Open Source

Red Hat's Mugshot

Today I discovered that Red Hat Linux has created a new social networking site call Mugshot. This site is promoted as an "open source" site. I checked the site FAQ to find out that all the software powering Mugshot is, in fact, open source. And indeed it is. The developer site for Mug Shot is right here. I have to say that I was hoping that the very idea of an open source social site would reach beyond the software being open source. I was thinking that maybe the development of the features and interface might also go, somehow, the way of open source.

BUT - I am very pleased with what I have seen. This site, in my opinion, goes well beyond that of Myspace and Facebook. No it doesn't have a ton of added applications like Facebook, nor does it have the gazillions of users that MySpace has. But this site is a fledgling offering. Give it time and it will get there. Why? For a couple of reasons:

  • The open source nature of the project will push the site software beyond that which serves up MySpace and Facebook. To me this is a no-brainer. With the entire open source community able to crack open the code and see what makes it tick, Mugshot should be quickly getting tons of bug fixes, features, etc. from said community.
  • Mugshot already has a nifty little desktop tool (called Mugshot) that I really like. It can sit in your GNOME panel (or you can open it up as a small widget in your Deskop Environment (or Window Manager) of choice. It allows you to add to your Mugshot space without opening up a browser. Very nice touch.

I realize that social networking sites are pretty much a dime a dozen and each of them has their attractions. Will Mugshot only attract Geeks? I don't think so. I think there are so many people out there waiting for the next big social interaction that they will jump on board anything that comes along. But I think Mugshot will attract them simply because it's a bit more unique than the others. AND I think, due to its open source nature, it will flourish without all of the spamming, bug, and hassles the others sites are prone to.

But what this really says to me, above the whole "social networking issue" is that Red Hat might be "getting it" again. I remember back when I was first covering Linux for Techrepublic and attending the little Linux conventions at the Research Triangle - it was about community. It was about bringing life to something new and exciting. But somewhere along the way Red Hat became almost the enemy - they became too corporate.

Mugshot might herald a new beginning for Red Hat Linux. I hope so. I would love to start seeing that nifty red, black, and white logo appearing here and there (instead of that Lame "f" for Fedora.)

I'll be working some Mugshot mojo in the near future - hoping that the site will take off and flourish. Good work Red Hat! Now, just keep the "community" building.


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website


well an interesting development... i received and email today from Eugenia Loli-Queru telling me that Mugshot is dead. He said that the site went nowhere so Red Hat took the developers and moved them all over to the Online Desktop. it's hard to say exactly what this is (it feels like when .NET was still vaporware). but you can read about it HERE. I am somewhat surprised by this. I have never been a big fan of the old "single point of failure" type systems. You run an online desktop you fall prey to the server hosting your desktop crashing or your network connection going down. I don't want to rely on this type of technology. But that's just me. Anyone have any opinions? UPDATE: So I got a follow up email from Havoc Pennington (an employee - or was an employee until yesterday - of Red Hat) who said they were in fact still developing Mugshot. I will have to dig into this.


I have opinions (don't I always?). 1. If you want to build something useful and "successful" in the "social networking" space, and you're not someone like Google (and even Google failed), you need to be careful about how you define "success". Do it in a manner that allows you to build something that will be a success even if it doesn't attract [b]everyone[/b]. MySpace and Facebook wouldn't have been "successful" if they weren't able to attract the gawdawful huge numbers of users they did. Orkut was "unsuccessful" because it didn't attract that many users. Meanwhile, places like TechRepublic serve to some extent as social networking hubs, and are "successful" at it, because the way one defines success in this instance does not depend on meteoric rise to popularity as a premier social networking website. 2. If you want to bank on open source development as a draw for outside developers and users, you need to make it accessible. The development wiki was a great step in that direction from the social perspective, but they sorta failed to do any of the rest of the important stuff they needed to do. For instance, I had a damned difficult time figuring out what programming languages were used for any of the software -- not very accessible. When I did figure it out, it was by finding references to JBoss which means huge server-side "enterprisey" Java projects -- also not very accessible. Better would be to cut through the vagueness of all the development process marketing talk on the wiki to state up-front what technologies are used on the back end, and make sure those technologies are themselves free of licensing issues, can be installed from your OS's software management system within nothing more than a couple of clicks or shell commands, and use flexible, expressive languages with high-level syntaxes and quick ramp-up on learning (and, for the love of Gob and all that's Wholly, not PHP -- you want a language whose developer culture knows what the hell good code looks like). I'm sure there's more I could say about accessibility, but I'm getting tired of typing.