If you haven't seen it, here is our new notification system for Ubuntu:
Are You Bringing Anything to the Party?
So what does this new notification bring with it?
It is most certainly adding a degree of aesthetic, but is that enough to warrant a completely fresh body of code? Is that aesthetic so completely radical that it is entirely unlike already existing projects?
I ask this because it appears that Mr. Shuttleworth is not quite keeping on course to what he has been blogging about. If merging is the key, why start yet-another-notification-library? Is it not a viable option to provide some sort of branch of an existing project and build off of it as an experimental branch? This would probably run along the lines of what Scott James Remnant most interestingly offered up as the notion of a 'concept distribution'. Aaron Siego has also commented on the 'private' design. Arguably too, a little Googling reveals another relatively interesting notification project in Mumble - already with similar aesthetics. Finally, we can't avoid looking at duplication and overlap with Growl that might provide some synergy and a strong developer starting base.
Above and beyond aesthetic, one must then ask what else is gained?
Is this a spawned feature tightly bound with online presence? I am fully aware that in our uber-geek culture, being 'online' is vital, critical, and in some cases, 'equivalent' to many 'real life' existences. To this end, perhaps a notification system is vital when coupled with the apparently high priority of presence states when considering the nature of our current culture. Is it vital to an audience outside of our community, however?
Does the 'yay yay rah rah new notifications!' system bring anything further to the table other than a minor aesthetic difference and a discussed missing element of clickability? Is it that much different to the existing system to someone on the outside world?
Who is Ubuntu's declared audience and will they find this a must-have killer feature?
If your answer is "I have no clue" and "probably not", the ultimate result is that this is possibly yet more of the same poorly thought out and ill "That would ROCK" or "YES BLING!" mentality that we have seen from the Ubuntu art and design 'thinking'.
Does this notification system need to be a killer feature? Hell no. Are there other features that might take precedence considering the value added by this feature versus the amount of attention it would require to develop it? Hell yes.
Prada or PeeWee Herman?
This discussion ultimately comes down to an undercurrent that is running beneath not only our outwardly awkward art and design decisions in Free Software, but almost every aspect of our design process: the audience. The audience that develops the software and implementations is, simply put, an extreme minority. Triply so when you consider the holy trinity of Free Software, Developer, and UberGeek.
What we have in spades are extremely high level minds collaborating and associating and creating. Brilliant coders. Visionary thinkers. Clever hackers.
Taken outside of that context however, only the third factor - the UberGeek - repeatedly manifests itself to the public. It appears as though every single decision we make reflects outward as UberGeek; art and design oopsies, humour in-jokes, slang, lingo, attire - everything.
I'll end this discussion with a Jacob Nielsen paper - Bridging the Designer-User Gap.
More commonly, designers at this level are core members of the larger target audience. Open software often falls into this category: designed by geeks, for geeks. That's why Linux, Apache, Perl, and many similar products have been so successful — at least as long as the audience remains a group of technology-obsessed users. Of course, these same products don't stand a chance of growing their user base to include ordinary humans.What is this saying about audience experiences? Are we expecting the remaining Jakob's "ordinary humans" to gravitate to the concepts and designs? Gravitating to the notion of Free Software is one very accessible aspect, but expecting those "ordinary humans" to get excited about "You have mail"?
In the end, I find the notification system much ado about nothing - rather akin to the new GDM due to land shortly - strange 'design-by-amoeba' with little attention being given to the communication factor. Blind fingers stretching forth grasping at something - anything that will yield dividends. May this addition not end up with the other design-and-drop Ubuntu projects.
Thank you all for reading.
 Most notably the rather awkward padding that is a direct byproduct of assuming mathematical centres automatically equate with perceptual centres of gravity. Hopefully that will get fixed.
 Let me be extremely clear on this point - I am a huge supporter of experimentation. I am a huge fan of innovation. Experimentation clearly does not equate with innovation in this instance. Further, this is not a drag-down of the most talented individuals that coded this feature but rather the sum of all processes that arrived at the will to design it. I'd also add that I suspect Mr. Shuttleworth is simply tired with upstreams. They are clogged up with political flotsam and power struggling jetsam.
 I dare anyone to write a script that counts 'bling' or 'rock' in Ubuntu related postings. Last time I looked 'bling' was a tacky dollar symbol encrusted with cubic zirconium and 'rock' was something that Vanilla Ice and Twisted Sister wanted to do.
 "To design is to communicate clearly by whatever means you can control or master." - Milton Glaser
 Without a holistic design pattern established first, all of it feels like droplets of rain that eventually spill off of the glass table. Historically, we have seen it with the custom UbuntuLooks GTK engine - where development ceased after its initial effort. Recently, the USplash has been chittered about being dropped in favor of Plymouth - again probably due to limitations. Even beyond Ubuntu we have stalls and staleness with other projects such as Compiz.