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GNOME GUI Editorial

GNOME Ignoring its Own Users? 735

Jonathan writes "Some editorials were posted on the web the last few days about GNOME and its apparent lack of interest on user feedback, especially when GNOME pitches itself to follow a 'users first philosophy' in their press releases. OSNews started with an editorial about market research or lack thereof, Expert-Zone posted another one on how OSS must learn to take responsibility on its great success."
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GNOME Ignoring its Own Users?

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  • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <`gro.uaeb' `ta' `sirromj'> on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:07PM (#11914222)
    Apparently CowboyNeal still cares what Eugenia thinks, but why the hell should anyone else?

    Lets not feed the trolls, ok? The only time I see OSNews is when it gets a mention on /. and it is ALWAYS Eugenia trolling, this time is no exception.
    • by eyeye ( 653962 )
      The mailing lists are amusing. Eugenia also manages to cause problems by trying to get a gnome theme changed but gets the wrong person to change the wrong theme.

      She is the class of computer user who has just enough knowledge to be a pest but not enough to be useful.
    • by Rahga ( 13479 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:39PM (#11915657) Journal
      As seen on OSNews []

      While you are at it Eugenia, your readers/users want

      1). A better comment system for OSnews.

      2). Registration based commenting.

      3). Support for all XHTML tags (it's freaking 2005!)

      4). A better moderation scheme.

      5). A user friendly editor with spell checking and automatic tagging.

      6). Ability to reply directly to comments with ugly @ in the reply field.

      7). Ability to place certain trolls on an ignore list.

      8). Ability to edit comments that have already been posted.

      Oh and your users have been clamoring for these features for years. Why haven't you implemented them?
    • by Trifthen ( 40989 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @11:08PM (#11916849) Homepage
      While there is definitely a "trollish" feel to all of this, I'm not so sure it's that simple. The thing is, if there really is a dearth of missing functionality, users will eventually get fed up with it, and fork the source. We all saw this happen with xF86 vs. xOrg.

      If you ignore the ranting, it comes down to this: do the developers really want to encourage forking which may wrench the entire project out of their control, so far as relevance is concerned? Really, she's giving them a chance to cut this off before it reaches that point. While the level of loyalty seen here for the core developers is encouraging, reacting to the tone of her message ignores the issue.

      Just because someone is being an ass, doesn't mean they're wrong.
  • by the_2nd_coming ( 444906 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:08PM (#11914234) Homepage
    I can't feel like a geek if other people can use it!!!

    they took the Linux instal away from me... now they are taking GNOME away as well!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:09PM (#11914257)
    For those just joining the discussion, you MUST read the whole thread, "roadmap status update/update request", Luis Villa, 2005-March/thread.html#00078 []

    They didn't tell her to STFU or to F off & die. They gave her reasons why her idea for an official poll would not work. They gave her reasonable suggestions on how & why feature requests may go unfulfilled. She rallied & reiterated her points but they did not fall on dead ears. Read through the mailing list and see it for yourself. She is just one person and is guaranteed to have her own opinion. They are devels working on it & they have their own opinions.

    See also a coincidental GNOME dev blog, March 10 Jakub Steiner's blog on how to request features: []
    • by Anonymous Coward
      They didn't tell her to STFU or to F off & die.

      Sure [] ? []
      • by 955301 ( 209856 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:37PM (#11915640) Journal
        Yep. After all, those posts came after this one, and at some point, you have to blow the whistle and get the fans off the court so you can continue:

        Jeff was certainly curt, and perhaps should have been gentler in making
        the point, but he's probably right too. In his judgment (and mine too,
        fwiw) that thread was doomed to produce very little impact, a lot of

        Something GNOME enthusiasts on this list often seem to forget is that
        its *not* just their time. When you send a message to a mailing list,
        you are asking for everyone to spend some time on it. When you start a
        thread that will draw lots of replies, you are, unwittingly or not,
        asking for everyone on the list (including hackers) to spend lots of

        I define the GNOME enthusiast community as: those who are actively
        involved with and interested in GNOME but have NOT contributed large
        quantities of code, translation or documentation (there are several
        exceptional cases, for example Jeff himself, but not a lot). We need
        enthusiasts and should value them! It provides a source of excitement,
        sociability, feedback on how we're doing in different areas, and
        sometimes even new ideas.

        But right now, the lists have become driven by the enthusiast community
        to the extent that hackers have gone into hiding. A good thread on
        desktop-devel-list *should* be predominantly (75% or more, say, as a
        totally arbitrary number) posts by core GNOME hackers related to that
        area. Look at a thread now.... probably 90% of the posts are by
        enthusiasts. That's taking "being in touch with the community" a little
        too far to the point that its hard to get work done ;-)

        For example, most of the people actually writing code that will be in
        the next GNOME release have probably been actively deleting every
        message to this theme thread! Its not because they don't care, its
        because they don't want to take the time away from working on gnome to
        wade through all the noise. And they shouldn't have to.

        Compared to its peak as a lively discourse among the hackers doing core
        contributions to the gnome codebase, desktop-devel-list is almost a dead
        list in terms of "useful things accomplished". Part of the problem is a
        *very* high noise level, and also very annoying persistent threads of
        the bike shed variety.

