Until recently, I worked as the community manager for a commercial open source web software project, meaning that I was in charge of communicating with the public. Whenever I had to say anything about a future version of the software currently in development, I was supposed to send an email to half a dozen people in the company and get each one to approve the text that I was going to post on the forum. People would make different edits to the same bit of text, and I had to resolve the differences and make sure that everyone was OK with the changes. I recall us having a 2 hour meeting just to resolve the procedure how the company would approve these communications.
When customers can get spooked and you can lose orders, companies have to be VERY careful what they say publicly about products in development and it does take time out of everyone’s schedule. Even a two paragraph announcement on the community forum could involve 25 different emails back and forth inside the company where I worked just to get the text approved. If Purism says that feature X currently doesn’t work and the developers don’t have a clear date when they will fix the problem (which is the case with a lot of technical problems), then it is often better to say nothing. It might be fixed in 2 days or 2 months and nobody is sure how long it will take, and nobody is sure how many orders you will lose if you say it publicly.
I have been there and dealt with these sorts of issues, and it isn’t nearly as easy as you imagine to communicate these sort of issues, especially when dealing with a public that doesn’t understand the technical details and are likely to freak out.
From the latest Gardiner video, we know that Bluetooth, the cameras, and video out over HDMI aren’t yet working, and the game Animatch is only playing at 10 frames per second. We know that heat pipes will be added to the next batch (Birch) and later, so heat is an issue with the i.MX 8M Quad processor. Purism is clearly working on these problems, and they will probably be resolved soon, but technical problems like these are often very tricky and take lots of trial and error to figure out, so you often can’t give a clear date when they will be solved, so it is better to simply say nothing. If Purism posted this on their web site, tomorrow’s headline in the tech web sites, slashdot and reddit would be “The Librem 5 has serious problems and isn’t ready,” which may be true for the several hundred customers who are receiving the Aspen batch, but it won’t be true for the 10,000 customers who will receive later batches and many of them will needlessly freak out and cancel their orders.
By demanding that Purism communicate every problem to the public, we are actually decreasing the number of orders (which can harm the finances of the company) and distracting the company from solving the current problems with the Librem 5.