waiting for professional grade

Lindsay Haisley fmouse at fmp.com
Sun Dec 6 19:42:09 GMT 2009


On Sun, 2009-12-06 at 09:17 -0500, mac wrote:
> Let me state for the record, I'm not flaming anyone or anything. So, let
> me play devils advocate for a bit:
> 
> To paraphrase a lot of this thread: "F/OSS is for software geeks and
> tinkers, so if you want to do creative work, that does not involve
> learning or creating software, then go buy ***software application for
> whatever creative art you choose*** (i.e. protools, photoshop, Adobe
> studio, etc.)"

This is a generalization of what I said, which was somewhat more
nuanced.  The bottom line is that, by its very nature, F/OSS developers
have _no_ responsibility to the end-user community, whatever that may
be.  None!  Zarro!  Zilch!!  Open Source is developed in the context of
a gift economy.  Developers may _take_ some such responsibility, by
choice, but there's no one really looking over their shoulders requiring
them to do this or do that if they want to continue the work, nor do I
believe there's any such ethical obligation.  Often F/OSS software is
written by geeks, for geeks, which is why some packages seem to be
perpetually in a state of flux, or poorly documented.  Sometimes such
packages _need_ to be taken over by a commercial entity if they're going
to be usable by the rest of us.  CUPS, the Common Unix Printing System,
was a total disaster area from a usability standpoint until Apple took
it over, but now it's a whole lot better.  To Apple's credit, they
realized that it was to their advantage to simply put the project on the
right track and leave it in the F/OSS world without trying to co-opt it.

So some F/OSS software may be _very_ usable and intelligently designed.
I use Bluefish for professional HTML editing, and the principal
developers are quite concerned with usability, and although not always
wise in evaluating usability issues, they listen, and understand such
concerns - and often act on them.  Likewise, I've used a lot of CD / DVD
recording software for Windows, and for Linux, and have come across few
packages for any platform that are as solid and as intelligently
designed  as KDE's k3b utility.

I'm not a diehard /.-er with an attitude that all commercial software is
evil.  The dynamics of commercial software creation are such that people
have a chance to vote for the best with the wallets, and good software
sells for a substantial price.  People who use it professionally find it
a reasonable price to pay if it improves their work and their
productivity.  It's often an honest business relationship which benefits
everyone involved, with nothing evil about it.

> Now I searched for the lawyer speak, in small print where it says:
> "General knowledge of Linux system admin, software development,
> understanding of xwindows, and other geeky stuff may be required before
> successful creativity in audio, graphics, or video can be achieved." 
> 
> Couldn't find it.

That's because everything you need to know about the package legally is
contained in the GPL, and in the usual disclaimer that there is no
guarantee regarding the usability of the software.  Anyone can say
anything about anything.  Truth in advertising is only an obligation if
there's a buyer and purchaser involved, and even then caveat emptor is
an established legal principle.

> Basically, what's said over and over in countless forums is: if you just
> want to use F/OSS because you believe it's a better way (i.e. because of
> the philosophy) and you can't, for whatever reason, help make it
> better(i.e. jump in and write code, fix bugs, write documentation,
> etc.), leave us alone. And certainly don't point out bugs or
> deficiencies.

I certainly don't agree with this!  And my guess is that the attitude
you describe is generally put forth by people who have never done any
substantial F/OSS software in their lives!  The best F/OSS projects
consider thoughtful feedback from _anyone_ using their software as a
resource, and actively solicit bug reports suggestions from
non-developers.  It all depends on the project.  I found a bug in a
Debian package several years ago and filed a bug report with Debian.
Some fellow in Debian QA jumped in and flamed me because I didn't have
all the reporting formalities in order - the right keywords in the right
places in the report, or some such.  I got pissed, and told him so, and
he flamed me back, and before long Joey Hess had to step in and mediate,
which he did quite skillfully.  I then took the problem report directly
to the package developer who was quite friendly and glad to get it - in
any form - and he released an updated package with a fix within 24
hours.

So it's really, in the end, not about F/OSS, or the Open Source
philosophy, but about people.  Attitudes and approaches to development
and user feedback are as varied as the personalities of the people
involved.  Some of the people who yell the loudest about this or about
that may not be the people whose opinions and work are on the line.  The
latter are probably too busy doing what they do best to worry about it.

> I guess my point is: if this stuff is only for people who have skills
> and/or plenty of spare time to help in other ways, then state that up
> front and scare all the other folks away immediately and don't waste
> their time.

Living makes us savvy in these things - hopefully.  There will always be
things which will waste our time, and some surprises along the way when
we find diamonds in unexpected places.  The real skill is to evaluate
our tool options and to be able to determine quickly which are going to
be worth while pursuing, and for what reasons, and which are going to
eat more time and personal bandwidth than we can afford.  This goes for
F/OSS and commercial software - both.

-- 
Lindsay Haisley       | "In an open world,    |     PGP public key
FMP Computer Services |    who needs Windows  |      available at
512-259-1190          |      or Gates"        | http://pubkeys.fmp.com
http://www.fmp.com    |                       |





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