        Something people only relatively recently involved in GNOME (last couple
        years) wonder is about the relative silence / non-responsiveness of core
        hackers. It seems like desktop-devel-list, despite all the traffic, has
        very few people who are getting something done (see usability gnome org
        for an even worse example of this that is even more my fault). That the
        lists we (core hackers) used to haunt have become a tangle of weeds is
        one of the major factors driving this.

        As community leaders in GNOME, one of our jobs is to shepherd the lists
        so they do not become exceedingly noisy (and scare away important hacker
        to hacker traffic). But we have largely abdicated this responsibility in
        the last couple years. markmc tried to fight the tide about a year ago,
        but eventually gave up. Its hard *because* we're actually very nice
        people, and thus none of us want to be the list nazi. But its also very
        important to have this sort of pruning to be a healthy community.

        We've been talking about this a lot lately in s33kret cabal discussions.
        That we feel the need to have these private circles is part of the
        problem! Nobody, even those of us involved in the cabal (and especially
        not Jeff who is an outspoken supporter of openness and inclusion), want
        this sort of private exclusionary construct.

        So what's the point?

        1) Desktop-devel-list, #gnome-hackers, etc have been drowned by a deluge
        of well meaning (and healthy, when found in moderation) enthusiast
        2) The loss of effective communication channels has had a major negative
        impact on the amount and p
    • by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs AT ajs DOT com> on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:32PM (#11914539) Homepage Journal
      Interesting thread. The basic concept is this: "we should have a page specially designed for tracking feature requests".

      The answers varied, but seemed to center on "no, we have bugzilla" and "if you want to do that with bugzilla, create a special query page for devs to review feature requests."

      This sounds like reasonable advice to me....
    • They didn't tell her to STFU or to F off & die.

      That's really a shame, because somebody really should say that to Eugenia.

  • Hmmmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by ectotherm ( 842918 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:09PM (#11914260)
    I thought it was supposed to be PEOPLE that thought GNOMES didn't exist, not the other way around... ;)
  • Heh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Neil Blender ( 555885 ) <> on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:10PM (#11914266)
    I love it when people gripe about free software.
    • I love it when people gripe about free software.

      Hmmm... Isn't Gnome the standard desktop on Redhat Enterprise? That's not free.... As many other distros aren't either.

      It's these distros who are being complacent. If users are requesting features, it's these distros who are partly responsible for getting the changes into Gnome.

      And let's face it, I've bitched before about this, the lack of a menu editor in Gnome is appaling.
  • by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <> on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:10PM (#11914277) Homepage Journal
    If most OSS is developed by developers based on what they choose to implement, then OSS will be limited mostly to developers.

    Real, for-profit development succeeds mostly by doing something the customer wants. That's the real-world bar that's been set by "the rest of the user community". By failing to listen to and develop to their requests, OSS risks becoming perceived as elitist, which will hamper wide-spread adoption.

    • by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs AT ajs DOT com> on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:26PM (#11914461) Homepage Journal
      "Real, for-profit development succeeds mostly by doing something the customer wants."

      And so Gnome, being the combined effort of real, for-profit companies like Novell, Sun, IBM, Red Hat and many others is... I'm sorry, what was your point there again?

      "By failing to listen to and develop to their requests"

      No, you see that's just the problem. Tools and systems like Gnome (which is a far-reaching set of specs, libraries and applications, which few of its users appreciate the value of, nor take advantage of beyond creating cute menus), are desgined for the needs of a huge and diverse community of users and user needs. Gnome satisfies the needs of its users....

      AND THAT IS WHAT THE SLASHDOT CROWD HATES. We, here at Slashdot, are a microcosm of developers and geeks of various flavors. We have specialized needs, and we hate seeing out tools "watered down" by the needs of the average user.

      That's fair, and I'm not saying that we should not push for our needs too, but face it: Gnome and KDE have both reached a level of popularity where your average Slashdotter is no longer the primary target-user. Cope.
  • Weird... (Score:5, Funny)

    by GillBates0 ( 664202 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:11PM (#11914279) Homepage Journal
    GNOME and its apparent lack of interest on user feedback

    GNOME seems to respond to my mouse gestures and keypresses pretty effectively.

    Granted, I haven't been able to train it yet to respond to my thought signals and verbal commands, but I would hardly attribute it to GNOME's lack of interest to obey me.

  • by ErichTheWebGuy ( 745925 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:11PM (#11914280) Homepage
    This has been going on for quite some time. That is why people who are fed up started their own Gnome branch, GoneMe [] that fixes the things they think are wrong with Gnome.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      This has been going on for quite some time.

      -1 flamebait

      ...people who are fed up started their own Gnome branch, GoneMe...

      -0 true enough

      ...that fixes the things they think are wrong with Gnome.

      +1 funny

      Uh, what exactly has the project fixed? What exactly has the project released?
  • Hot Button Topic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by excyl ( 685679 ) <> on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:13PM (#11914301)
    It seems that /. is on a binge of Mozilla and GNOME rants. From all the different stories, I'm almost suprised that the mods haven't forked both projects themselves. With the amount of coverage given to the defects in the projects, the casual reader might think that the FOSS movement is dying. I hear that somebody doesn't like the KDE development model, so let's see if that a news item in the next day or so.
  • by SCHecklerX ( 229973 ) <> on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:13PM (#11914308) Homepage
    I'm getting annoyed at the current trend too. It's becoming increasingly difficult to have my environment behave the way that *I* want it to. Why do we need all of this stuff anyway? Isn't a standard Xdnd and current IPC enough to properly integrate pretty much anything without depending on a bunch of crap like 'gnome-settings-daemon' running?

