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What Open Source Can Learn From Apple 309

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the good-design-always-a-good-idea dept.
Linux and open source have long struggled to gain acceptance from the wider (read: non-technical) audience. This has improved in recent years, but still has a long way to go. Columnist Matt Asay suggests that perhaps open source projects should attempt to emulate Apple's design philosophy, with whoever succeeds becoming the "winner" of the hearts and minds of the vast majority of users. "Some projects already accomplish this to some extent. The strength of Mozilla, for example, is that it has figured out how to enable 40 percent of its development to be done by outside contributors, as BusinessWeek recently wrote. The downside is that these contributors are techies, but the upside is that they're techies who add language packs, accessibility features, and other "niche" areas that Mozilla might otherwise struggle to deliver. This suggests a start: enable your open-source project to accept meaningful outside contributions that make the project reflective of a wider development community. But the real goldmine is broadening the definition of "developer" to include lay users of your software. The day that I, as a nontechnical software user, can meaningfully participate in an open-source project is the day that open source will truly have won."
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What Open Source Can Learn From Apple

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  • user analytics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alain94040 (785132) * on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:05PM (#28652575) Homepage

    I agree with the article that user involvement is key. However, users are clueless about what they really want and you can't possibly use them to write the specs of your product! On the other hand, developers tend to reject criticism from end-users because they lack technical expertise.

    I can think of one approach that might work: build a really good analytics library that would measure various usability aspects. Applied to Firefox for instance, it could generate data on how the average user goes about finding a particular setting, how long it takes them to perform a given action, etc.

    Developers would respect the hard, factual data that the analytics would generate. It would make it easier for the minority of usability engineers to argue against feature creep.

    • Re:user analytics (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AshtangiMan (684031) on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:08PM (#28652623)
      Agreed. The lay user will only be able to meaningfully participate in early design phases (think requirements) and then again in testing (especially UI testing). It seems to me that they already have the ability to participate in these ways. Any attempt at involvement in the architecture design surely would only hinder good software practices.
    • Re:user analytics (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ByOhTek (1181381) on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:16PM (#28652747) Journal

      I think a bit better of a way to put it:

      5 out of 10 users know what they want, but can't express it in a manner that communicates it sufficiently well to achieve it.
      4 out of 10 users haven't a clue what they want, but think they do.
      1 out of 1 users know what they want and can express it.

      And then you have the developers, who want to make something with nice nifty features, but don't want to be bothered with the polish.

      This reminds me of a friend who is a senior analyist has a paper on her cube wall, I've seen two variants of the theme. It has a picture of a sports car with the caption "What the users want". This is followed by the picture of a UFO (in some variants a fighter jet) with "What the developers want to make". This is followed by "What the company is willing to spend money on" and it has some small compact car. And then finally, a picture of a really funny looking "tricked out" tricycle with the caption "What ends up being produced".

    • Re:user analytics (Score:4, Insightful)

      by T Murphy (1054674) on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:31PM (#28653027) Journal

      users are clueless about what they really want

      They know what they want. Ask them what they want in a car and they'll say an SUV with room for 8, at least 50 MPG, all the latest gadgets and costs less than $12,000. If you can't provide that then it's your fault.

      I mean this for humor's sake but thinking about it I'm scared that it might be an accurate description.

      • You are dead on. The one thing you are missing is that they want it now, or even yesterday.

        I knew a sales manager who had a habit of relaying customer requests as you describe. If you did not respond with an unequivocal yes, it was always because you "just didn't want to" and never because the request was unrealistic. The same guy once asked "don't we already have that product" when investigating a customer request. Gee, it is not in the list of products, no resources were allocated for development and we n

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by hobbit (5915)

      But would user analysts spend their spare time analysing users like hackers spend their spare time hacking?

    • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:42PM (#28653161)

      They're not impressed nor amused by app names like gtkWTF, IAMRECURSIVERECURSIVEIAM, and, especially, The GIMP. Also, stop talking about programs being "stable." Isotopes are "stable." Programs either run well, or are buggy.

      People mock Microsoft, but I tell ya... I've worked with people who have no idea what Silverlight is or does, but they want it cuz it sounds cool and has something to do with the Web. It's almost as if Linux developers go out of their way to be non-MS in everything -- including creating marketable names for their wares.

      The problem, of course, is that the same guys doing the codewriting are the same guys doing the naming and marketing ("...because, after all, I've written the code, and that's the tough part that really matters, right? And if people don't get the Linus/Stallman/Montypython joke upon which I've based the app's name, then fuck 'em, who needs 'em, I'm only doing it for love anyway...").

      Why isn't there any open-source marketing? Maybe some of the bigger projects could reach out to some university business and marketing students who could take on the work in much the same way they attract coders?

      • by bigredradio (631970) on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:59PM (#28653435) Homepage Journal
        I think you are right. Get marketing students or business students involved. Same goes for graphics designers and webmasters. Get the people who are experts to perform the right tasks.
      • by Tom9729 (1134127)

        I agree with you that a lot of projects could use better or more descriptive names, but you've gotta realize that 99% of the time these are people's personal projects that they are either working on because it has some utility to them or because they just want to get experience.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RobotRunAmok (595286)

          I agree with you that a lot of projects could use better or more descriptive names, but you've gotta realize that 99% of the time these are people's personal projects that they are either working on because it has some utility to them or because they just want to get experience.

