14 April 2008

Sulphur, boldness, naked people

When talking about SULPHUR, the codename for the upcoming Fedora 9, and desktop themes, I may have give the wrong impression: that I consider the name so dull that is not possible to get some graphics related to it.
[diablo2]This isn't exactly true, I am not so unimaginative that I can't come with a cool (my own idea of cool) image. By the contrary: the first image in my head is about sulphur being the fuel of hell. I can see an image with rivers of molten, red, sulphur, something in the style of the Act IV (Hell) from Diablo II. You know, something that will make you to smell the hell.
But I fully know there are two problems with such an image: 1) it would be very hard to make it in an usable wallpaper and 2) it would be impossible to get a wallpaper acceptable as a default. And to make it fit the Fedora style...

A second idea about Sulphur themes come from the Book of Genesis: "Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven." Imagine Fedora as the holy fire from Heavens, punishing the non-believers. A powerful (over-the-top) image but also not usable for the same reasons listed above.

I am a strong supporter of having a bold message sent by our graphics but at the same time I understand such imagery would be beyond bold and just not good. Naked people (of course, no full-frontal nudity) is bold but acceptable, while the molten sulphur from hell is too much.

[ubuntu]Since I talked about naked people, I should expand more on that. Of course I don't argue about using naked people in Fedora themes, that would me just lame: it was done, repeating it is unimaginative. I am talking about this level of boldness: can you imagine we can come with something that bold in a release?
I have my doubts: we have a process based on consensus, trying to please everybody, which is pretty much a guarantee crazy ideas (either good or bad) will be filtered out. And even if the Art Team get on crack and go for a bold idea, ignoring all the inevitable negative feed-back, I suspect we would have to get on the same crack the Desktop Team and maybe even Red Hat's legal department.

I may sound obsessive about the naked people in Ubuntu themes, it was long ago, not in an official release and short lived, but I still find it a textbook example for an effective desktop theme as it delivered on at least 3 levels:

  • notoriety: it was the early days, the distro was less known. It made people talk about Ubuntu and some even try it and discover that this Linux thingy is not that scary as they expected. Notoriety is essential: no use if you have the best product but nobody knows about it.
  • image: it helped build the slogan "Linux for human beings" and the way it is perceived. Perception is just as essential as notoriety. (side questions: then other distros for what what are? for robots?)
  • niche: it filled a niche. Yup, Linux is a niche operating system, it fill some niches (even it those niches are numbered in millions of users, they are niches). And one of the primary niches of Ubuntu is rebellious people - those that don't want to go with the crowd and stick it to the man. And how you can show how rebellious and anti-establishment you are than using images of naked people?

Now, can we learn something from that? Can we be bold enough? Think about it while counting down:
fedora 9 in 15 days


  1. The "naked people" theme was if something non-hypocritic. Naked people are beautiful and often aesthetic. There's nothing bad in beauty.

  2. Of course. I give at any moment the impression that I think otherwise?