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Five Fundamental Problems with Open Source?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the stuff-to-talk-about dept.

GNU is Not Unix 814

meriksen asks: "I found a very interesting paper which I am sure will stir up a hornets nest. Despite the growing success of the Open Source movement, most of the general public continues to feel that Open Source software is inaccessible to them. This paper discusses five fundamental problems with the current Open Source software development trend, explores why these issues are holding the movement back, and offers solutions that might help overcome these problems." What do you think of the issues given in this paper, and how do you think the Open Source community should address these issues?"The lack of focus on user interface design causes users to prefer proprietary software's more intuitive interface. Open Source software tends to lack the complete and accessible documentation that retains users. Developers focus on features in their software, rather than ensuring that they have a solid core. Open Source programmers also tend to program with themselves as an intended audience, rather than the general public. Lastly, there is a widely known stubbornness by Open Source programmers in refusing to learn from what lessons proprietary software has to offer. If Open Source software wishes to become widely used and embraced by the general public, all five of these issues will have to be overcome."

cancel ×

814 comments

Don't forget... (-1)

SCO$699FeeTroll (695565) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853373)

...to pay your $699 licensing fee you cock-smoking teabaggers.

Re:Don't forget... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853445)

Open Sauce. What is it all about... is it good, or is it whack?

Re:Don't forget... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853600)

SCO$699FeeTroll, what is your current FP success ratio?

But... (3, Funny)

TwistedSquare (650445) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853379)

What about Free Software?

*ducks*

Re:But... (0)

Pivot (4465) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853410)

You shurely must be talking about freesbie [freesbie.org] software?

#5 cripple licensed software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853423)

GNU and other licenses are a barrier to open source since they preclude using the code for many users due to fears about being sued about alleged mis-use of open source code.

Re:But... (4, Informative)

Liselle (684663) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853430)

Okay, you're being funny, but read the footnote at the bottom of the paper:

In this paper, I use the general term Open Source, though often I'm exclusively discussing Free Software. As well, when I use the term Open Source projects, I'm usually referring to projects that have a contribution base wider than one or two individuals. I'm also aware that some companies release Open Source versions of their software, and though I certainly appreciate their donation, I'm excluding these Open Source projects in this particular paper's definition of Open Source, as some of my statements do not apply to them. I made these generalizations for the point of simplification, and not for any political motivations.

WITHOUT RingTFA (-1)

CmdrTaco (troll) (578383) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853386)

Let me guess:
1. Dirty Hippies
2. Dirty Hippies
3. Dirty Hippies
4. Dirty Hippies
5. Dirty Hippies

The webserver shoulda been running apache... (3, Funny)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853391)

For starters, the webserver should have been running apache, so it wouldn't have been slashdotted. Nothing worse than not having to read an article bashing the open source movement, because the IIS server was slashdotted....

Re:The webserver shoulda been running apache... (2, Informative)

rdsmith4 (767227) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853452)

Hum, works fine for me...not slashdotted at all... but all the "big problems" this guy names aren't terribly critical are they? All can be fixed more or less easily, given time....

Unfortunately, in a capitalist economy it's very hard for such an altruistic idea as open source (and free software? nothing's free!) to compete with big business.

Re:The webserver shoulda been running apache... (1, Informative)

IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853523)

Guess you didn't read the article either hmmm? The writer is *female*.

And furthermore, I want to see them fix "easily" (your words) the horrible User Interface that is Linux.

Re:The webserver shoulda been running apache... (1)

tolan-b (230077) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853589)

"the horrible User Interface that is Linux."

Care to give me an example?

I have no issues with the apps I use (primarily gnome), that's been the case for at least a year now.

Re:The webserver shoulda been running apache... (3, Informative)

soupart (691584) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853513)

How about you try clicking the link?

Or checking to see [netcraft.com] if it actually DOES run IIS?

Sheesh.

Newsflash, hotshot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853536)

The load-handling capabilities of a webserver have little if anything to do with the software and EVERYTHING to do with the hardware configurations and the speed and throughput of the connection. Are all Linux apologists as retarded as you, or do you make the extra effort to sound supremely stupid?