          That's fine, and God Bless. Keeps 'em off the streets, and all that.

          But every time someone criticizes Linux for not having an app that does what such-and-such closed source app does, the response is invariably, "Whaddya mean? KgnuS

          • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

            The two are in no way mutually exclusive. My personal project is also an alternative to proprietary software.

            Now, does it do everything the proprietary counterpart does, or do things in the same way? By no means. For most people it probably wouldn't be what you'd call a good alternative, but for me it's perfect.

    • Re:user analytics (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geekmansworld (950281) on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:46PM (#28653219) Homepage

      "However, users are clueless about what they really want and you can't possibly use them to write the specs of your product!"

      This demonstrates the inherent problem with open source's attitude towards user demands. To them you are either (a) a Programmer, or (b) a Grandma.

      I'm an IT professional, a power user, and consider myself a connoisseur of good interface design. But I've never coded a line of C++ in my entire life. Does this make my input useless?

      For example, I've been trying to get bugs in Thunderbird fixed for a while that seriously impede usability, but the development team doesn't seem to care.

      Open source is always talking about how they can win over more users. But how do you win over users if you don't focus on usability?

      • by jank1887 (815982)

        I am a (self assessed) highly technical individual with programming experience that stops at Matlab algorithms for physical simulation. Well, I've played with C++ once or twice, but I have no notion of software development. I would love to see an FOSS equivalent to SolidWorks, Pro/Engineer, etc. I use these tools daily. I firmly believe that I could make a contribution to such a product, even if it was just user feedback.

        Also, one of the basic problems with many open source projects is documentation. Some

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I'm an IT professional, a power user, and consider myself a connoisseur of good interface design. But I've never coded a line of C++ in my entire life. Does this make my input useless?

        I'm a scientist who writes C code on a weekly or semi-weekly basis on average and have written a theme for e17 as well as done some writing some small "in house" type guis used for interface with instruments. My bug reports to open source projects are largely ignored as well (to the point that I rarely issue one now). But

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        This demonstrates the inherent problem with open source's attitude towards user demands. To them you are either (a) a Programmer, or (b) a Grandma.

        Close. To open source developers you are either (a) The developer himself, or (b) Not the developer himself. If (b) then the excuse is either (i) you are a Programmer - develop it yourself, or (ii) you are non-technical - I can ignore your input.

        Open source is always talking about how they can win over more users. But how do you win over users if you don't focu

    • I disagree. I think most users have a pretty good idea of what they want, they just generally don't have a clue on how they want it implemented. Most users don't consider many consequences of 'what they want' thats where a developer comes in.

      For instance, a user would know that a particular interaction was clunky, or that certain data would be valuable to have at hand in a UI, but likely would have no clue (or probably care) how it was improved or how to store and generate the data.

      Actually, users cou
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I agree with the article that user involvement is key. However, users are clueless about what they really want and you can't possibly use them to write the specs of your product! On the other hand, developers tend to reject criticism from end-users because they lack technical expertise.

      I get the impression you didn't understand the article then, because quite early on they approvingly cite this (which they attribute to Jason Snell of MacWorld):

      "Apple excels at creating products that the general public likes

    • My proposed solution is to make it a rule that all software developers should be required to serve at least one day a week on the help desk.

      As far as I can tell, developers-- at least the Microsoft developers, anyway-- really, honestly don't know why ordinary users find their products frustrating and hard to use; while the help-desk people do know what the problems are, but are considered to be so low on the totem pole that nobody would ever think of asking their opinions.

    • I'd toss some lighter fluids on firefox and kick it out of the window if it forces user analytics. No, just no. Why do you think so many people don't use Chrome? It's because of annoying and stupid harebrained ideas like this that we can't have nice things. The funniest part about this is YOU, AS A USER, ARE SAYING YOU ARE CLUELESS ABOUT WHAT YOU REALLY WANT YOURSELF! This is a big (not funny) joke. A browser is the kind of software that everybody uses, including programmers, designers, artists, architects,

    • by RobBebop (947356)

      I can think of one approach that might work: build a really good analytics library that would measure various usability aspects.

      A simple "Suggestion Box" would probably suffice. Firefox screws up a number of tasks that I give it from time-to-time. The single most beneficial feature they've ever added is that it recovers my open tabs after any crash, though. So in effect, I typically don't have to deal with the problems when they occur.

      However, for weird stuff (e.g. plug-ins failing and then disabling themselves) it'd be nice to have an easy to find "Suggestion Box". I'd even accept an invitation to right click the toolbar area

    • >> ... users are clueless about what they really want...