    I digress, the above is a slightly different rant. Not all user stuff is bad. I have sent MANY suggestions to the ROX team, and they have all made it into the software. ROX now depends on the stuff ranted about in the first paragraph, however :(

    • by Lisandro ( 799651 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:18PM (#11914373)
      There's options, you know. XFCE 4 [] is a "Gnome-lite" desktop enviroment, but i find it more confortable to use than Gnome itself, never mind much, much, MUCH more bloatless. It's been my desktop of choice for a year now, and i don't see myself going back.

      Gnome is nice, but (atleast in this particular topic), Eugenia has a point. We keep hearing how Gnome focuses on usability and user-friendliness and then they come up with stuff like those awful file dialogs, or the damn bloat, which makes the system crawl running a few apps.

      I haven't tried Gnome for a couple of version revisions now, but XFCE gives me what i want and does the job fine.
  • by m50d ( 797211 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:14PM (#11914328) Homepage Journal
    because the story so obviously belongs at -1, Troll
    • OSNEWS & Eugenia (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ultrabot ( 200914 )
      because the story so obviously belongs at -1, Troll

      Well, it was a link from /. to an article at osnews, an article written by none other than Eugenia.

      Of course it's a troll.

      I also can't help but be annoyed by Eugenia claiming that "this is why Linux will never surpass Microsoft and apple". People like that think that by annoying people they can push them to work harder, and appear a kind of "hero" - in the "I gave them the push they needed" way.

      Linux probably won't surpass MSFT any day soon, but when w
  • by H0p313ss ( 811249 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:18PM (#11914366)

    The Eclipse [] project actively encourages its users and clients to log bugs and change requests as well as vote and comment on them through their Bugzilla. []

    IIRC, this concept was encouraged by ERS in Cathedral... It would be nice to see other mainstream OSS projects such as GNOME actively embrace this model of community involvement.

    That being said, I think GNOME has done some wonderful things in the past, and as far as I'm concerned the desktop improves with every release, keep up the good work!

    • The Eclipse project actively encourages its users and clients to log bugs and change requests as well as vote and comment on them through their Bugzilla.

      IIRC, this concept was encouraged by ERS [sic] in Cathedral... It would be nice to see other mainstream OSS projects such as GNOME actively embrace this model of community involvement.

      Yeah, that would be nice... if only there were a Gnome Bugzilla [] with some way of tracking the most frequently reported concerns [].... hmmm.

    • by Rahga ( 13479 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:32PM (#11915613) Journal
      "The Eclipse [] project actively encourages its users and clients to log bugs and change requests as well as vote and comment on them through their Bugzilla. []"

      Perhaps you didn't read Eugenia's original post to desktop-devel-list []... no shame in that. She neglected to link to it in her own article, which suggests at least a modicum of shame (though not enough to stop her from posting the article). It says, and I quote:

      I currently have 20 feature requests for Gnome 2.1. Where should I place them? The Bugzilla is not where I want to place them because:
      a. no one will pay attention ultimately (gazillion of feature requests never go anywhere there, let along bug reports)
      b. I don't want to spend half an hour placing 20 features requests on the bugzilla one by one.

      Her first point is bogus... I'm with many other volunteers in traiging GNOME Bugzilla regularly, and have worked on many enhancements myself.

      Her second point... She is too lazy to file enhancements at bugzilla. However, she's got plenty of energy to send e-mail using Microsoft Outlook to a GNOME developer's mailing list, then write the article at OSNews.

      Yes, GNOME encourages people to file enhancements at Bugzilla. Eugenia, however, rejects this, then says GNOME Developers doesn't listen to users.
  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:23PM (#11914418) Homepage
    ... well, mostly because I am one, but I was perplexed why anyone would disagree with the following statement:

    "A feature will be implemented if and only if there is a developer who wants to implement it"

    Why should someone be compelled to develop software he doesn't want to develop? When you're forced to do something you don't want to do, that's called work, not a hobby. That isn't what open source is about.

    If you want a feature put in an open source product, either do it yourself, wait for someone to do it, or pay someone to do it for you. But never ever ever expect someone to do it for you for free.
    • "Oh, don't complain about open source software-- it's just some guy's hobby..."

      Way to talk all the CIOs/CFOs around the world out of using FOSS for anything ever.

      • I guess you didn't read the article. The part I quoted came from "Gnome developers who don't work for a Gnome-related corporation."

        Since these guys do not work for a Gnome-related corporation, but yet they are still working on Gnome, I think it's reasonable to assume they are doing it as a hobby.

        If I'm wrong about that, please set me straight.
    • by shostiru ( 708862 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:41PM (#11914638)
      as just mistaken. Why? Threee reasons.

      First, open source developers are increasingly describing their projects as user-oriented, enterprise-ready, etc. Now, I have nothing against hobby development in which users are not a concern because it's purely for enjoyment. Heck, given the choice I'd ignore users' requests and just work on projects of interest to me in my job if I could. But if you're going to do that, be honest about it. Don't describe your software as user-oriented, because it's not. Make it explicit that it's a hobby project, and you have no real interest in the desires of your user base.