Re:The webserver shoulda been running apache... (1)

MikeXpop (614167) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853552)

Right. Because we all know Apache is 100% immune to slashdottings. They really should have been running it on a beowulf cluster of RPN calculators. That's where the stability is.

Re:The webserver shoulda been running apache... (2, Informative)

PudKaplan (769693) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853575)

Actually, according to www.netcraft.com, its running WebSTAR on Mac OS.

Motivation. (5, Insightful)

Jaywalk (94910) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853396)

I think the author has good points, but I believe she misses the overarching explanation and, therefore, the logical solution. In a word, it is motivation. The basic reason for writing open-source is for the bragging rights. And the truth of the matter is that the only people we can really brag to are other geeks; most other folk just don't get it. She points out that open-source is "programmers writing for programmers." Well, duh. Who else cares?

The solution is to provide motivation to write for someone else. There are a lot of companies out there making a lot of money off open-source, selling hardware or services. If they want open-source programmers to write code differently, they need to provide some motivation for that change. One possibility would be an annual award program which could include - for example - a "best documentation" category. The combination of a cash prize (it needn't be large) plus the bragging rights for having won could provide the necessary nudge to improving open-source code.

Re:Motivation. (4, Insightful)

MenTaLguY (5483) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853431)

My own motivation for working on Open Source is mostly just a combination of "If you want something done right, do it yourself," and polishing the skills for which I am employed.

YES!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853555)

Of course! I think the World Science Fiction Convention [worldcon.org] should give a Hugo award [slashdot.org] to the Best Open Source Documentation.

Then folks like me, who program more than write, would actually have a chance of winning a Hugo.

On the other hand, I don't want my Open Source documentation to be mistaken for science fiction...

Re:Motivation. (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853625)

I don;t know about bragging rights, but certainly the sole problem is that the developers develop what they want and/or like to develop.

Documentation, feature sets, UI, these are all things that take effort and are not particularly rewarding. Hence... OSS developers don't bother too much with them.

Whereas.. for proprietary developments - you get paid to do it, no matter how crap a task it is, and if you don't, you get fired. Perhaps its because of those crappy tasks you get to do at work that many developers go home and work on OSS stuff that they like doing.

Re:Motivation. (4, Interesting)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853664)

come to think of it... the best way to solve this is to get non-programmer types involved. Make doing the documentation not an 'also ran' task for those who couldn't hack it as developers, but as a really important part of the project - maybe we need a sourceforge solely for documentation and support forums.

UI is a bit tricky to solve in that way, but if a push to make all OSS API-driven is popular, then other people can create UIs for OSS developed software (eg. PHP front ends, windows GUIS, Java GUIs, whatever).

This is true (5, Insightful)

zxd (724760) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853398)

Open-source software does lack documentation geared towards the "common user". The documentation that is out there always seems to only understood by the geek.

open source lacks professional quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853461)

- poor documentation
- config file editing instead of installation programs
- non-standard user interface
- lack of support - a mailing list does not equate to professional support - this is for both the kernal as well as user applications

Re:open source lacks professional quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853524)

A config file is a big advance -- a lot of this stuff requires configuring at compile time and is loaded with hardcoded pathnames and so on. Which is just savage.

Re:This is true (1)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853586)

Open-source software does lack documentation geared towards the "common user". The documentation that is out there always seems to only understood by the geek.

It's been my experience that open-source software documentation can only be understood if you already know how to use the product. I have had huge dificulties trying to get started using a piece of software (with no previous experience) from the docs. Once I figure it out, the docs serve as a good reference, but they are useless as "getting started" guides, which is what most new users will need.

Re:This is true (3, Insightful)

rdsmith4 (767227) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853587)

Hear, hear! Installing and configuring anything Linux is a nightmare unless one is a hard-core techie. For me, once I got it all set up it was infinitely better than Windows - but if it were as idiot-proof as XP, that would take all the fun out of Linux, no? Geeks love that feeling of superiority as they watch the next guy lose his 200-page brief due to a Windows crash, since that never happens in Linux.

I suppose you've all seen the Dumbentia "Linux is more geeky" [dumbentia.com] [pdf] parody ad...

er ... (3, Insightful)

bob_jenkins (144606) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853402)

The thing holding back more widespread adoption of Open Source is that it doesn't ship already-installed on new computers.