      That's absurd on the face of it. In my experience, users almost always know exactly what they want. The problem is that the don't speak tech, and techies don't know how, and often don't want, to communicate usefully with users. Techies keep using words like "specs" and "requirements", etc. Write the specs and then move on to the real fun. They want to use tech to measure all sorts of irrelevant things, as if people really decide they like or

    • I agree, however you can abstract certain things to a very high level where it allows users to "fill in the blank" with very standard tools, such as those found in any RTF editor or simple vector drawing program. The low level "techie" parts should always be in libraries or specific external tools/programs that you can pipe data through, the medium stuff should be the glue that holds it all together, and the rest, like the GUI, menus, help, language translation, documentation, program icon, etc, could be d
  • by Mork29 (682855) * <keith...yelnick@@@us...army...mil> on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:10PM (#28652645) Journal

    It's about standards. Apple's UI guidelines are very well written, and very well thought out. When developing your app, you don't need to spend a lot of time thinking about the proper place to put something, because it's generally obvious. This makes it so much more user friendly as a user can pick up on things in a very intuitive way. It also gives a general "feel" to the entire operating system.

    When working with Objective-C/Cocoa in XCode, your almost forced to give your app a very Mac like feel to it. The same goes for the iPhone. Everything you'd want in your interface is already pre-built, so everybody's apps have a familiar feel. I know I've heard the exact opposite when developing for something like the Blackberry.

    Having more people contribute with no clear guidance will just make things worse.

    • Having more people contribute with no clear guidance will just make things worse.

      And overly-restrictive UI requirements will prevent the interface from ever evolving. No set of guidelines and standards can account for all possible applications and uses. So we will always need a testbed and ways to deviate from the standards; Apple would never allow that. Linux makes it optional. The community makes it recommended. The userbase reflects the demand for it.

      • by davester666 (731373) on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:58PM (#28653393) Journal

        "Apple would never allow that"

        What do you mean by this? Both on the desktop and on the iPhone the developer has complete control over virtually every pixel of their interface (I haven't messed with drawing in the menu bar proper, as you can do custom drawing in menu items, but I'm not sure drawing the title's in the menu bar itself).

        Hell, Apple itself deviates from it's own standards, as well as wildly popular applications such as Delicious Library (just as an example). Apple has always expounded that they have "guidelines", not "rules" or "laws" or "requirements".

      • by clintp (5169) on Friday July 10, 2009 @02:28PM (#28653821)

        Companies that are successful in this field have UI experts -- and the management to back them up -- to say

        "Yes, this works adequately, but it looks awful. Sorry, you can't ship it."
        "Yes, this works adequately, but it doesn't blend well with the rest of our product line. Sorry, you can't ship it."
        "Yes, this works adequately, but it's hard to use. Sorry, you can't ship it."
        "Yes, this works adequately, but there's too many extraneous features. Sorry, you can't ship it."

        (And of course, the ever popular "It was a nice product, but we're abandoning it for something simpler, prettier, and not overburdened with legacy.")

        UI guidelines give everyone a place to start talking about the problems (looks/blend/hard/extraneous) and give the development teams a starting point. If there truly is an earth-shattering eye-popping UI feature (a widget) that the guidelines don't allow, then you alter the guidelines after buy in. This *then* requires re-engineering the rest of the applications to account for that great widget and use it where applicable to maintain consistency.

        It's expensive and it may seems pointless, but no app is an island when you're trying to engineer a great user-experience.

        Linux generally tries to compensate by providing standard frameworks for UI. But there's the I-Love-Standards-There's-So-Many-To-Choose-From problem and that there'll always be the cowboy that turns out a useful app that looks and works different from everything else.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        And overly-restrictive UI requirements will prevent the interface from ever evolving.

        It's a GUI. Evolutions happen in spurts. There was (in Microsoft land) the Start button/taskbar in Win 95, and the widget panel in Vista. Oh, and an add on that shows all the open windows when you alt-tab. Whole lotta evolution. Apple has had three evolutions, their taskbar variant (the dock?), their widget panel, and their program switching, show all the apps screen.

        I suppose, in fairness, Vista and some release of O

    • They are awesome if you are happy working within their bounds. True, its easy to snap together pre-built elements into powerful applications. On the down-side, it can sometimes be damned difficult to do anything outside of the box created by the standards implementers. If you are trying to write innovative software (which may just mean solving a novel problem), you are eventually going to bump into the limitations of any guideline or standard. What then? Do you give-up? Or break the standard and create

    • It's about standards. Apple's UI guidelines are very well written, and very well thought out. When developing your app, you don't need to spend a lot of time thinking about the proper place to put something, because it's generally obvious. This makes it so much more user friendly as a user can pick up on things in a very intuitive way. It also gives a general "feel" to the entire operating system.

      When working with Objective-C/Cocoa in XCode, your almost forced to give your app a very Mac like feel to it. The same goes for the iPhone. Everything you'd want in your interface is already pre-built, so everybody's apps have a familiar feel. I know I've heard the exact opposite when developing for something like the Blackberry.

      Having more people contribute with no clear guidance will just make things worse.

      That's a big part, but an equally important part is the ability to enforce the standards. Apple has a dictator; most OSS does not have someone to enforce compliance, more importantly, teh nature of OSS allows anyone to go any way they want. While that is great from developer's perspective it adds to confusion in markets as well as disperses resources that could possibly be better used in a unified effort.

