I Don't Hate Users

Really! I don’t! (Not much. Well. Not all the time.)

I start with something that sounds controversial, but really is just observationally factual: “users do not contribute anything to open source projects”. It sounds like I am putting them down (“darned users!”) but that is not what I am doing. It is just straightforward observation that if you aren’t adding code, documentation, bug reports, or user support to a project, if you are just downloading and using the software, you are not adding any value to the project. From the project point of view, you might as well not exist. If it weren’t for the entry in the server log, they couldn’t prove your existence.

I hope that the above is not actually controversial.

Which brings us to a different idea, “user focused”, why should I bother catering to people who are effectively invisible to the activities of the project? There is nice comment from “step” which includes this:

There are a lot of contributors to Firefox (myself included) who never would have become so had they not first been a user.

So, there is a valid “developer focused” reason to be “user focused”. Using is a gateway drug for developers. I find that very persuasive indeed. Hopefully non-controversial as well.

All this gets bound up and confuzzulated with my “firehose of money” comment in my last posting. That comment is controversial, and seems to be the core item riling folks up.

My belief (and I am sure there are plenty of counterexamples to prove me wrong, but then, I am not trying to postulate a law of nature here) is that large, complex, user-facing applications (like, say, office suites or web browsers or GIS desktops) are sufficiently weighty that incubating them, getting them from a “concept” level of quality to a “user focused” level of quality, requires a large initial financial commitment. Or a large initial amount of time (Ooop, you caught me! I’m hedging! Creating some wriggle room!). A firehouse of money, or a patient drip drip drip of a rivulet of time.

Asa Dotzler thinks that, with respect to the Firefox project (and unspecified others), I am full of it. I think that, in ignoring the six years of corporate funding (the proverbial “firehose”) for technology that underlies Firefox, he is gilding the lily. Firefox is great work, but attributing its success to the community effort alone is as unfair as attributing it to corporate money alone. Ooops, I did that. Sorry!

Shades of grey, always ahades of grey.