Daily Archives: 2006/12/12

CVSism or “the GNOME disease”

I hate things to be only available in CVS, like the Adblock extension for Epiphany web browser. Some developers either think everybody likes to download fom CVS or think their software is not worth publishing (yet). I understand that if people just start, but I think it is strange if things keep being so for years. The one major reason why people would not want to use epiphany is that there is no ads protection. So for many years now people rather use Firefox or Mozilla, because Epiphany does not protect them. Even if the adblock extension would be inferior I think one should at least publish an alpha or beta version so that people can test it. I gues it will not totally break epiphany?

I guess that the developers are often just too prowd to release something inferior – they rather live with thousands of users that switch to Firefox and possibly never come back as that they would present something that does at least do the job imperfectly. I would also like to call it “The GNOME disease” because such things happen in GNOME quite often. Othere people also came up with this terms but defined them differently.

I would describe our “disease” as following:

  • The end user experience is very different from that of the developers that always live in CVS. So they are living in a totally different world. While most users are eagerly waiting on some bugs to be fixed, developers live in tomorrow now and always actually use features users just have heard of.
  • Playing with usability: Some annoying usablity issues do not get fixed for years because it has no priority in an overall strategy – it is not exciting – so nobody likes to fix it.
  • Not-implementionism: Developers take feature wishes as prayers of the community. A good developer god listens but does not act!?
  • Meritocracy: The important things are discussed in small circles and not in public. By that one can successfully reduce the people that can get involved and the amount of ideas one has to deal with.
  • KDE-hatism: No GNOME dev likes to talk about the other Desktop

No way out? I dont want to be misunderstood: I like some direction in GNOME, but usability also means to listen to the users and ACT, not only listen and think that users are stupid. Partly the usability of GNOME ist stubborn and far away of the users interests. Usability is fine, but only if it is made for REAL users. I am also pessimistic about collaboration with KDE (via Freedesktop).

I tend to hope that someone comes up with a new common desktop that builds on what KDE and GNOME have accomplished but binds more users from both sites. So maybe the new desktop could be FreeDesktop.org? Why am I so pessimistic? Because time goes by and although some interesting things go on inside the desktops we still have not gained much more market share and still developers live in their own worlds.

The task to make a popular and attractive free desktop is not trivial. I fear that ressources are not well and that there are too much different priorities – and none of them really has the user in its focus – even in projects which work a lot on usability. You can kill a community with usability overload! Still the essence is to keep users interested in the applications. So it is important to build an keep some excitement about new features or new ways to do things. And sure this never will happen under GNOME or KDE only in a sense that could eventually attract more people.

Maybe not all of this is true. But I think at least some truth is in all of these points.

Another thing that is happening is that there is a possible swift in the community from pure developer communities to more mixed communitities. My observation is that developers have often huge reservation against newcomers/outsiders. This is also partly because of their love for meritocracy and their scepticism about anarchy. The challenge of todays open source development is to cross borders, to unite communities and to set new standards. Right now many projects like to keept their borders closed or to have them controlled. Every community has their culture which they like to stick to. But that makes participation complicate. Often the outsiders are the openers that can move something if they have gotten excepted by the developers.

Maybe this all sounds a bit like a sandbox play. It is!

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Filed under Browser, Free Software, GNOME, Programming