      Judging by the comments in this thread, many developers don't want input; and really don't care about

    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday July 10, 2009 @02:33PM (#28653871) Homepage

      I don't even think Apple's success is about UI guidelines. I mean, sure, they help, but Apple seems to have a... I don't know... what's the opposite of "tin ear"? Anyway, they just have a very good sense of design. Not just UI design like "graphic design", but engineering a product, like figuring out which features to include and how those features should work.

      I've always thought that one of the interesting differences in design approach that Apple uses is that they don't throw in the kitchen sink right away. Some people hate them for it and feel like their products aren't feature-rich enough, but it really seems to work. They just start with a basic product that basically does one thing simply and well, but might not yet have all the features you want. Then their next release of that product adds a few features, but very carefully integrated in to the existing feature set. The next version adds some more in the same way. What you very rarely hear as a criticism about Apple's products is, "this feature feels tacked-on". You might hear, "It doesn't hear every feature you might want," but it's usually followed by, "but if you only want the features it has, it will do those things well."

      Microsoft, for example, has in the past had the exact opposite design philosophy. It used to be that version 1 or 2 of their products had pretty much every major feature they're ever going to have, but none of it was actually usable until version 3. It's only then that Microsoft seems to focus on making those features work well together.

  • Linux users... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:10PM (#28652653)

    ... only care about EXCLUSIVITY.

    I want to make clear that I like Linux and free software; in fact I'm writing this from Mandriva Linux. But we have to accept the awful truth: many Linux users would be using Mac OS X if they weren't a misers. Why do I say that? Because even if it hurts to all of us, I have to say that the Linux community doesn't appreciate quality and freedom.

    Normally, Linux software DOESN'T have the same quality that propietary software has. It's normal, it is not bad. After all, free software is free (as in speech) and the other one is costly... No one would use MS Project if GNOME Planner did have the same quality. Is good to have freeware software for things that are not serious, though.

    The other reason why someone decides to use Linux is to read the source code, it is a good reason. But let's be serious, how many of you read the code of every update your apps recieve, and when you make sure everything's okay, you compile them and execute them? Nevertheless, I appreaciate the freedom to make modifications. Even myself have modify apps to see on the "About..." screen my own name.

    And, the other reason, the reason I would walk on hot coals for it, is that at least 50% of Linux users, use Linux just for exclusivity.Just like Apple is the shit on usability, but more than 50% of Apple users use their products because of the "little apple" logo that appears on the notebook; most of the Linux users don't care about Linux advantages but EXCLUSIVITY.

    I would make a difference between two exclusivity types: the miser version of the Macuser, that don't want to spend a buck and uses things like GNOME+Compiz or KDE 4; and the megafriki like Richard Stallman that sees movies with a MPEG-->ASCII converter, edits his web page with a text mode emacs, sees some web pages throught wget, and do everything throught a console while is eating snacks [google.com].

    The first group don't care about dislocating their hands rotating a 3D cube, nor that KDE 4.2 only do half of the things KDE 3 can do using more time. The cool things is to have windows that bounce up and down like a good tits. Perhaps that is the closest thing to sex they will have. This kinds of users like Ubuntu, Debian, Mandriva... it doesn't matter. After all, they're people without prejudges, that with faith (sometimes thanks to the bad advise that the second group (I will talk about them later) gave them) run from Windows to the freeware Linux.

    The second group searches for intellectual exclusivity (as if configure X.org with nano were considered intellectual by someone with a healthy sexual life). They are the typical guys who give you shit because you use MS Office or OpenOffice instead of Latex, the guys who believe they're awesome because they have to type thousands of sequences like "/isearch:qqvv!!" just to edit a text on Vi, the guys who see pages on Lynx and treat you like shit because you use Flash, the guys who think that desktop enviroments are a conspiracy from multinationals companies to force all of us to buy high cost PCs, and the guys who think that, if you use Ubuntu, you're a lammer.

    All of them used distributions like Corel, Mandrake, etc. several years ago, distributions that were easy to use (much more easy than Debian or Caldera) and could use lightweight enviroments like IceWM, XFCE, ENlightment... That was enough for them to feel more important than their stupid friends that used Windows, friends that used PCs to do disgraceful things like play videogames, edit rich texts, use scanners or printers, surf on internet with a 56k modem...

    With the popularization of distros like Ubuntu, their friends started to switch to Linux, just like they told them before. In fact, they never thought anyone would pay attention to them, and that's why they never thought about the possibility that someday they will not be "superior" to other people because they work for their PCs while everyone else drinks beer or has sex,

    • because they work for their PCs while everyone else drinks beer or has sex, like a normal person.

      Really? Cause the reason why I use Linux is because your girlfriend gets wet when I recompile my slackware kernel, and cause when I go out to bars and scrawl perl on napkins women get so tight around me I can hardly breathe and start buying me drinks.

      Seriously though. I have a mac, and I have several linux boxes. I have a (gasp!) windows box for gaming/movies too! At my job I run Solaris and Linux servers both. Which stereotype do I fit into? Please, I need to know which condescending asshole to a

    • ... more than 50% of Apple users use their products because of the "little apple" logo that appears on the notebook ...

      [citation needed]

      (And what about using desktop Macs at home where very few others see the "little Apple logo?")

