve heard the words video editing and video conferencing. Exciting times ahead for me!

PS: I would have linked my new work email address, but I’m not going to mention it anywhere. These people already had enough Schadenfreude trying to invent connotations for it.

Syndicated 2010-01-04 18:55:32 from Swfblag

Video Hackfest day 2

Carl stayed true to his awesomeness from yesterday: He updated the hackfest notes with the things we did today. In particular, it includes “hacking ideas” that we’d like to work on.

I’ve spent a lot of time discussing the ideas of my gst-plugins-cairo design with all people. And I have to say I’m happy to say that the general approach has seen excitement from all sides and there doesn’t seem to be any big issues with it. THe best way to summarize it is probably an event from today: Edward ran a gst-launch pipeline as a benchmark for gst-plugins-cairo and it completed in 0.2 seconds.

Syndicated 2009-11-21 00:41:40 from Swfblag

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