      Second, while ignoring users may be a lot more pleasant than listening to their concerns and addressing them, it's *very* ultimately bad engineering practice (then again, job titles aside most software developers are NOT engineers!), and reinforces a selfishness and arrogance that can bleed over into one's professional work. I've seen this happen in others, I've seen it happen in myself a few times. If you're going to open your project up to the world, you're limiting your own experience and opportunities by maintaining it as a navel-gazing exercise.

      Finally, considering user requests can move development in an unexpected direction. Sometimes it's the wrong direction, and I think it's OK to answer a request with "that's a bad idea, and here's why". But sometimes after going in that direction, adding some features, maybe refactoring a bit, you look back and say "why didn't I think of that?" Any community of developers develops blind spots and biases, and sometimes these can be substantial enough for outside input to benefit everyone.

      Now, of the above I think the first reason is the most compelling. You're under no obligation to do anything to improve your project or your skills or wisdom as a developer. However, I think you *are* obligated to describe your project honestly.

      • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:42PM (#11915218) Homepage
        Second, while ignoring users may be a lot more pleasant than listening to their concerns and addressing them, it's *very* ultimately bad engineering practice (then again, job titles aside most software developers are NOT engineers!), and reinforces a selfishness and arrogance that can bleed over into one's professional work. I've seen this happen in others, I've seen it happen in myself a few times. If you're going to open your project up to the world, you're limiting your own experience and opportunities by maintaining it as a navel-gazing exercise.

        Finally, considering user requests can move development in an unexpected direction. Sometimes it's the wrong direction, and I think it's OK to answer a request with "that's a bad idea, and here's why". But sometimes after going in that direction, adding some features, maybe refactoring a bit, you look back and say "why didn't I think of that?" Any community of developers develops blind spots and biases, and sometimes these can be substantial enough for outside input to benefit everyone.

        I think both of these point (my reading of them is that they're similar) indicate what I view to be the most unfortunate aspect of when developers decide that they don't care what their users think: it often makes for a worse product.

        Now, I'm not someone who believes in the "inherent intelligence of everyday people". I think people can be really stupid. However, the way in which they're stupid usually is that they're bad about understanding their problems and finding solutions to their problems, but they're usually pretty good at knowing that they have a problem.

        As an example, think of when a person goes to the doctor/ER because they think something is wrong. Now, of course, there are hypochondriacs who go to the doctor all the time over stupid things, but mostly, when someone goes to the doctor because they believe something is wrong, for the most part, something *is* wrong. I might go in because I have a terrible sore throat. I might insist to the doctor that I have strep. It might turn out that I have throat cancer. I might insist that I need antibiotics, and he might insist that I need radiation.

        Similarly, in software development, if a whole lot of users are complaining, there probably *is* a problem. They might not really understand the problem, and their proposed solutions might be wrong, but if you're getting loads of similar complaints, there is a problem somewhere. Why? Because software is all about the users. When software isn't being used by users, it's just a series of bits.

        Maybe it's just a perception problem (users aren't understanding things), but a perception problem *is* a problem. Maybe you just need better documentation or need to explain something better. Maybe it's something tiny, like you label a button differently and people understand what's going on at that point. Maybe something is designed badly.

        Beyond fixing problems, anyone trying to solve problems should be really open to input, because you never know what will give you some amazing inspiration. Contrary to popular belief, great thinkers don't come up with great ideas in a vacuum.

        I guess my point is, the only way to know is to listen to the users. Either way, I think developers (all developers) should remember two things:

        1. Satisfaction among target users is a good measure of the quality of software. If your target user is a developer, and developers are happy with it, that's an _indication_ that you've done a good job.
        2. And that's because satisfaction among target users is an inherent quality of good sofware. What I mean here is, software is a tool. If users of that tool aren't finding it useful, it is, by definition, a bad tool.
      • On your first point: Well, the problem is that a claim like "user-oriented" is not a concrete term that can be defined in a dictionary.

        The difference is in the definition. To me "user centric" means that the project or institution wishes to target its efforts at the most common demographic of users. I personally think Gnome is honest when it says it is user centric- I use Gnome everyday because (don't laugh at me) I like how the options menu and feature list don't runnith over with tons of things most co

      • by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @08:21PM (#11915903) Homepage Journal

        The Gnome hackers are listening to their customers, they just aren't listening to Eugenia. Instead they are listening to the marketing departments at places like Red Hat, Novell, or Sun. The marketing departments talk to customers and find out what it would take to sell Gnome desktops. Then the developers are then given marching orders.

        Once upon a time the Gnome developers were given free reign to design whatever the heck that they wanted and they designed a hyper-configurable desktop scriptable in a variant of Lisp. Now the Gnome developers are listening to actual customers, and the bottom line is that they are ripping out as much configuration as possible. This loss of functionality makes some former Gnome users (like Eugenia) upset, but that's what happens when you try and design software that is approachable by normal folks.

        The thing to remember is that the Gnome folks aren't targetting the kind of people that write to development mailing lists or know anything about bugzilla, and that's a good thing. The less the Gnome hackers listen to Eugenia the more likely they are to create something that is useable by my grandma.