      • You were never taken on a tour around someone's house to be shown the more important works of cultural and artistic importance such as BigAss(TM) TV, VeryLoud(TM) Stereo or MostExpensiveGenericShit(TM) they could find?

        People who buy things to brag with, brag all the time.
        At work, at home, on the road, buying a packet of chewing gum at the news stand...

        • You were never taken on a tour around someone's house to be shown the more important works of cultural and artistic importance such as BigAss(TM) TV, VeryLoud(TM) Stereo or MostExpensiveGenericShit(TM) they could find?

          Not that I can recall. Perhaps I have less shallow friends.

  • Umm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hansraj (458504) on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:12PM (#28652693)

    This suggests a start: enable your open-source project to accept meaningful outside contributions that make the project reflective of a wider development community.

    Isn't that already the case with most of the free software anyway? I mean not many people might be contributing to every project, but I don't think that is because the core team wouldn't accept outside contributions. In fact, what the hell does "outsider" mean in this context? I suppose anyone is usually free to start contributing to any project they like; usually it is hard to get accepted as part of the team but that is mostly because you can't expect to just get up one morning and figure out everything about an already existing project or convince everyone that what you want to add is in fact a desirable feature.

    Seriously, with every Jack writing a piece of "analysis" these days, I am reminded of the saying: "Opinions are like assholes, everybody's got one".

    • I think he is referring to user's being more involved in the development process. He explicitly mentions broadening the term developer to mean users of the software. I haven't seen many ways to contribute to open source development other then
      a) code contributions
      b) bug reports
      This means only programmers are determining feature road maps and other design decisions (such as which bugs to even fix).

      In the commercial world, engineers are not the only designers. A marketing department with a (hopefu
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Isn't that already the case with most of the free software anyway? I mean not many people might be contributing to every project, but I don't think that is because the core team wouldn't accept outside contributions. In fact, what the hell does "outsider" mean in this context? I suppose anyone is usually free to start contributing to any project they like; usually it is hard to get accepted as part of the team but that is mostly because you can't expect to just get up one morning and figure out everything a

      • A relevant example: Linus's uncompromisingly negative attitude toward Unicode normalization of filenames. OS X's HFS+ filesystem guarantees that all names are stored in normalized UTF-8;

        I read that thread as saying that HFS+ tries to store UTF-8 but FAILS to do so consistently, such that mounting a hard drive between different versions of OS X could cause data loss. And data loss is the one thing a filesystem must NOT do, even at the expense of usability.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is a universal. Most software is delivered to nontechnical software users.

    Even the specialized mrp and accounting and I bet even the most technical/scientific of software are delivered to nontechnical software users.

    Most development approaches begin and end at the source code control systems, by people who don't ever and probably wouldn't want to get near their customer.

    Successful development projects do not simply arise from people having the "fun" experience of development. To be successful you will

  • by C_Kode (102755) on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:27PM (#28652945) Journal

    Apple spends a lot of money implementing their design philosophies. Lets face it. It's not cheap to design user friendly high quality UI. Most companies that build open source products aren't serving the Desktop; they're serving the server market. The few that actually are (Ubuntu) are taking Linux and the open source desktop to a higher level.

    I am very thankful for Mark Shuttleworth and what he is doing for the Linux Desktop. Everyone knows Redhat flip-flops on the Desktop subject all the time and never actually get much done for it.

  • Really? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fluffernutter (1411889) on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:28PM (#28652963)
    "Linux and open source have long struggled to gain acceptance from the wider (read, non-technical) audience"

    Do they really? Consensus on Slashdot seems to be "If they can't figure it out, screw 'em".
  • by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:29PM (#28652985)

    Apple is very good at figuring out what users actually DO with the products - and that includes figuring it out BEFORE the product is released. This in contrast with giving people what they _say_ they want, which rarely satisfies them.

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      So that's why the iPhoto red-eye removal tool is nothing more than a black paint tool...

      That's why the red-eye removal tool can't recognize an eye and will mark up any part of a photo...

      That's why they insist on forcing you to load files into the app-centric database before doing anything with it...

      That's why they ignore whatever existing organization the images might have had...

      Apple are competent engineers that have a really good marketing deparment.

      It's really pretty simple: No Ads, no marketshare. Great

      • by babyrat (314371) on Friday July 10, 2009 @03:14PM (#28654373)

        Hmmm...as a recent convert from Linux to OS X, I have to comment here.

        I like iPhoto. I like the app-centric database. I like the simplicity of time machine. I never noticed anything wrong with the red-eye tool. It is more than good enough for the casual photographer.

        I never told anyone that I wanted this. I didn't even know I wanted it until I tried it.

        As far as I am concerned, when I started needing to get stuff done, instead of 'messing around on the computer' is when the shift from Linux to OS X happened for my home computer use. At work I am still forced into using windows and still use Linux for the server functions.
         

        • by gbarules2999 (1440265) on Friday July 10, 2009 @05:13PM (#28655517)

          As far as I am concerned, when I started needing to get stuff done, instead of 'messing around on the computer' is when the shift from Linux to OS X happened for my home computer use.

