Are we? It's a good question.
There are two kinds of changes: changes for change's sake. Those sometimes work out, though most often they don't. There is also change with a purpose. Those often work out, though sometimes they don't. Due to this shaky track record on both paths, it's hard to tell them apart.
It's also true that as a species we fear change, which is a successful evolutionary trait. This does not help when we are trying to create. Creation is change. Change is scary. We fear creation. This, too, does not help in making good decisions.
What we ought to be aware of is that we aren't making change for change's sake, but that we are making change where it benefits us. How do you measure that, though? Hard to do, but here's a way I've discovered that's not half bad: talk to people. Lots of people. Lots of different kinds of people.
If you tell them the story of what you're doing as if you'd seen someone else was doing it (if you say you're doing it, people tend to be too kind out of politeness in my experience) they'll often tell you what they think. If they sort of stare at you blankly, you know you don't have anything compelling. If they move on to another topic, then it's probably not much better, but at least understandable. If they start talking about it themselves and relating it to their own lives, then you have something.
Now, it's easy to figure that some changes are needed: our software needs to look beautiful and work well. We have sore spots, like multimedia (which we tried to address with Phonon only to have the distributions yank the rug out from under us by introducing media servers that, at least currently, suck), and those we need to work on. You won't get people chatting about it, but we all know that if we put a pretty piece of iCandy in front of someone they'll tend to pick it over something less appealing.
Other changes, however, are more elusive. For those we need clear purpose and vision, backed up with a clear reason for them.
The social desktop is a interesting example, as are remote widgets (not windows, as Bruce wrote; that's something slightly different :), as is the idea of a re-targetable user interface layer. What are the use cases for these? How do they make people's lives better in some compelling way?
Well, I'm not going to try and convince you in this blog entry. I've talked about the use cases in previous blog entries, and I've talked with rediculous number of people on the street about them. The ideas appeal to rank-and-file human beings, and that's what matters.
The other stuff (beauty, working sound) are the bar we have to clear before we are considered contenders ... but it's the innovative features, and having the "right" mix of them, that we will win or lose on.
There is one thing I agree, at least now, with Bruce on: our users who make up our "online community" (a.k.a. the people who read this blog, or slashdot, etc..) don't want much innovation on the desktop. That's sad: most of you are happy with what most of the world is frustrated by. I don't know many things more tragic than that.
All is not lost, however. We have new devices and new forms of computer usage. That is where innovation will continue, and from there it will seep down into the "traditional desktop" bit by bit until you can't imagine it not being like that forever.
I've watched as individual after individual has warmed up to the ideas we've put forward in KDE 4; and we aren't even at the end post yet. There are those who are still unhappy and doubters, but such is the way of change. Even change with purpose. We need to escape the single % market share we have, and that takes change. Doing what we've done with limited, though still surprising, success won't cut it.
The true irony in all this is that I was holding off on a new blog entry because I wanted to post about the number of crashes we've resolved in 4.3. We killed some of the truly annoying ones, including some reports that had 50 or more duplicates in bugs.kde.org. Those are satisfying kills, if hard won. I wanted to write about the patterns in these bugs that I've been noticing, something that I think is a directly result of the rather different design of Plasma. Instead I'm writing about innovation, and not the dirty work of bug fixing and combing through backtraces.
Too often it gets lost than in the midst of pushing forward and innovating and dreaming and inspiring and ... well, whatever else we do that's scary and dangerous and evocative .. we are in the trenches making strong what once was weak, a task that takes great effort and determination.