  • by Raul Acevedo ( 15878 ) <> on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:23PM (#11914419) Homepage
    Note: I've been using GNOME since 0.30, so I have a certain sense of loyalty to it.

    A case in point was the whole debacle over what was hailed as a great, new achievement in usability for Nautilus: the spatial metaphor.

    What a disaster. It was amazing to me that it took a whole month or two of users complaining and bitching left and right, before the developers decided to add the ability to easily disable spatial mode. Agreed, they finally added it, but it was like pulling teeth. The "we developers know better than the users" attitude was very stricking.

    I don't care whether you prefer spatial or not, the merits of spatial are a separate argument. But so many people complained about it, so vehemently, that it's amazing it took more than say a few days before they patched a simple menu accessible toggle. Today you will still get people saying stupid things like "well you could always disable it in gconf". Sigh.

    • by ultrabot ( 200914 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:41PM (#11914646)
      I hereby share the great secret of making the most of spatial Nautilus.

      1. Create a "places" folder weher you drag shortcuts to your favourite folders (you know, the usual: mp3, pr0n, work, school). ctrl+shift+drag = create shortcut (symlink). Put the "places" folder on desktop & toolbar.

      2. Press ctrl+q to "kill all windows" when you've done whatever you were trying to do w/ file manager.

      Yeah, it still doesn't approach the glory that is Konqueror but it's not worse than "browse" mode of Nautilus either.
      • Your right. Your right.
        We SHOULD all change our habits to fit the GNOME paradigm, rather than the other way around.

        I guess I should stop bitching about how, horrible, nonsensicle, slow, clunky, awkward, unintuative, difficult and inferior spatial browsing is and just brainwash myself into liking, no, adoring the 50+ open windows peppered across all my desktops.
      • by A coward on a mouse ( 238331 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:23PM (#11915057)
        lowly user: What is this pus?

        gnome dev/fanboy: It's spatial Nautilus! It's easier to use; 9 out of 10 eggheaded usability experts say it's miles better than the old way.

        lowly user: I hate it. Take it away. Put it back the way it was before.

        gnome dev/fanboy: But you haven't given it a chance! See, re-organize everything on your hard drive and change the way you perform your everyday tasks, and spatial Nautilus will save you 0.5 milliseconds on some operations.

        lowly user: I just want it to work the way I'm used to.

        gnome dev/fanboy: Well, you're wrong for wanting that.

        lowly user: Put it back right now! I'm going insane from all the extra windows!

        gnome dev/fanboy: Well, just learn this new shortcut key to close them all when you're done.

        lowly user: I don't want them to open in the first place. This sucks. I hate it. Put it back.

        gnome dev/fanboy: Man, you are just like the other 10,000 lowly users I've talked to this week. What is wrong with you people? I can't imagine how you Luddites will react to the next version, when we make Dvorak (which is 2% more efficient than QWERTY) the default keyboard layout and force you to crawl over broken glass to change it back!

        lowly user: Guess I need to look into purchasing that Windows license after all...
        • by Anonymous Coward
          Why is parent modded as funny? I find it to be spot on. I used Gnome since 0.x and all the way up to 2.6. Then I got so utterly fed up with the developers "knowing what I wanted" and removing every single nice feature, that I first tried KDE and then just went for Windows XP instead.

          I mean... seriously. Why would I use Gnome when it's just a bad imitation of Windows and OSX? The one thing I really, really loved was the tab completion in the file dialogs, but then they decided to remove it. Fine, don'
  • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:23PM (#11914421) Homepage
    I know this whole topic is bound to turn into a wild flame-fest, people on both sides, either honest misunderstanding or through malice, misrepresenting the other's opinions. However, I'd first like to say that this raises an interesting question that I've had in mind for quite a long time:

    What is an open-source developer's responsibility to his users?

    I mean, sure, there are instances where someone might through together a little tool for himself, and open-source it just in case someone else might have a use, in which case I'd say his responsibility is practically zero.

    However, the matter seems different to me when you have these relatively large foundations running major projects that are used in a large percentage of available distributions. Imagine FOSS does take over the world someday, and the Linux/Gnome combination accounts for a large percentage of the desktop market-share, what then? Let's pretend 90% of desktop users are dependent on Gnome to get things done-- do we still say that Gnome developers have no responsibility to address the needs of Gnome users?

    If the Gnome development community would say yes, I'd probably hope that someone fork the project ASAP, someone who is willing to take responsibility for being user-centric. That goes for any major project. As a bit of an open-source advocate, I hope developers of major projects are always keeping their users in mind. If not, I'll have to go back to advocating closed-source proprietary companies insofar as they recognize "users" to be an important part of the equation, and not just "that annoying whining sound".

    • Here's the thing, though. These people are coding this on their own free time, for their own enjoyment. A lot of them are programmers for a living, forced to write things a particular way all day. Open source is a way to vent their frustration and express their creativity. They can be as elegant as they want. They don't worry about the old feeping creatures. It's their code.

      How many people want to come home after work every day to emails from Gnome, telling them to do more coding they don't enjoy? Especial
  • Inexcusable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pan T. Hose ( 707794 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:23PM (#11914422) Homepage Journal
    Ignoring their users? That is completely inexcusable. If I was one of their paying customers I would certainly--oh, wait a minute... Maybe those users should just stop bitching when they get something for free? Fork up or shut up, that's just how free software works, you know. Do you want anything changed? I am sure that the developer whom you have hired to add your features will do it in no time. Oh, you don't want to pay any money? Tough luck then, because GNU is free as in freedom, not free as in cheap-ass-users-love-to-bitch-and-moan. Welcome to the Real World.
  • by deacon ( 40533 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:24PM (#11914423) Journal
    I mean, really, WTF is wrong with some people?