Re:er ... (1)

bee-yotch (323219) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853480)

I couldn't agree with you more.

All of the stated problems are not limitted to open source, proprietary software suffers from the exact same fundamental problems if not more.

Re:er ... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853499)

Yeah, if Dell started shipping open source software, all the UI/documentation/quality problems would solve themselves. Sure.

Re:er ... (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853522)

Yeah, if Dell started shipping open source software, all the UI/documentation/quality problems would solve themselves. Sure.

Yes they would. Dell would feel compeled to write the documentation and fix the bugs that it saw...

Re:er ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853562)

More likely Dell would find it to be cheaper just to buy something from Microsoft. You guys have confused the end (popularity) with the means (quality).

Put your argument another way: "If Richard Stallman was the Dictator of the World: Everyone would use Free Software or be sent to the thoughtcrime kamps"

Um, no (was Re:er ...) (4, Insightful)

CaptKilljoy (687808) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853561)

No, the thing holding back more widespread adoption of open source is that nearly no one currently would want it shipped already-installed on new computers.

Make it good enough that ordinary users demand it, and adoption will come automatically.

Re:er ... (4, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853571)

Wrong.

First off, it does ship on a minority of new computers. And, heck, it's about as easy to install Linux as it is to reinstall Windows.

Secondly, and more importantly, OSS isn't widely adopted because, while free, it doesn't work as well or better than its proprietary counterparts in all aspects.

A fine example of this is GIMP. I've installed it at home and at work, but I wound up doing most of my edits in Photoshop today because it does the task better.

(Another good example of this is OOo; if you want a summation, check out my journal.)

Installers (5, Insightful)

October_30th (531777) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853404)

One serious problem is the lack of a standardized, easy-to-use (=click-and-point) installation program and the fragmentation of package management (rpm. deb. tar, whatever).

Re:Installers (2, Interesting)

IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853549)

OPen Source, almost by its very definition, won't create standards, it'll just fork. So yes, you are spot on, but the solution to that vexing problem is almost impossible to implement.

Re:Installers (1)

bee-yotch (323219) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853553)

funny, cause I find typing the command
emerge pkg_name
far easier then installing any windows or other proprietary apps with "click-and-point" installation programs.

click-and-point (err... point-and-click?) != easy-to-use by any means, especially when some stupid DLL error message pops up after clicking.

Re:Installers (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853623)

you freaking troll.... emerge this that... pffft, go suck on your calculator nerdo boy

GUI design (4, Insightful)

plover (150551) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853622)

You touched on what I think is the heart of the matter: "simple, one-click." In the article her first point is User Interface Design. She says "I suspect that there isn't one single reason for the poor quality of user interfaces, but here are some explanations I've heard roaming the Open Source circles"

I think she missed the biggest reason of all here: Designing a good GUI is very hard. Wait -- let me further clarify that: it's very, very hard.

Designing a GUI from scratch requires a sense of aesthetics (balance, color, flow) and the ability to decide exactly what needs to be up front, and what needs to be hidden behind a menu, option button, or some such. Frequently the developer will have a fervent opinion about "this is the most important thing, it must be on top" whereas a good user interface designer can step back and see what will work for the users. A good UI designer will also run user acceptance labs to test their designs. Many open source projects end up with little more than "Hey Bill, would you check this out for me?" And Bill, being aware of the project from its inception, and having heard about it over the lunch table for the last five months, already posesses a deeper understanding of the task that prevents him from being able to adequately judge the design.

Apple, of course, has always been at the forefront of GUI design (at least as a commercial success, I'm fully aware of the contributions of Xerox Parc, et al.) I believe this comes from a strong, single, visionary designer, a rigid set of GUI design guidelines that must be absolutely followed, and a corporate mindset that the GUI is the most important aspect of an application. They undergo rigorous testing procedures, and countless user feedback labs. Microsoft hasn't ever caught up to Apple in that respect, although they do have a good set of GUI guidelines and some very strong products.