          Really? I find Linux (or at least Ubuntu) is the opposite way. Set it up for a half an hour, and then everything works behind the scenes. Updates OS-wide, various configurations and whatnot, new programs, etc. It seems so hands-off to me. Maybe I'm just a weird Linux user.

    • by Late Adopter (1492849) on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:51PM (#28653291)
      You think Free Software developers pander to what users say they want?! I can't think of any more group more intransigently opposed to doing anything other than scratching the itches that satisfy their particular use cases.

      At least corporations have an obligation to pretend to care (for better and for worse).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bassman59 (519820)

        You think Free Software developers pander to what users say they want?! I can't think of any more group more intransigently opposed to doing anything other than scratching the itches that satisfy their particular use cases.

        This is truth, folks. I made a suggestion to the gEDA PCB developers, asking if they could implement a feature found in pretty much every commercial PCB layout package -- display the netname in every footprint pad. Seriously, this is a standard feature. And the tepid response from the developers? Something along the lines of, "Huh? I've never seen that ... and anyways, I can't imagine how that could be useful."

        And, with that, I unsubscribed from the gEDA mailing lists, deleted all of the sources and dev bui

        • by arose (644256)
          Sounds like you did a great job of explaining what you wanted and how it would be useful to many users of their software... Was it along the lines of: "All the commercial packages have X, if you don't implement X ASAP I'm gone"?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            I think his point was that if they hadn't used other programs to see:

            a) what features they had, and
            b) why they had those features at all

            then their product would be theoretical at best, and not take into account several factors that would make it a useful and productive tool.

            His attitude may be sub-optimal, but that doesn't mean that his point is invalid.

            My experience with EMC2, an open-source milling program, has been expectional. The chat rooms are full of helpful people, we ran some experiments, and in th

    • Oh Yes! Users really want to use itunes to sync (and lose their songs if they switch to a different computer) rather than just using drag and drop - the most complicated of all methods.
  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:39PM (#28653119) Homepage Journal

    The more complicated a product gets, the more technical acumen is required to put it together. Bad Web sites are built by people who know how to code HTML and JavaScript but don't understand how people use the Web. Bad software is written by people who are experts at knowing how a computer works and how to write code to make it do what they want, but no idea about how regular people behave and how those people expect to interact with that software.

    This is bullshit. Bad websites are built people who barely know how to use HTML and Javascript, but believe that the more HTML and Javascript you use, the better the website is. Slashdot, Digg, Gizmodo, Endgadget, Facebook, MySpace - they're all fucking horrible. People believe that because Google can pull it off, they can too. They believe that because they have very fast machines, everyone else does too. The believe that "moar interactive" == "awesome website", and that the more iframes you can pull into one page makes it a "mashup" and very "Web 2.0".

    Do you see that kind of shit on the Apple website? Of course not! Apple doesn't succeed because of "design", they succeed because they have production values. They don't tolerate "good enough", they don't fixate on technology because it is new, they don't march to the beat of an ideological imperative. They believe in themselves, and they do what they want because they like it, on the assumption that their tastes are like everyone's tastes. Apple does not live by focus groups. Apple doesn't hold "design" over "technology", they hold "simple" over "complicated". The design wankers attach themselves to Apple's coattails because they can't differentiate between pretty technology and well executed technology. They don't understand technology, so they make a religion out of design so their priests can have something to lord over the unfashionable nerds.

    Do you know why so much open source software sucks? It's because the programmers suck! They don't measure themselves against any standard of excellence. They stop when something works, ignoring the fact that it doesn't work well. It's plain old slob apathy. They're not getting paid for it, they can't be fired for failure, so what do they care?

    • they don't fixate on technology because it is new, they don't march to the beat of an ideological imperative

      Just to be sure, you're talking about this company [google.com]?

      Curious.

      • by edalytical (671270) on Friday July 10, 2009 @02:49PM (#28654073)
        No, he's right. Why hasn't Apple released a Netbook? They could have put there OS on a tiny underpowered device with a 800x600 screen and called it a Netbook. But they didn't. Why do you think that is? Maybe they're not fixating on new technology. Maybe they don't "ideologically" repackage products to fit every new product category like other companies do. I mean, people wanted an iPhone for years before Apple release it and it turned the market upside down. If they just put an iPod on a phone or a phone on an iPod nobody would have cared except for a few fanboys. Instead they made a truly innovative device and entered the market when the time was right -- when they had something interesting. The same thing will likely happen with the Apple Netbook. They'll enter the market for sure, but not just for the sake of entering the market. They'll have something to offer, something that will take two years for the market to catchup with.
        • I mean, people wanted an iPhone for years before Apple release it and it turned the market upside down. If they just put an iPod on a phone or a phone on an iPod nobody would have cared except for a few fanboys. Instead they made a truly innovative device and entered the market when the time was right -- when they had something interesting

          They did just put a phone in an ipod touch. And people bitched (correctly) about the lack of 3G, GPS, etc. It took a few generations to get right. See Maddox [thebestpag...iverse.net]

          A Netbook i

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by edalytical (671270)

            You're not only confused, you're miss informed. The iPhone was specifically designed to be a smart phone. Not only that it was the iPod touch that followed the iPhone.