    The Gnome developers have slaved away for years to GIVE us a really nice desktop environment.

    Yet, some people have decided that isn't good enough, and want the Gnome developers to become personal servants to fulfill their whims and fancies.

    We should be thanking the Gnome developers, not whining that they don't cater to our personal brain-fart of the day. An easy alternative for them is to not provide Gnome at all.

    So stop whining and STFU.

    Oh, ya, I am not a software developer of any kind. But if I gave away some sort of widget I made, and people whined that this free widget should be pink not purple, I would tell them to FO.

    • The Gnome developers have slaved away for years to GIVE us a really nice desktop environment.

      Yet, some people have decided that isn't good enough, and want the Gnome developers to become personal servants to fulfill their whims and fancies.

      Yeah, that reasoning might have worked if their front page had been a disclaimer like: This is just my hobby. Don't rely on it.

      However, the Gnome foundation has partnered up with other OSS products and developers, and the developers have been pushing to be taken seriously as a real DE fit for general use. They've encouraged other developers to use their DE as a platform, and generally acted as though they they don't intend their project to be some hobby software for their own use, but that they want people to use it. They've even marketed themselves as being the most user-friendly and user-centric DE for unix-like systems.

      So, OSS foundations, don't promote your project that way unless you want users to expect you to pay attention to them. Developers, don't participate in projects of that sort if you can't handle users wanting the project to be useful. In the most general terms I can think of, don't publish your work on the internet if you can't handle criticism.

      I mean, what if, in response to the impending flames this post will receive, I wrote, "I just wrote this for free! How dare you publicly disagree when I spent my own free time slaving away typing up clever little articles of writing, and GAVE them to you!" Wouldn't that be a little silly? I mean, I posted it for you to read of my own free will, in a forum that allows for responses. What should I expect?

  • by analog_line ( 465182 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:27PM (#11914477)
    There are a lot of unemployed or underemployed coders out there. If there are a significant amount of people who need/want a feature that the Gnome dev team refuses to implement, pool your resources and hire a developer to write an extension to Gnome. You can submit the patch, your group and the less underemployed coder get the credit, and you get the feature you want. Even if the Gnome team doesn't accept it, nothing stops you from using it and distributing it.

    Developers that are getting paid to work on GNOME are beholden to those that pay them. Yeah, they're working on an Open Source project, but by taking money for their time, the people paying them get to direct their coding. Unpaid developers are beholden to themselves and themselves alone. That's the way it should be. If you don't like it, you need to literally put your money where your mouth is. As has been said many times before, free software only costs nothing if the time spent developing it is worth nothing.
  • by kerrle ( 810808 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:36PM (#11914580) Journal
    While I'll completely agree that there are portions of Gnome that could be better, Eugenia's peice is way off.

    Looking at the progress Gnome has made in the last few versions, its hard for me to even see where this is coming from. Yes, we're still missing a menu editor, and yes, that is a problem. Overall, though, each recent version of Gnome has been an improvement over the past, and the useability is only getting better.

    If you look at the event that started this whole article, it was essentially Eugenia extrapolating "We'll do that if there's a developer who wants to" into "We don't care about what our users want". Hardly what I'd consider a logical step.

    I read OS News daily because it provides a good roundup of news I like - much like Slashdot - but in the past few months, I've come to dread any article with Eugenia's name on it (much like many here dreaded Michael's name popping up). If things anywhere don't work like she expects them to, it's suddenly a huge overwhelming problem with Open Source in general - and usually, they aren't even problems at all - just spats where the developers of whatever she was using didn't agree with her suggestion/request.

    I was a KDE user when I started using linux as my desktop three-four years ago, and it's still a good desktop. Nothing wrong with KDE, and I don't want to take this in that direction. But I switched to Gnome with 2.6 - it just felt better to me, and 2.8, 2.10 are continuing to improve. At least for this user, Gnome is doing exactly what I want it to.

  • Unfixed bugs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jagasian ( 129329 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:46PM (#11914710)
    Nautilus is still slow and crashes all the time. Hell, the file alteration monitor is also _still_ broken. Save a file to your desktop and it doesn't show up without a manual refresh of the desktop. Evolution is notorious for sucking up hundreds of megs of RAM and slow performance... it also locks up every now and then. Oh and I love how the terminal has had the same damn bug for years now! In a maximized window, scrolling can cause the text to become unreadable.

    However, the biggest pain in Gnome has got to be Nautilus. It has always been and continues to be slow, buggy, crash proned, and a memory hog. Don't even get me started on the "spatial mode" crap, which is forced down our throats.
  • by buckhead_buddy ( 186384 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:48PM (#11914727)
    I don't think this is unique to Open Source software. As a person who develops for Macs, a bit of Windows, and some free software in my spare time I see user demands made all the time. There are three things I need before I develop something:
    • Motivation - without this (or a contract binding you) the work inevitably languishes
    • Ability - An idea may be great but if it's not already something I can do or think I can learn to do, it's not feasible for me to do it.
    • Resources - Other things (health, family, paying jobs) have higher priority. Is it realistic of me to volunteer for this?
    I frequently hear from users who want something but have no idea how it would be implemented. They throw out the idea (e.g. "a voice driven paint program!") and instantly expect the same fervor that struck them will strike me.