But nobody in the open source world wants to be "told what to do". Also, nobody in the open source world feels they have the authority to stand up and say "you must design your GUI in this fashion." Some projects, of course, will have beautiful, solid GUIs thanks to having a quality GUI designer on the project. But that currently doesn't pan out beyond the scope of the single good application. So the consistency isn't there, and it will never be there until someone puts together a GUI committee that has the authority to stamp "Tux Approved -- Good GUI Inside" on open source projects. It will require a single, strong voice. And that voice has to have a world of talent behind it. That's a mighty tall order for hundreds of grass-roots volunteer efforts to come up with.

Reason #6 (4, Funny)

pknoll (215959) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853406)

6. No Profit!

(I keed! I keed...)

well.. (4, Insightful)

patrick.whitlock (708318) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853413)

i have to say, that my own personal reason for not using an OS that is open.... is because i can't figure that shit out. i've been spoiled by microsoft. make it more friendly, and more ppl will use it

Re:well.. (-1, Flamebait)

Mateito (746185) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853609)

make it more friendly.

Yes. Open source software lacks Clippy.

It will make all the difference when Tux pops up and says something like:

"It seems that you are writing a letter to your boss. Would you like to change Your sincerely to Eat Flaming Death?

Okay... so there is a serious point about "difficult to use" software, but then on the other hand, there are a shitload of people who with a bit of education wouldnt have a problem with it. How many people still swear about the good old days of Wordperfect 5.1?

Not all users are stupid. Some are just uneducated.

Re:well.. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853630)

Hmm. You can't spell, use punctuation, or use capital letters in the correct places, and you expect us to care about your opinion?
Typical Windows luser.

All of these criticisms (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853414)

Are hardly exclusive to Open Source development. Plenty of closed sourced projects suffer from the exact same things, and plenty of open source pojects do not.

Re:All of these criticisms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853501)

I would agree.

However, companies that pump out products with the flaws she discussed tend to die. Open source projects tend to linger...

For every Apache (such as it is) there are 2000 "Project X" clones.

I would also have to add:

#6 - Open source projects tend to suffer from drastic feature creep.

Product Websites / Download Options (5, Insightful)

orangenormal (728999) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853419)

Part of the problem, I believe, must also be the inadequacy of software download websites. In general Open Source distributions are tricky to obtain and install. The sites are difficult to navigate and provide too many download options that reqiure understanding beyond what most users posess. i.e., should I download the "source" or "binary" version? "Stand-alone" or "self-installing?" All of these are terms outside the average user's vocabulary. Worse, many simply link to those SourceForge sites where users are presented with myriad different versions of the same product--some not even stable.

Re:Product Websites / Download Options (2, Funny)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853574)

yeah that's why I recommend realplayer to everyone.

not.

I know what the problem with open source is (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853422)

The smelly hippies

UM I THINK I KNOW WHAT THE PROBLEM IS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853424)

Your giving away the software for free. Not a sustainable business model.

#5 seems odd (5, Insightful)

JohnGrahamCumming (684871) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853429)

Religious blindness

Doesn't seem to me to be specifically open sourcey (sp?) to be religious about technical issues. I mean just look at Microsoft, they are a frikkin' technical monopoly: .Net good, use .Net, write everything in C#, Java bad, GPL evil, etc.

John.

Re:#5 seems odd (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853537)

I keep telling everyone, not only does it not cause blindness or send you to hell (that's just a myth), but it's actually good for you. [newscientist.com]

Wait.

Never mind.

You know the saying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853437)

if it's cheap, you get what you paid for.

Re:You know the saying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853639)

"if it's cheap, you get what you paid for."

If you really feel so bad about that, you can pay *me* for the air you breathe, if you really feel you must pay someone ;).

i got one (4, Insightful)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853441)

usability.

ESR's rant over CUPS is something we need more of.

Fundamental Problems? (1)

goodster (759030) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853447)

Yeah... 'cause proprietary software got it all right the first time. :)

I know a lot of people who can't/won't even try to install drivers for their Windoze boxes at home because it's still seems pretty damn complicated to them.

Features vs 'core' (4, Interesting)

in7ane (678796) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853449)

"Developers focus on features in their software, rather than ensuring that they have a solid core."

