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Fata Morgana
2003-12-24 13:27
"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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2003-12-26 09:11 (UTC)
Cyber Hubris
That's the rub. It has alot to do with how Morlock Nerds are reared. They were shunned from society, and now they see it as "payback" whenever they write obfuscated CLI interfaces. It's a clique, just like the High School they despise. The "IN" people are all the other Morlock Nerds who have just been just as abused and bellicose as the rest. Usually the types with the "I have suffered and so shalt thou" puritan mentality. So they write software that is purposefully hard to use and see it as a counting coup when new users decipher it. Most give up but some new users then adopt the "Pass the hot-potato of suffering" litany and then adopt the ideals of the Morlock Nerd... and so the cycle continues.

And here's where commercial software comes in. I suspect that in a perfect world, guis would be decoupled from the back ends. The morlock nerds in open source would write the back ends but the GUIS would all be commercial. That was you get the benefit of a model that is based on customer feedback and not customer punishment for the GUI, and a model based on "survival of the best code" for the back end.

(In my perfect world, solaris is a threading library, windows is a customer gui like aqua, and all device drivers are held to a government enforced standard so that driver monopolies can't happen. Yeah, one can dream i guess..)

But until the world changes or that the spirit of that which I call the Morlock-Nerd changes, I'll just look at Minerals with funny names instead.

- Burn0ut
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Fata Morgana
2003-12-27 00:30 (UTC)
Re: Cyber Hubris
So they write software that is purposefully hard to use and see it as a counting coup when new users decipher it.

Yeah, I've seen this ... even on a subconscious level of "I'll make this easy for ME to use" without a thought for others who may use it. I think it's largely just immaturity, but perhaps some never grow out of it. Sometimes it's also just a complete removal for a non-geek world. ("You mean some people don't know about grep or control-C?" Many don't even know what a command line is.)

I suspect that in a perfect world, guis would be decoupled from the back ends.

The decoupling would be nice, but from what I've heard and seen it's very difficult to do. What the GUI can do depends a lot on how the back end is designed. Even with a decoupling, back-end designers have to have a sensitivity for what front-end designers may need (and we're back to the same usability conundrum), or else front-end designers have to muck around in the source (losing the testing-feedback cycle).
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2003-12-27 07:44 (UTC)
Re: Cyber Hubris
Basically the Morlock Nerd assumes that everyone else who will ever use the software is exactly like them. Proof is that look at usability for UNIX. It just isn't there. It assumes everyone speaks this sort of broken english. Look how long it took for different language sets to be integrated in. Bascially every Morlock Nerd assumes that everyone using their programs speaks the same language they do, has the same experience they have, and worst, has the exact same lifestyle they have.

Like I really want my doctor to waste his time learning how to install linux. I want my doctor to use his time learning how to become a better doctor.

The funny thing is that most MN's complain that alot of webpages are designed with Explorer users only in mind. They should realize that it's the exact same mentality they are facing - the MN's of the microsoft world are subjecting the MNs of the unix world to the same egocentrized world-view that the unix ones have been doing for decades. It's kind of like family values. It's a social trend that only gains power the more people adhere to it. Like a cult. Like Nazism or Fascism. So, the way to combat it is to just not use their software, to reject technology that comes with strings attached.
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