    What's worse is when they don't take "No" as an acceptable answer. There are so many times I've seen people be bullied in to saying "Yes" and then only get a half-implemented, half-assed, crappy result. Thus disappointing everyone involved, hurting their own reputation, and discouraging other developers who want to work on the same idea if they have to follow in your failed precedent.

    I like development ideas. I really hate it when I have developed a new skill or mastered a new api and I have zero idea about how I could usefully work with it. But for working on someone else's idea, the motivation, ability, and resources have to be there or I'm just going to end up screwing yet another pooch. (so to speak)

  • Exactly backwards (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 11, 2005 @05:54PM (#11914804)
    Eugenia says:

    In our article yesterday about "The Ten Worst Engineering Pitfalls" by Keith F. Kelly, on the No2 spot you will find this: "2. Basing the design on your own motives rather than on users' needs."

    She uses this to argue that programmers should be user-driven -- but as Alan Cooper points out, this is exactly backwards. When a company is user-driven, they add a lot of little features and tweaks that each of their users asks for. Then they end up with a program that's intricate and complex and hard to use for *everybody*. (If it's a company, this is where their customers start leaving them for companies who take design seriously.)

    No program (or system) can be perfect for all people. The successful ones are the ones that have a consistent design -- often this means doing one thing and doing it well. If you try to be all things to all people, you guarantee that you won't be much use to anybody. Attaching a shell to the bottom of every window is the ultimate in flexibility, but nobody would claim that it's the ultimate in usability.

    The problem is that Eugenia seems to think "user-driven" is a good thing, whereas Cooper (who seems to have much more experience and success and believeable examples to back up his position) states quite emphatically that "user-driven" is a bad thing: you want to be *design-driven*.
  • by Troy Baer ( 1395 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:23PM (#11915059) Homepage
    "GNOME developers ignore Eugenia Loli-Queru's crackpot ideas"

    The author of that OSNews article is trying to push her own agenda. She seems to think that GNOME should be doing focus group research, and has fairly specific ideas of how that should be done. When some of the GNOME devs pointed out that her ideas weren't workable in their opinions, she took it personally and kept trying to push her ideas -- without making any significant effort to refute the devs' points, I might add. Finally, people got so fed up with this discussion (which is pretty off-topic for the mailing list where it took place to start with) that they told her to take it elsewhere.

    Underlying it all is a sense of entitlement, a feeling that her ideas are so good and so important that the GNOME devs should implement them without further discussion. Since she's neither a paying customer nor able/willing to develop the features she wants herself, the GNOME devs chose to ignore her... and rightly so, in my book.
  • by Lendrick ( 314723 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @06:40PM (#11915212) Homepage Journal
    It's always interesting to see the two schools of thought on this:

    1. STFU and Fork It - While I disagree with this (for reasons I will outline below), I agree that this is a valid point. For the most part, the people working on these projects are working entirely for free. As such, they have no real "customers" per se, because no one is paying them any money. Hence, they have no real obligation to care or even notice when someone suggests a new feature. The users, who are using software (for free) which was written on donated time, have no right to complain if it doesn't do exactly what they want.

    2. Listen to your Users - Forking a project is fundamentally hard. You need, at bare minimum, a ton of extra time, skill in the language(s) the project was written in, and a working knowledge of the project's code base. Additionally, when a project is as widespread as GNOME, it's next to impossible to get any notable linux distributions to include your fork instead of the trunk. X.Org managed to pull this off, but only with the help of a large number of developers. When you tell someone to "STFU and Fork It", you're telling them to do the following:
    1. Quit their day job.
    2. Learn C/C++ along with whatever other libraries the project is based on
    3. Become familiar with the project itself
    4. Gather a bunch of other developers who are prominent enough that the community at large will notice
    5. Work through the politics of getting your fork included in some Linux distros

    That's a lot harder than just opening up a text editor, magically finding the right place to add your little snippit of code, and recompiling.

    The spatial browsing controversy was what finally convinced me to give up GNOME for KDE. The straw that broke the camel's back was a very condescending article in favor of it that essentially claimed that anyone who didn't like the spatial file manager was using their computer wrong; however, since version 2.0, GNOME has had a history of removing configurability in favor of what the developers believed was simplicity, despite the vehement objections of their user base. The spatial file manager ordeal was just a stark example of a larger pattern.

    For those of us who are trying to advocate Open Source, it would be really nice if certain developers were more willing to listen to their users. As a matter of policy, it would be a good idea to set apart a portion of the dev team whose specific duty it is to to proactively study and implement (with a how-can-we-make-your-experience-better attitude, as opposed to stfu-and-do-it-your-goddamn-self) feature requests. Why? Not because you necessarily owe people anything, but because people use your product, and it would be nice if you cared about them.