You are kidding right? This is probably so much more true of proprietary software (to bring up the obvious - there is no open source clippy). Except for that, it's hard to disagree with the interface and documentation arguments on the whole, however keep in mind the rapid development pace that some open source projects move at, if you look just at the 'stable' projects you will usually find much better interfaces and documentation.

Open Source low on income. (3, Interesting)

pholower (739868) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853451)

I find that users tend to prefer proprietary design because it is integrated into the OS. GUI applications are another story. A lot of open source projects are still command line, while very powerful and chocked full of information; they are not designed for people that are only used to Windows.

One of the items this paper doesn't seem to mention is that with Open Source, you tend to have less R&D money, if any at all. This is what has kept the likes of Microsoft and Apple at the top. They can afford to spend the money on intuitive, user-friendly design. That, and it would help if open source items, such as Linux, were pre-installed on the PC when it was bought. I know it is out there, but not as strong as it would need to be to succeed.

Open Source? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853458)

Jeez why use amateur homemade garbage when there are excellent professional commercial products available from Microsoft!

Just a rehash (0, Redundant)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853459)

It's the same stuff everybody always cites. I don't even agree with the "feature bloat" point the author makes. Furthermore, it's just generalization. No specific mentions of any notible transgressors---just blanket criticism.

Agreed wtih the article (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853464)

Well written article, and she even forgot to write about the other problem of FOSS:
PROPER TESTING.
When by proper testing, I mean test cases for each and every OSS app is getting released out there. Simply releasing an app as a "beta" and asking for input from random people who will use your app on the web, is NOT how proper QA should be happening. Unfortunately, distros are not any better on this, who are supposed to be "professionals".

The Issues with Open Source (4, Interesting)

Dark Paladin (116525) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853472)

I think that the only issue with Open Source boils down to this:

The things that nobody wants to do, but somebody has to.

Nobody wants to think about documentation. Or user interfaces. These things are hard, tedious, and a hell of a lot more boring than actually coming up with stuff to "make things work".

It's the reason why Windows is pretty easy to use. Personally, I think that OS X is the preferred model that many business should think about: having an open source "core" (BSD or Linux, whatever) with standard interfaces, then having the companies business be working on the upper levels: the stuff you have to see, since that's what you can pay somebody to work on.

Novell is taking such an approach, I believe, along with IBM. The issues with how to handle memory and the things that 99% of the people never see, let that get put out there so it becomes stronger. Faster. Better, and if nobody "owns" it, then everybody can use it to make their business better - fosters competition.

But your job is to provide the "service layer", such as with Novell/IBM admin tools to administrate those underlying pieces, or Apple giving you a nice "standardized" GUI where everything just works with the rock solid core.

These issues in the paper are not new - but they're the things that somebody, somewhere down the line, has to fork up for. And that's where I'm content to let a business pick up that slack and fill a product niche on top of Open Source software.

Granted, of course, they play by the rules, and let the rest of the community in on what they did so we can all benefit and get better.

Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Girls are icky. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853473)

Open Source software is written by boys, who know girls are icky and have cooties. So it is no wonder that they can't use it.

Where the article lost me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853474)

Abstract

Fundamental issues with open source software development by -> Michelle <- Right there.

Re:Where the article lost me... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853559)

Yeah, I can see how you wouldn't want to read further. How humilating would it be to have to admit that a girl wrote something that was above your head, you hunky pile of man-reasoning you.

Re:Where the article lost me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853604)

Damn straight.

MOD PARENT INSIGHTFUL (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853644)

Problems regarding accounts or comment posting should be sent to CowboyNeal.

I agree with this... (4, Insightful)

odano (735445) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853477)

I really agree with this. For example, there are a few software programs that I use and would like to recommend to people, but then I remember the long text based config file, or other small things that prevent the naive user from getting software working properly.

Little things like this make programming something about 10x easier (which is why most open source programmers do it, even I do it), but really do leave out the general public.

I mean look at the most popular open source programs (going by sourceforge). You have DC++, which has a beautiful interface, much better than its closed source counterpart (also more useful). You have Gaim, again designed with the interface and users in mind.

What is the common factor among the list? A pretty GUI. How many powerful console applications do you see up there? Very few.

