This is a personal post, and it represents my own personal views, and not necessarily the views of my employer, Canonical, or any of my colleagues.
Life is a revolving door. Inside it’s spinning aperture enter good decisions and bad decisions. What you see when you depart that majestic pirouette often differs to what you expected.
Throughout my career, and through fortitude, pluck and purpose I have made some good decisions and bad decisions, but today I have a confession to make, and a very sorry confession at that.
I must have written and deleted this blog post 100 times over the last week. I have wrestled with my conscience and moral sense of fidelity and feel I need to share what has become an increasing addiction, but in the words of an Australian all crimes are in the past. But before we reach forgiveness, we must reach acceptance.
So with a shaky hand and heavy heart, it is time for me to confess that I am Jef Spaleta; Canonical/Ubuntu critic extraordinaire.
Let me start at the beginning of this tawdry tale of deceit, dissemblance, and cunning.
A few years ago I started getting pretty cheesed off with Canonical. I was tired of Mark Shuttleworth’s insistence to invest in building a Free Software Operating System that is simple, powerful and safe for everyone, his sordid obsession with making Linux and Free Software easy to use for everyone, and the frustratingly chipper and excitable Canonical workforce. My life was becoming a musical and the once euphonious harmony had been replaced; I felt like one lone voice in a chorus singing a different tune….a tune filled with tears, regret and compunction.
When I lived in England I would travel to the office every few weeks to be presented by this circus. The Canonical office has a number of glass-walled meeting rooms and I couldn’t escape it. Each room would be filled with enthusiastic people, excitable hand gestures, white-boards laden with diagrams for new features and enhancements, and the office aplenty with trinkets and awards from appreciative Ubuntu fans across the world.
Not pictured: my despair.
Likewise, when I entered such a transparent chalice, my desert of solitude could not be masked. Sure, I tried to hide it. I would socialize with my colleagues, I would put on a brave face, and I would swallow my pride to espouse to the community about how excited I was about Ubuntu, how honored I felt about working with such passionate, skilled, and engaging people, and the worthy goal of bringing Free Software to the masses. Inside though…my soul would shed one solitary tear as each day passed.
My frustration at work was affecting my personal life. My wife Erica knew things were wrong. She would walk into my office and find me pensively looking at my giant signed life-size cardboard cut-out of Dr. Richard M Stallman. I tried to distract myself. I started hacking more and working on some Quickly apps. I tried to play music more and even kicked off Severed Fifth, but I couldn’t even concentrate on that. Sure, I presented it as changing the music industry, but secretly I knew it sounded more like ten belligerent camels having an argument on a trampoline outside a steel factory. It was difficult enough to write good music with my limited musicianship skills, let alone with the distractions I had at work.
Something had to give, but I wasn’t sure what.
I never expected it to happen this way…
It all started back when I first heard of Fake Steve Jobs. I was captivated by the premise that an anonymous person could take on a new personality; a personality shrouded in the shadows, but able to step outside the wirey darkness to to apply commentary…the kind of valuable commentary and opinion that the Internet was so clearly thirsting for.
I didn’t care about mimicking Steve Jobs. Why would I want to parody him? I didn’t want to parody Shuttleworth; that was too obvious. I even considered mimmicking myself, but that had already been done by someone even less funny than myself. The problem was Canonical; a company hell bent on bringing Ubuntu to everyone, building a sustainable economy around Ubuntu, and providing many fruits of this investment in Ubuntu freely. The bastards.
I needed to create someone new. I needed to create a solo Internet warrior who would articulate his criticism fairly and constructively; I didn’t want to create a troll – insults and disrespectful discourse was not my goal.
“And maybe there’s no peace in this world, for us or for anyone else, I don’t know. But I do know that, as long as we live, we must refuse to use
I wanted a force that was cohesive and never unwavering in his mission.
In designing my alter-ego I was also conscious that I am a child of the eighties. What did this mean? Well, it mean’t that there are certain nostalgic cultural and business influences from the eighties that I knew would enter into my new identity. The eighties was all about VOLUME! Not the pumping volume of Huey Lewis and the News, Whitney Houston, Wham!, and Wang Chung, but instead the business of volume: success defined by quantity. For me to succeed I knew I needed to ratchet up the content and be truly ubiquitous. I needed to be heard everywhere, and possibly repeat the same message here and there.
I needed an identify for my new character. On one of my regular trips to Walmart to pick up cheese puffs I was wandering through the cookware section and thinking about a cool name. Maybe I could be Tony Darkraven? John Starchaser? Chuck Matrix? All seemed too obvious and too Hollywood. My alter-ego needed to be believable. Then, out of the corner of my eye in the kitchen utensils section I noticed the BSI Products Jeff Gordon #24 Big Spatula with Bottle Opener. Jeff Gordon-Spatula? No, that was too unusual, so I shaved off an f, adjusted the last word and had my new name: Jef Spaleta.
I was born. I no longer saw the pale British complexion of Jono Bacon.
I saw the herculean sagacious freedom warrior of Jef Spaleta.
Keeping It Real
I started my campaign for clarity.
I started posting, and then I posted some more. I pumped my Google Reader full with every tech blog, Ubuntu blog, podcast, personal website and anything else I could find. Whenever Canonical and Ubuntu people posted, I would respond. I was always there. I was keeping them honest. I knew they were listening to me, and I even had conversations with myself…Jono Bacon reacting to Jef Spaleta on identi.ca. No-one had any idea.
I was in full flow.
Unfortunately, Canonical and it’s end-user mis-adventure was quickly becoming a pre-meditated, seedy, archaic meeting place…a scheming oping tryst if you will. As I laid in bed one night, I couldn’t get those words out of my head. A scheming oping tryst. A scheming oping tryst. Something felt wrong here. As if that between the lines I was not seeing something; like one of those magic eye pictures with the sailboat in plain sight for some but not others.
I wanted to see the sailboat.
In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man still can’t see the damn sailboat.
I wrote those words down on post-it notes. I re-arranged them, combined them in different ways, and stared at them intently from my office chair, from my bunk bed, and my space hopper. Nothing.
I needed a new strategy. I wrote each letter down on a post note and assembled them on the wall.
a s c h e m i n g o p i n g t r y s t
…I re-arranged and a pattern slowly started to evolve:
I knew it! With a rush of excitement, I opened the window and yelled it out.
OK, maybe that wasn’t the best approach. My cat looked scared. “Don’t worry Mr Nibbles“, I re-assured him, “I only have a cat-y-right assignment policy for you“. We both laughed.
I was now seeing the world differently. I could see between the lines. I could see the sailboat! I didn’t believe it is a coincidence that Shuttleworth could be re-arranged into The Truths Low. I needed to get the truth out. I needed to help the world see what Canonical and it’s generals were doing.
And then I came to a stunning realization…
…what I am writing here is total nonsense and an April Fool…
…oh, and that I should never become a comedy writer.
To be completely clear: I have great respect for Jef Spaleta and his contributions to Fedora, his commitment to software freedom and the balance and constructive critique that he exhibits in the vast majority of his work. I hope Jef takes this little joke in the fun spirit it was intended, and to be honest, while I mentally became Jef Spaleta for the time I wrote this blog entry, he was a pretty fun person to be.
Jef, we might not always agree, but I consider you a friend and encourage you to keep on keeping on.