Glimpse: A Year on Hiatus

This update was originally published in my gemlog on 2022-05-23: gemini://gem.trechnex.com/posts/glimpse-update.gmi

If it looks a bit strange on first glance, that is because this post was written to follow conventions in the Gemini protocol, and then ported for the wider web in the WordPress WYSIWYG editor.

Intro

For those of you that are not aware, Glimpse Image Editor is an open source image editor based on the GNU Image Manipulation Program 2.10.18. The aim of the project was to provide a “remix” of an already good free software program that resolved a longstanding dispute about the “gimp” name, experimented with new ideas, and ran itself differently.

How well we succeeded with those objectives is still a matter of heated online debate. The project also gained notoriety in 2019 when “extremely online” libertarian conservatives based in the United States decided that we had created a “woke fork”, and then spent four months trying to strangle it at birth. When we finally produced our first release, we were relieved to see them claim it was “dead on arrival”, prematurely declare “victory”, and then go away.

Fortunately, 2020 was a successful year for the Glimpse project. The next two releases were downloaded over 100,000 times within 18 months. We also raised enough donations to cover our costs, passed along $750 USD to the GNU I.M.P contributors, and then donated $830 USD to Open Collective (the US-based charity that hosted our fundraising campaign).

Progress was also made on “Glimpse NX”, the codename for a subsection of our project that investigated the feasibility of creating a new image editor instead of forking an existing one.

I am credited as the creator of the fork. However, the wider Glimpse project was jointly governed by myself, Luna and Christopher Davis for most of its two year lifespan.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of the Glimpse contributors listed in the Help > About > Credits window inside the program itself:

On Hiatus

You can read the full (if somewhat sanitised) post about why the project went on hiatus here:

The cliff notes version is that the COVID-19 pandemic basically screwed our project. Our download stats and inbound donations were growing, but we struggled to maintain our contributors’ attention and interest. I had to pick up the slack, and over time the volume of unpaid work, responsibility and pressure piled up. My employer noticed I was burning out, explained their policies about participating in open source projects, then asked me to stop.

I have seen some people on social media suggest that we could have motivated our contributors by paying them. Unfortunately our Open Collective campaign was not yet able to afford invoiced work or bug bounties, and contributors were understandably concerned about the online backlash they might receive for hosting their own personal donation links.

Christopher Davis did look into the possibility of Glimpse joining the GNOME Circle scheme, as that would have meant that volunteer time contributed to our project counted towards peoples’ GNOME Foundation Member status. Unfortunately we did not initially fit the criteria, and by the time the criteria changed so that we were eligible, it was already too late for us.

The decision to put Glimpse “on hiatus” was a difficult one, but it was also a governance team compromise. I initially wanted to announce that the project would no longer be developed, so that a new group of people could pick up the fork and run with it. However, Chris and Luna wanted to keep the door open for their rewrite. We settled on the project being paused on the condition that we closed down our Open Collective campaign, as it seemed unfair to accept any further donations from our backers under those circumstances.

“Can I Still Run Glimpse?”

I suggested people stop using Glimpse in the final project blog post partly to discourage support requests, but mostly because I was being nice to the free software project from which we forked. Glimpse did not stop working just because we stopped developing it!

Glimpse Image Editor 0.2.0 is based on the GNU Image Manipulation Program 2.10.18, so if you don’t need features from newer GNU I.M.P releases and are comfortable with the idea of running abandonware on your home machine, then it is still a perfectly serviceable image editor. In fact, I am still using it myself!

I have found on Windows 11 that it is best to install Glimpse by using “winget”, as that discourages security software from flagging the program as a false positive and then crashing it by incorrectly blocking the open/save dialog boxes or DLL loading during the initial splash screen:

> winget install --id Glimpse.Glimpse

Linux users can still install sandboxed versions of the program from these software channels, although I am not sure how long they will remain available because I do not maintain them:

I suggest steering clear of the AppImage, as despite our contributors’ best efforts that was always a bit janky, even when we were still actively patching the Glimpse source code.

The Future

As some of you may have spotted on the project social media channels, governance team met again in March 2022 to discuss the state of the project. Sadly, I have no news to share.

Aside from the weekend when I helped to wind the project down, I have not worked on Glimpse at all since I spent a few weeks handing things over and then left in March 2021.

At this point Chris and Luna view the fork as “dead”, and will focus solely on producing the “Glimpse NX” rewrite if they rekindle the project in the future. I wish them the best of luck.

As for myself, I am not returning to that project. I ended my career as a software engineer in 2018 and I am proud that I could put my leftover skills to good use. I feel like I’ve contributed enough, and it’s time for someone acting in good faith, and with more time and energy, to pick up where I left off with the fork and continue developing it in their own spin-off project.

In the meantime, I will carry on running Glimpse on my systems until it finally breaks. 🙂