Saturday, May 24, 2014

Making things better

When I read Matthew’s post a week ago about creating desktop features that cater to developers, I found myself agreeing quite strongly with the sentiment put forth, and I started to wonder how we could better integrate development features into GNOME. We’ve so far focused strongly on general ease of use and the use-cases of non-technical users, but as we’ve seen time and again, FOSS projects tend to first become popular on the shoulders of technical users. One must be in a position to attract both kinds of users if one wants broad acceptance and use.

On the other hand, I found myself disagreeing very strongly with the sentiment in Philip Van Hoof’s post yesterday. I found it strange that Philip chose to state that greater focus on development integration goes hand-in-hand with a lesser focus on the Outreach Program for Women. Surely one’s immediate reaction would be to utilize the manpower (sic) OPW provides to make development integration happen, right? I’m left wondering what sets of biases, prejudices, or misconceptions one must have to conclude otherwise.

In fact, being in the position to call multiple former OPW participants friends and hence being intimately familiar with their work, I’ve begun to realize that the removal of the “programmers only” requirement that GSoC has, actually leads to a much more holistic approach towards patching the deficiencies that GNOME has.

Without OPW, would we have had a Usability Researcher for GNOME 3? Or a professional Typeface Designer improving the shapes of our UX font, Cantarell and expanding the character set? And surely as programmers and users we understand the importance of documentation? To those who want to see some code, there's plenty of that to see as well.

Over the years, GNOME as an organisation has accreted talent and expertise in a wide spread of technical domains. We have the ability to create the most “usably-featured” OS out there — but only with all our arms working together. Cutting one off in the hope that another will become stronger will only result in a gaping, bleeding, wound.