Subject: Re: FW: Why would I pay for Ximian software?
From: Jonathan Magid <jem@metalab.unc.edu>
Date: Thu, 3 Jan 2002 16:54:57 -0500 (EST)

On 3 Jan 2002, Perry E. Metzger wrote:

>
> Harald Koch <chk@pobox.com> writes:
> > User interface design and implemenation is *hard*, and unprestigious.
> > One of the common incentives for OSS, community prestige, doesn't seem to
> > come into play for user interface issues. Hackers don't congragulate
> > each other on their cool user interfaces, IME.
>
> So the "community appreciation" part of the compensation for working
> on such things isn't as big for desktop apps as for, say, way cool
> operating systems. Hackers don't use them, they don't appreciate them
> much, and they don't give each other ego boosts for doing them.

There may be something else at work here- the pool of effective
programmers is not homogenous, and it is not evenly distributed between
proprietary and free software.

The free software community is associated with the Unix operating system
and with TCP/IP networking. For this reason, the first free software
platforms (linux/gnu and the BSD's) are all Unix based, which puts an
emphasis on command lines and loosely structured textual configurations.

The emphasis on Unix and its particularies is for historical reasons
(unix's importance in the academic and research community), as well as
aesthetic reasons (people who wish to hack on kernels in their free time
are probably going to want to program as close to unadorned metal as
possible).

Since the free platforms are all Unix-based, it's those
programmers who most enjoy those platforms and their aesthetic who
are first introduced to free software, and who are most likely to wish to
contribute themselves.

Programmers who are most concerned with usability and graphical
interfaces are not generally attracted to these platforms and the
software which is based upon them. They are likely to concentrate on
becoming MS-Windows and MacOS programmers; platforms for which there is
little open source software. They're less familiar with the community and
its ethos, so they are far less likely to contribute.

I hope in the future, that the efforts of the free software community
towards graphical interfaces and desktops will attract more people who are
really interested in these issues. These people (if/when they make it to
the larger free software community) will tend to group in clusters and
communities in which the production of slick and usable interfaces are
more highly rewarded by kudos and recognition. This is already happening-
as you note with the release of Evolution. Kudos for interface design is
being directed to those who are making efforts to get recognition in that
area.

A longer term possibility for which I hope is that the more MS-Windows and
Mac programmers will be interested in open source software. Mac
programmers are an immediate likelihood- since MacosX is based on freeBSD
and has a free X server,the MacX community is definitely
familiarizing themselves with the vast ammounts of portable free software
available for their platform (GNU/Darwin is a concentration point for
people with this interest). With time, they will make significant
contributions to this pool themselves.

As for attracting a serious ammount of windows developers... this is a
long term prospect. the cygwin tools make many free applications available
for windows, although I don't know of a free or open X server that might
make graphical applications easily shared between platforms. qt which kde
is based upon is not free for windows, i believe; this prevents free kde
apps from running there. the gtk port for windows is moving slowly.

if we could make ms-windows a platform which introduced and seduced
windows developers into writing free software, and had common api's which
allowed free ms-windows software to move to open source platforms, there
would be a lot more improvement in the UI's of open source software.
Actually grabbing developer's primary loyalty from windows to linux/bsd
would be the brass ring, but i think both aesthetic and technical reasons
makes that process a slow, if at all likely, process.

cheers,
jem.

-- 
Global Village Idiot
Email: jem@sunsite^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hmetalab^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hibiblio.org
http://ibiblio.org/jem/