Re: Mummy, I made a platform in my pants! [Was: focus!]

Jeff Waugh wrote:

That said, culturally we've taken a lot of emphasis and glory away from the
platform since pre-2.0, so it hasn't had the attention it really needs to
improve what we can deliver on top of it. I guess the point of my post is to
make sure we don't completely disempower/unglorify the platform in our drive
towards coherent user focus.

Much of the 2.0 push was all about platform - GTK+ 2.0 was based on analyzing Qt and Swing and Windows and ensuring widget-by-widget that the API was competitive, for a while Red Hat was sponsoring C++ bindings, I did, huge debates about "component systems," etc. This is definitely what was going on in our minds at that time, within Red Hat at least. I think GTK+ continues pretty strongly and things like freedesktop, dbus, gstreamer, etc. are coming together.

If we want to improve the platform though, why not do it using the same specific-benefits-for-specific-audience mindset. Only in this case the audience is programmers and designers.

Then we can define "enough attention" on platform - when is the platform good enough? When is a change important/worthwhile/correct?

I'd start by asking what qualitative/differences-in-kind would be made by new platform initiatives.

For example, if the platform started including assumed, guaranteed linkage to online services, that really changes what apps I can write.

Or if the platform, like Flash, has tools that nonprogrammers/visual-designers can use, then that really changes what apps can be written and who can write apps.

Also we have to remember the platform isn't isolated from the end user experience.

e.g. on this Mono thread I so rudely interrupted, it was all "small footprint" vs. "shiny new apps" - well, that's a tradeoff where you shaft either one audience who cares about one thing or another audience who cares about another.

It can't be resolved well except by stepping up to the level of benefits to audience and setting that direction first, then making platform decisions compatible with it.

Another example, an HTML/Flash type of platform really lets graphic design come into play, while a toolkit/GTK type of platform makes it actively painful to do original graphic design. People will have strong views on which is better, but either way you line up, the platform clearly sets the user experience on this.

A final example, introducing extra platforms to the desktop in the form of Firefox and complicates things substantially - but also has big user experience wins (or losses, depending on audience) - how do you decide this? You need a clear set of priorities.

It's like the Apple comments about whether they've been successful or not. I
think anyone who's seriously looked at their platform will know that they
have massive silos of ammunition and opportunity in reserve - because they
can and will be able to deliver compelling results to users faster, as will
their developer ecosystem.

Hmm. To me the key to success in most cases won't be developing in 6 months vs. 8, it will be whether a product is laser-focused on getting a benefit to its audience ASAP, and whether the product really introduces new benefits to an audience or not.

In the end I definitely agree with you that we need to do both, but I'll eat my hat[1] if the open source world suddenly really converts to the design focus/thinking thing and starts ignoring platform-building.

I mean seriously, this is the community that brings us hundreds of Linux distributions and enough programming languages to sink a small tanker.


[1] note, I don't ever wear a hat, so this is kind of an empty offer

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