The author definetly has a point.

Mozilla (4, Funny)

lorcha (464930) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853478)

Easy to use. Easy to install. Better than closed-source alternatives (no popups, no IE viruses). Last, but not least, passes the mom test. My mom successfully installed and is usining Mozilla. All by herself.

Now if I can only get her to quit forwarding me those retarded chain letters we'll be all set.

Re:Mozilla (2, Insightful)

Atmchicago (555403) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853633)

The author of article specifically says that Firefox is an exception to the general trend. However, she doesn't name what project X is, and as far as I can tell, uses a lot of vague, unproven arguments, such as the one bashing gnome and kde.

"If I'd put the same person on KDE or Gnome, they probably would have spent half of their time fighting their own intuition, and the other half wondering why they were being forced to sit in front of such a clunky desktop when their Windows XP computer worked so much better."

Prove it. It might be true, but this is just a supposition. I haven't participated in an open source project and have minimal programming skills, and I can find my way around quite well.

Backward Compatibility (4, Insightful)

winkydink (650484) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853479)

Open Source seems to ignore this whenever it becomes inconvenient to pay attention to it. Yes, there are exceptions. But it is not infreqeunt to encounter somethign akin to, 'users of verions prior to X.yz must completely redo a whole lot of things because we changed underlying structures'

Everyone is missing the point! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853482)

Linus Torvalds developed Linux while he was attending university in Finland. A decade later, Linux has gone nowhere but limited to geeks and obscure users.

Why has Linux not made it big time? The reason to this is because Linux developers and users do not have social lives, and most of them were beat up in high school for their interest in computers. I was a high school jock myself, and I spent a lot of time washing my school's geeks' faces in toilets and had them write my homework. The same tactic was used in college, where I managed to graduate with a 3.2 GPA all because of having someone else do my work.

Most of these geeks that I tormented in the past are now Linux developers, and the majority of them pretty much never leave their apartment except for work and maybe the odd family event, which is probably the closest they have to outside human interaction.

I currently work as a notable figure in state politics, and I make over $90,000 a year. Most of the now Linux developers I tormented barely make it past rent.

So quit trying to make Linux better, build some muscles, and get your once fellow kind to do your work, because if you do so, you'll end up like me.

Re:Everyone is missing the point! (0, Offtopic)

suckass (169442) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853629)

If you're so notable then why hide behind an AC post?

Re:Everyone is missing the point! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853673)

Use your head! RMS can't very well say he hates and blames Linus for taking the spotlight away from him in public can he? Just wouldn't be polite :).

(P.S. this is a joke, RMS is great :p)

Not unique to OSS... (5, Insightful)

wronskyMan (676763) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853487)

Developers focus on features in their software, rather than ensuring that they have a solid core.

This motivation is even more present for commercial apps; developers are asked to add every feature that somebody suggests in a focus group, etc. for better advertising - e.g, We have this feature and $COMPETITOR doesn't! Many of the Windows security scares have been due to poorly thought out features becoming bugs; for example, using ActiveX or VBScript to "spice up" web pages or Outlook's tendency to "enhance" emails by displaying HTML

Interesting points (5, Insightful)

LostOne (51301) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853494)

One thread I've noticed emerging in the comments here is that of "but non open source stuff has the same problems". Why should it matter if the non open source stuff has the same problems? If it's a problem at all, should it not be addressed?

After all, addressing a problem that other guys haven't is a good way to improve the chances of getting ahead.

Open Source future (1)

shawkin (165588) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853525)

The future of Open Source may depend on positively answering the question:
Oddly enough, the future of commercial software also depends on this question.

Can your grandmother make it work, use it and maintain it herself?

Fundamental problem with *much* of it, not all (1)

dn15 (735502) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853533)

There is truth to this with regard to lots of open-source software, but it isn't necessarily true of all. And these problems do exist for many other programs, both Free and non-Free.

Take Mozilla and OpenOffice, for example. In my experience they are just as usable and stable as other programs, commercial or otherwise.

I'd tend to believe it's more a problem of developer attitude. Although this is often an issue in open-source projects but does not necessarily have to be an inherent trait of OSS.