            Furthermore, they got the phone right the first time. I own a first generation iPhone and am completely happy with it. I'm not even compelled to upgrade (AT&T is a different story). The industry has barely started to catchup (there might be something to the Pre, etc).

            Sure the eMate was a flop, but you're talking about historic Apple Comput

    • Bravo! That's pretty spot on.

      I'd like to add though, that you can't really get there from here. Open source contributors are there for their own reasons, and they are free to leave at any time. If you take a top-down approach and try to enforce some absolutes on people, they'll give you the bird or just laugh and walk away.

      In order to herd these cats, you have to convince them that they want what you want. That it will be a rewarding experience to produce a high quality product. In a company you
  • by enrevanche (953125) * on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:39PM (#28653125)

    What keeps Apple and Microsoft on top is marketing and momentum. We live in a society driven by mass media. For the most part open-source does not have a sufficient marketing budget. Most people do not even know about alternatives.

    • Thank you. While there are many things about any given Open Source software project that could be improved, the real reason for the low adoption rate of Open Source software is marketing.
      Another problem with stories like this (and with Open Source marketing in general), is the idea that "Open Source software" can be lumped together and compared to "Apple software" or "Microsoft software". Open Source software is to Apple (or Microsoft) software like Creative Commons music is to U2 music.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gbarules2999 (1440265)

      Most people do not even know about alternatives.

      Even if they did, installing and configuring an OS is much, much more complex than what a lot of computer users can (and should) handle.

  • Downside? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by willoughby (1367773) on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:40PM (#28653139)
    "The downside is that these contributors are techies..."

    That's like saying the drawback to commercial aircraft is that they are designed by aeronautical engineers.
    • That's like saying the drawback to commercial aircraft is that they are designed by aeronautical engineers.

      But that has in fact often been a problem. There are many aircraft accidents where bad human factors design played a major role. For just one example, check out this Bruce Tognazzini article [asktog.com].

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't fly based on the make of the plane. I fly based on the customer service the airline offers.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537)

      Well, if you're running a commercial airline and you allow the aeronautical engineers to design the interior of the aircraft (including seats, lighting, fixtures) without including anyone with interior design experience, then yes, that might be a problem. If you allow the aeronautical engineers to design the menu for the inflight meals without consulting any kind of chef or caterer, then that might be a problem too.

    • by Trojan35 (910785)

      That's the point. Successful commercial aircraft also have input from Marketing (hopefully telling you what Southwest and Passengers actually want), Finance (telling you if that feature is actually worth the cost/effort), and QA (telling you if that feature will actually be reliable).

      So yes, a commercial aircraft only being designed by aeronautical engineers would be a failure, IMO. And that is the problem that faces Open Source projects today.

  • by Thaelon (250687) on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:44PM (#28653197)

    Spend time on the UI.

    Make sure that your software is the user's bitch, not the other way around.

    To elaborate, here are some tips:

    • Use zero modal dialogs. They force the user to act at the software's behest to continue doing what they want. Making the user your software's bitch.
    • Make any reasonable action from one state as convenient as possible from that state to the most likely states.
    • Observe how your users use your software and modify it to make everything the do in it as easy and as fast as possible.
    • Just because it has a lot of functionality doesn't mean shit if it's too hard for them to figure out how to use it. Make it as intuitive, as logical, and as predictable as you can.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      # Use zero modal dialogs. They force the user to act at the software's behest to continue doing what they want. Making the user your software's bitch.
      Making

      A modal dialog often has value, in that it focuses the user's attention on something that, generally, is necessary to actually do what the user wants. Take Visual Studio for example. If I click "run," and a file has changed since the last build, it'll ask me whether I want to build again before I run the application. You could assume they want to build again, but for some people that may not be what they want, so it asks. Of course, for many workflow options, this only needs to be exposed to the user once.

    • Use zero modal dialogs. They force the user to act at the software's behest to continue doing what they want. Making the user your software's bitch.

      This is the one thing I take issue with. Modal dialogs shouldn't interupt the normal user flow, but sometimes you have to use them. Typically, this is when something irreversable is about to happen that is probably an unintended side-effect of what's happening: "You are about to exit, save changes?"

  • by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:45PM (#28653209) Homepage

    is actually better than a chaotic/bazaar mess that spins it wheels for 15 years? No shit!? Man, I mean while everyone blabs on and on about the bazaar and how great the chaotic development is, it isn't good enough for that central part: The Kernel. So why in the hell we keep fighting a cohesive and directed effort to build at least a baseline for the entire OS is beyond me.

    This is why I gave up on Linux for all but my servers. One day it will happen, or Google/Ubuntu will do it first. At this point I don't even care, just that it happens.

  • One word (Score:3, Informative)

    by PhotoGuy (189467) on Friday July 10, 2009 @01:46PM (#28653241) Homepage

    Polish.

  • "The day that I, as a nontechnical software user, can meaningfully participate in an open-source project is the day that open source will truly have won."

    You just did. Feedback from users is the lifeblood of the open source movement -- not programs and data. We listen. Our email addresses and online presence is right here. We don't hide behind departments and voicemail systems with irritating prompting systems. We'll come out for a beer with you if we're close. This isn't a corporation, this is a community. Several thousand people in the open source community just read what you had to say -- and thought about it.

