Re: Why GNOME Hackers Should Care about Usability

Alex Graveley <alex ximian com> said: 
> You make it clear that we are doing things incorrectly. You can identify
> all the issues and exactly how to remedy them. 

This is a flattening of the complication involved in usability. Its not 
something that's trivially obvious to either identify or solve. Yes, GNOME has 
some pretty obvious problems that anyone with half a brain could find, but 
more fundamental problems in our interaction, or ones that are less visisble, 
are just as important to deal with and often require a lot of work to uncover.
> So...
> You could go on forever explaining to the hackers why they need to
> improve, and point to examples of mistakes to prove this need. You could
> create usability groups and commitees and workshops to help educate all
> the hackers and enforce your guidelines.
> Or...
> You could spend 1/100 of that time writing patches, or sending email to
> maintainers explaining what you think they should change.

Yes, I could. And I do. Even the more fundamental aspects of GNOME I hack on 
are targeted at improving usability and making it more convenient for hackers 
to write usable software. In fact, once I return home from vacation I have 
every intention of fixing GDiskFree. 

But your implication that the latter is more important is objectionable (to me 
at least) and part of what created the usability problem in the first place. 
There's some fundamental notion in a dark corner of the free software phsyche 
that seems to whisper that you're either a coder or you're a useless layabout. 
I think hackers have come to accept artists as equals, for the most part, but 
for other aspects of work there seems to be this idea that "x is what you do 
if you can't hack" (whether x be usability, qa, documentation, organization, 
managing the website, writing articles, etc). We have built a community that 
undervalues the contributions of non-hackers.

In defense of the way I spend my own (unpaid!) time... I could probably have 
fixed GDiskFree in 30 minutes, maybe less. That is true. But if writing about 
usability causes ten hackers to think twice before they create a non-standard 
dialogue, or makes ten hackers pause to think about clearly labelling time was far better spent writing the blurb.

I guess I'm not a good enough hacker to fix all the usability problems in 
GNOME, perhaps you are more proficient than I am. Instead of futilely 
attempting to identify and tackle every usability problem in GNOME I have 
chosen to attempt education and to engage a team of people interested in 
usability towards finding and fixing these problems.

"You can give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, or you can teach a man to 
fish and he'll eat for a lifetime"


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