Re:Fundamental problem with *much* of it, not all (1)

dn15 (735502) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853566)

Oop! I forgot to edit my 'Although' out of the last sentence. :)

Re:Fundamental problem with *much* of it, not all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853658)

Moailla is a good example -- there was so much disastisfaction with the Netscape 4 wonkfest UI that FireFox was forked to fix the issue.

documentation (2, Interesting)

nizo (81281) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853534)

I assume the author isn't aware that the code often contains comments that can be helpful (especially if they are in some language you don't know). Seriously though, I wish universities would put their English students to work writing docs for the piles of open source software out there, rather than sticking them with meaningless brain-dead assignments. Get a grade, and do something useful you could even put on your resume, cool huh?

Good points, not just OS specific (4, Interesting)

FatRatBastard (7583) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853540)

The article brings up lots of good point that in general I don't have too many problems with, but frankly I don't see how most of these are FOSS specific. For every issue he highlights I can point to just as much closed source software that exhibits the same problems. I think the basic arguement behind all of this is a profit margin helps fix these problems, when in reality they don't. There's pleanty of closed source software that's counter intuitive, badly documented, bloated and doesn't do exactly what I want it to do, and there are examples in the FOSS world where the developers actually do care about the above issues.

I actually think these are exellent points to bring up about *all* software, as most, regardless of development methodology, suffer from one or more of these issues.

Good at cloning (2, Interesting)

taradfong (311185) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853547)

Open source projects consistently do a great job at replicating stuff that non-open source groups develop. GNU/Linux itself is more or less a remake of Unix. MySQL reimplemented SQL. Samba emulates Microsoft's protocol, etc. That's because coming up with and delivering completely new things is hard. It usually requires pain, and some really unpopular decisions which fly in the face of the Open Source culture.

Of course, this effect is amplified with UI/highly integrated applications. When text is the input and the output, it's easy to glue things together with grep/awk and automate with scripts. But the user interface with text is simple, clean and unchanged after several decades. A GUI app inherently begs for some kind of library because few can (or should!) code this stuff from scratch. Fine. Except how often are you happy with the baked-in stuff for all but the simplest apps?

So once you venture from text, you suddenly face the obstacles Microsoft has tried to fix with COM/DCOM/DDE/OLE/.NET/ATL/MFC and so on.

The disadvantage Open Source had vs. Corporate-ware (and I mean *had*) is that chaos erupts with no unifying thing to keep all the GUI and inter-app stuff in line. It seems that the distros are now becoming that unifying force. The downside is that it is getting hard to tell the difference between RedHat and Microsoft!

This is open source. Don't you get it? (1)

Ice Station Zebra (18124) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853548)

Using things like "Project X" is part of the problem. Just come out and say what the problem is and what the problems with it our otherwise trying to extrapalate your nit-picks with "Project X" to all open source problems is just going to fall on deaf ears.

We are waiting...

Re:This is open source. Don't you get it? (1)

Ice Station Zebra (18124) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853583)

I need a /. brain checker... The last problems should be projects.

Open Source Docs Really Do Suck (1)

johnnyfever (166279) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853560)

Almost without exception, the documentation is abysmal. I know, I know, so I should volunteer to help improve it. True, but a large arm of geeks would be needed to properly document every open source project! I don;t know what the answer to this one is, but it's a chronic problem....

Why people dont use open source. (1)

Iberian (533067) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853563)

I for one don't use open source because I loaded windows on my PC because it was easy and it is what I use at work. I would have no problem grabbing a linux distro and loading it on my computer but that would mean I would have to invest the time to learn it and to actually install it. The need to use open source just isnt there, windows provides all I need and I have the money to pay for it.

UI - again... (1)

donnz (135658) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853564)

Open Source projects seem to have a lot of trouble with user interface design

Whilst I understand the sentiments behind this may experience is that nearly all projects "under development" share this issue. In other words, not a whole lot of effort goes into UI until the fundamental technical issues are resolved.

In many ways this makes sense, why put a whole lot of effort into something that will only keep breaking during the main part of the build.

Of course, this focus needs to change at the stage the project is approaching production readiness - and often doesn't. But I certainly would not get hung up on UI during a development.

