Subject: Re: User-facing applications
From: Lynn Winebarger <>
Date: Wed, 27 Mar 2002 15:18:50 -0500

On Wednesday 27 March 2002 14:34, David Fetter wrote:
> I've noticed that free software has a wide range of quality, from
> amazingly poor to astoundingly good.  That's not exactly a revelation.
> Another thing I've noticed is that the "amazingly poor" end tends to
> be cluster the realm of user interfaces, most especially when they
> come from all-volunteer projects, and I've got a little theory on why
> this is so.
>  [snip]
> most others.  It's this perception of social distance that makes it
> very difficult for an all-hacker-volunteer group to look for feedback
> from people outside the group, e.g. the wide variety of people so
> essential to user testing.  Lacking this feedback, it is almost
> impossible for them to make good, usable user-facing applications.
> What's to do about this, and what have I missed?

     Requirements gathering (feedback in the rabid application development
model) is like pulling teeth in any case - it's hard work, and users often don't 
communicate clearly when they do communicate.  Usually they can't really tell you
what they want within reason (clearly what they want is a telepathically-linked DWIM

machine, but that's a useless answer), or even know what they want - except that 
what you've got isn't it. Commercial companies probably  spend a lot of money on 
getting test subjects, which volunteer groups can't.
      So hackers usually develop according to their own requirements (which is why 
they make such good hacking tools), which can seem odd to people who view 
computers as magic boxes (and usually want to keep looking at them that way).
       At least that's my untested 2 bit theory, which is at least as good as yours.