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    I think Gruber is basically right re: the traditional incentives of open source being misaligned with producing high-quality user interfaces:

    Talented programmers who work long full-time hours crafting software need to be paid. That means selling software. Remember the old open source magic formula — that one could make money giving away software by selling “services and support”? That hasn’t happened — in terms of producing well-designed end user software — and it’s no wonder why. In Raymond’s own words, the goal is:

    software that works so well, and is so discoverable to even novice users, that they don’t have to read documentation or spend time and mental effort to learn about it.

    It’s pretty hard to sell “services and support” for software that fits that bill. The model that actually works is selling the software itself.

    That being said, I’ve started using Pop_OS! from System76 recently, and it feels very polished in a way that I’m not used to with traditional Linux distros, where often the choice has felt like:

    • Build your own lightsaber from scratch, or
    • Use Ubuntu and get opted into whatever way Canonical is trying to monetize this week (e.g. shipping your searches to Amazon, running dynamic ads in the MOTD, etc).

    It seems like System76 taking the Apple approach — that is, making money by selling hardware — is part of the reason they’ve found their footing there.

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      probably worth noting that 99% of popos IS ubuntu

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        I mean, System76 built their own UI and replaced Canonical’s, which is kind of to Gruber’s point.

        (And they ripped out the weirder Canonical stuff like ads + tracking.)

        And Ubuntu itself is based on Debian unstable… ;)

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      It’s a hilarious post. It’s hard to recall a closed source vendor that hasn’t screwed over their users in some way. That people have been writing open source seem to be the reason why anything works at all.

      Also I guess people don’t have problems with printers these days because they don’t own printers. Paperless office is a pretty good solution when it comes to CUPS.

      Stuff on the bottom like the USB, Web, POSIX, suckets, ncurses, declare what kind of UX you’re going to have. It’s not the stuff on the surface.

      I feel like Gruber still hasn’t figured it out and still thinks it can be fixed by papering “good UX” proprietary interfaces over stuff.

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        I feel like Gruber still hasn’t figured it out and still thinks it can be fixed by papering “good UX” proprietary interfaces over stuff.

        Considering he says exactly the opposite of this, I would disagree with your characterization.

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          Stuff on the bottom like the USB, Web, POSIX, suckets, ncurses, declare what kind of UX you’re going to have. It’s not the stuff on the surface.

          Which is exactly why Gruber argues that ESR’s ‘just make a good UI for it’ argument is wrong. UX needs to be considered from the very start of the application’s design, and a lot of Linux desktop software seems to lack cohesion. The number of times that I’ve seen a ‘fooProgram: bar failed’ error message from my DE is disappointing.

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          The most obvious explanation is that the open source model does not work well for producing software with good usability. Everything in Raymond’s article hints at this truth.

          The problem is much more general than that: If you want to target a particular market, you need to have feedback from members of that market.

          That means either running full-blown usability studies where you get a bunch of Aunt Tillies and Uncle Vernons in the room, ask them to do it, and record why they fail; or, alternatively, you are Aunt Tillie. Since every developer-oriented project has at least one developer on it, this solves it for OSS projects*.

          * Of course, other factors can result in usability problems in OSS build tools. Just ask Isabella Muerte about C++’s build systems. But that’s not lack of developers to ask; that’s just complete failure to have the kind of centralized design decisions that a well-run OSS project would have.

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            In my opinion, open source excels at “plumbing” - libraries, infrastructure code; and for “itch scratching”.

            The further up the user interface ladder you move, the more a well-funded centralized organization can pull ahead by paying for usability testing, market research, etc.