    You think you'll ever get that, however much y

  • The day that I, as a nontechnical software user, can meaningfully participate in an open-source project is the day that open source will truly have won.

    Show me an instance of this with Apple. In fact, I would argue the opposite - that their strict control of the platform has allowed them to focus on only approving software that specifically fits the customer's needs the best. As apposed to the open source model which is one tool, a million uses. With apple you get the universal 1-piece screw driver. With op

  • by goffster (1104287) on Friday July 10, 2009 @02:10PM (#28653595)

    Apple is one man's dream, and it will die with that man.
    Open Source will outlive any particular person.

  • You already can, if you have just minor technical skill. Simply, the ability and willingness to explore menu options, figure out how to actually *use* the app, and make great documentation.

  • Wait, what? Apple engages the user community to develop they're products? Are you sure they don't limit the featureset, tell the users what they want, spend $$ on marketing, and then watch the bank roll in while everyone covets the "new" old product?

    I agree, OSS should take a page from Apple's UI and design philosophy. But I don't think involving every Tom, Dick, and Harry to offer input (although, that is necessary, too, I think) and hold the same weight works at the same time.

  • The day that I, as a nontechnical software user, can meaningfully participate in an open-source project...

    ...will be one cold day in hell. Seriously, I don't mean to be harsh, but coding takes knowledge of coding. All the well-meaning non-coding critics in the world will never be able to offer anything but suggestions and testing until they learn to code. Most people can't even file a bug report properly.

  • Actually, the key to Apple's success not so much that they include non-techies in their design process (they probably do), but that they haven't laid off their human-factors scientists. Sometimes users don't even know what would make their lives easier, but psychologists trained in human factors do. I recently "bit the bullet" and bought a MacBook (which was about $600.00 more expensive than a comparable Dell or Acer laptop), and have fallen in love with the machine. I'm fascinated by the "little things" th

  • by tlambert (566799) on Friday July 10, 2009 @04:47PM (#28655315)

    The Truth About Commercial vs. Open Source ...is that in a commercial setting, there is dictatorial editorial control, and people are willing to work on things they wouldn't ordinarily work on for the joy of it, in trade for money.

    Without that, there's no way to prioritize customer input ahead of developer desires, and there's no way to get a developer to work on something that they disagree with.

    The closest the Open Source community has come to this are companies like Mozilla, RedHat, and Ubuntu, which are large participants in particular Open Source projects, but which internally exercise a single editorial philosophy over the product, and have paid engineers to work on the things that no one would work on at all, if it weren't for the money.

    I have absolutely no idea (and I expect no one else does, either) how you would cause a bug report to be responded to in a timely fashion and get it resolved to the satisfaction of the person who filed it, in an Open Source project, unless the person who filed it wrote the fix, and the fix was acceptable to the some pigs who were more equal than others in the project. Most large changes to Open Source projects are arbitrated by a board of people who are self-selecting, who are there because of seniority, or nepotism, or as a result of a popularity contest. From such groups, you're going to get consensus. Anything that goes against that is going to get strong resistance, even if the consensus is basically what Frank Herbert called a "demopoll", which means you will always end up with the lowest common denominator.

    Great products (and terrible ones) require an 800 pound gorilla to force its views on the participants, and for those participants to be willing to stick around despite the force.

    -- Terry

  • by gig (78408) on Saturday July 11, 2009 @05:39PM (#28663887)

    Apple is an open source success story. OS X and WebKit are massive open source successes. The iPod is as good an Internet citizen as BSD Unix. The Mac is the easiest to use computer yet gets no viruses. The Web was created on an early OS X and ported easily to open source Unix as a result.

    The people who should be learning from Apple are not open source coders who work on the many successful projects. Open source is at least 1 step further into behind-the-scenes than the consumer. It's HP, Dell, Sony, possibly Google and Microsoft, and maybe other manufacturers of consumer technology like car makers who should be studying Apple very closely. Not only to notice Apple's design chops, but also to notice their very successful engineering, including open source efforts.

    You only have to say "What Microsoft can Learn from Apple" and contemplate how much better Windows XP would have been if the core OS was BSD-compatible. No viruses. No botnets. All of the engineering efforts that went into the failed Windows 2004 could have been used more productively in the user-facing features. All of the engineering efforts to redo that for Vista could have been used more productively. The typical Windows user installs more patches than apps, and the patches are for stuff they never see or use. Microsoft could be platform-independent through open source, so they could choose to run Windows on ARM right now, which they are not at all prepared for. If they had done their browser engine a la Gecko and WebKit, then they wouldn't have 4 wholly incompatible engines running in great numbers on the Web right now, which they analogized to puke in a recent ad and they were the last ones to admit it. Apple has none of these problems. Apple runs the same kernel on iPod, iPhone, Mac, and XServe and no crashes or viruses anywhere.

    On the other hand, with Palm, in the Pre you have a Linux kernel and WebKit browser engine replacing Windows Mobile and IE Mobile from the Treo. Because of Apple. That is Palm learning from Apple about open source.

    So it's Apple's competition that needs to learn both from Apple and from open source. Apple and open source are both very successful.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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