    In the meantime, I've switched to KDE, which has shown itself to be far more responsive to the needs of its users. As things are going right now, GNOME will either adapt to the market or become obsolete, much like X did.
  • by maryjanecapri ( 597594 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @07:00PM (#11915386) Homepage Journal
    this contest was pretty much a joke. instead of getting the opinions of the people that actually use GNOME the splash screen contest:
    1. didn't post the judging criteria
    2. didn't use any judges other than those that run the footnotes site
    3. didn't listen to the feedback they received regarding the winning choice
    4. shunned a good amount of popular opinion
    i could go on but i won't. i was a proud GNOME user for years until it seemed the GNOME developers stopped hearing our cries. for example - the gpilotd project failed and when the users cried out - no one seemed to listen. all the while the KDE developers were busy taking in all the feedback from their user base and, when their next version was released, it was obvious they took that feedback to heart. i honestly don't know what the issue is. GNOME used to be (from my point of view) the desktop of the "common man" for the Linux community. not so any more. now it's become about as user-unfriendly as possible (i.e. spatial file managers and hard-to-create desktop icons). when is this going to change? or is it? is KDE going to become the defacto standard for more and more users while GNOME finds itself being used only by those the develop it? it seems to me that GNOME is now what Linux was nearly a decade ago - a project for the elitist/hobbiest/hacker and not the masses.
  • A bit overblown (Score:5, Informative)

    by readams ( 35355 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @08:06PM (#11915833)
    Since I'm the developer directly quoted in both articles (I guess I had the best sound bite), I should probably offer a clarification. Stating that a feature will be implemented if and only if there is a developer who wants to implement it is merely a statement of reality.

    However, to claim that this means that I personally or other GNOME devs don't care about users is an exaggeration. Users requesting a feature quite often is a way to get a developer to want to implement the feature, especially since free software developers want their projects to be good and widely used.

    All we were saying in that thread is we already know what features are widely requested. Adding voting merely creates an illusion that the votes will, in the end, count for something meaningful. In reality the best the votes could provide is a biased sample of oft-requestedness, which we can already discern by comments on bugzilla bugs and duplicates. We do care about users and we do care about their concerns.
  • by readams ( 35355 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @08:25PM (#11915919)
    They took my original quote verbatim but changed "received" from the correct spelling [] to an incorrect one! []
  • by thisisauniqueid ( 825395 ) on Friday March 11, 2005 @11:02PM (#11916818)

    The real problems are:
    1. Most users do not actually know what they want, despite the fact that they think they do. If you were to implement what they asked for, they would probably come back and say, "That's not what I asked for!" And you'd say, "Yes it is." And they'd say, "Well, that's not what I meant." Pick any of a number of huge, high-profile software projects that have been canceled due to budget and time overruns, feature creep, bug pandemics, etc., and you will find that one of the major problems is that the customer's requirements changed constantly, because the customer did not know what they really wanted from the beginning to the end, or because their requirements or understanding changed as they saw things implemented.

      See the cartoon at the top of this page []

    2. Users may not understand what they want because so much of what they do in using the system is subconscious, and we humans are *not* aware of our subconscious processes. Some of it is even "hardware" rather than "software", e.g. in our visual system, and we absolutely cannot reverse-engineer our hardware by introspection. Try to figure out how you read handwritten words sometime. No, really try and figure it out. Then try to write a program to do handwriting recognition the same way humans do it. I know what this entails, because I've spent a few years actually trying to understand how humans work and build such a system. We humans just don't get our own thought processes. This is why usability studies are more important than implementing whatever feature you *think* will be cool.

    3. Even if the user knew exactly what they wanted, it may be completely impractical to implement, due to programming contstraints.

    4. Even if the user knew exactly what they wanted, they probably don't know how to succinctly describe it to the programmer. It's a language problem and a communication problem. It's also a point-of-view problem (relativism).

    5. Humans are all very, very different. Ask 100 people to give you a list of the music that they think the rest of the world should listen to. You will *not* find a consensus. But there are songs that almost everybody likes. And there are multiple radio stations if you don't like a certain genre, but you like another instead (think KDE vs. GNOME).

    GNOME got to a point where something had to be done to take it in a specific direction. The direction it took stands to benefit the most people in the most profound way. Personally I'm glad that they moved ahead the way they did. The KDE community is currently locked somewhat in stasis, because there are too many opinions, too much entropy, and no single consensus as to how to move forward. I'm not talking about making small changes, those are happening, and KDE is implementing some great features, I'm talking about the lack of major new directions for KDE such as what is happening in GNOME. That will change, a consensus will arise, and KDE will move forward in a major new direction at some point in the future.

    Until then, try taking GNOME 1.0-GNOME 1.2 and extrapolate the situation that existed then to produce a hypothetical view of the way things would be now if a few core GNOME hackers hadn't done something. It would be a real mess of mismatching pieces. It might be a hacker-boy-cool mess, but it would be a mess. GNOME-2.10 is clean, lean, and most importantly consistent, and a better fit for how our subconscious processes understand information.

    Besides, if they're the ones writing the code, I say they can do whatever they want with it.

  • Developers' replies (Score:3, Informative)

    by BenjyD ( 316700 ) on Saturday March 12, 2005 @05:27AM (#11918326) [] has a load of GNOME developers responding to the two articles in a far more logical and intelligent way than the articles deserve.

    Somebody like Eugenia who runs such a badly-implemented news+comment site really shouldn't complain about GNOME not implementing features the users want.

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito