Fata Morgana (chimerically) wrote,
Fata Morgana

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"GUIs? We don' need no stinkin' GUIs!"

I think wayoftheburnout's last post was getting at my main complaint about open-source: the usual open-source development model develops for programmers, by programmers. If the software's primary user-base is not programmers, it won't get the extensive testing and expert feedback that makes open-source so powerful. The result of this is that usability for non-programmer users goes out the window - why make an interface user-friendly for a newbie if programmers are going to be using it? In fact, many programmers see user-friendly GUIs as an insult to their CS prowess: they don't need their hands held! It's up to the main developer on an open-source project to decide whether to push the usability-for-non-programmers issue - there's nothing in the development system to reinforce it, and several things to counter it. (There certainly are groups who do a great job on the non-programmer usability front, but they're the exception, not the rule.) For this reason, I don't think the open-source movement as it is now will make any serious inroads in software for non-programmers.

I do watch with interest, though, the commitments of various developing countries to use open-source. Peru has committed to using open-source software in government offices because of its inexpensiveness and security, and others have followed suit; the Extremadura project in Spain has released a complete OS-application package meant for the end-user. And, of course, there are other Linux distributions that claim to be user-friendly ... though in my experience, you still need a fair amount of comfort with and knowledge about computers to install and use them.

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