My question is (1)

thebra (707939) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853576)

the software is free, how can you complain? Pay for it if you want X feature.

Re:My question is (1)

The Bungi (221687) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853602)

We can add attitudes like yours to the list and have six fundamental problems.

Yeah, yeah.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853577)

"...There are still many things which software available for the Windows operating system does better than any present Unix-based system...."

And one thing Microsoft does better than anyone else is force you to accept an unacceptable EULA. Factor that in your evaluation, please. I will trade ease-of-use for freedom any day dude.

Problem #6 (1)

JebuZ (565392) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853596)

People constantly complaining that open source software hasn't dethroned Microsoft.

Who cares? Linux, and open source softare is not for everyone, but it does fill a need. If more people use it, great. If not, no harm done. Nothing that isn't done for profit should be considered a failure if it doesn't reach the general public.

article text: (posted AC to advoid Karma whoring) (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853598)

[firstmonday.org]
[slashdot.org]


Fundamental issues with open source software development by Michelle Levesque

Despite the growing success of the Open Source movement, most of the general public continues to feel that Open Source software is inaccessible to them. This paper discusses five fundamental problems with the current Open Source software development trend, explores why these issues are holding the movement back, and offers solutions that might help overcome these problems. The lack of focus on user interface design causes users to prefer proprietary softwares more intuitive interface. Open Source software tends to lack the complete and accessible documentation that retains users. Developers focus on features in their software, rather than ensuring that they have a solid core. Open Source programmers also tend to program with themselves as an intended audience, rather than the general public. Lastly, there is a widely known stubbornness by Open Source programmers in refusing to learn from what lessons proprietary software has to offer. If Open Source software wishes to become widely used and embraced by the general public, all five of these issues will have to be overcome.

Contents

Introduction [slashdot.org]
User interface design [slashdot.org]
Documentation [slashdot.org]
Feature-centric development [slashdot.org]
Programming for the self [slashdot.org]
Religious blindness [slashdot.org]
Concluding remarks [slashdot.org]

Introduction

Its my Open Source project and Ill code what I want to.

Over the past few months, Ive found myself charged with the task of taking an existing Open Source project (to avoid pointing fingers, lets just call it Project X) and customizing it for academic use. Though I wont claim to be an expert in the realm of all Open Source software programming trends, I have a lot of exposure to it: I consistently try to use Open Source technology whenever possible (I fully support the sociology behind the movement), Ive been a major player in a few small Open Source projects still in development, and I now have the experience of a few months of working on Project X. So despite not being an expert, I believe my opinion can stand as a relatively well-informed one.

I have five major complaints about Open Source [1 [slashdot.org] ] software development, but in advance I would like to clarify two things. First of all, there will always be exceptions to every rule. For example, I believe that relatively few complaints listed here apply to the Open Source browser Firefox [2 [slashdot.org] ] which continues to surpass my expectations. Im discussing general trends that Ive noticed, not specific cases. Secondly, I dont think that these are unresolvable problems. The purpose of this document is to raise awareness -- not to mindlessly complain -- in hopes that the Open Source community may begin to change their mind-set about some of these issues and work towards improving them.

That being said, Ive found the five most important flaws with Open Source software development to be as follows:

  1. User interface design [slashdot.org]
  2. Documentation [slashdot.org]
  3. Feature-centric development [slashdot.org]
  4. Programming for the self [slashdot.org]
  5. Religious blindness [slashdot.org]

User interface design

Project X comes with a neat interactive calendar. Just as youd expect, you can schedule events, share events with others, and resolve conflicts. However no one will ever know about it, because in order to see the calendar module, you have to know the URL of the module in advance: there are no links to it, aside from one that's buried several pages deep. Project Xs user interface is a nightmare. There are lots of little colourful tabs and the layout is certainly aesthetically pleasing, but its extraordinarily difficult to figure out how to do even simple tasks. Very little of the interface is intuitive, and some tasks you can't even use the GUI to accomplish: you have to manually edit the database.

For some reason, Open Source projects seem to have a lot of trouble with user interface design. A good example of this is the Mac OS X situation. Ive seen people with relatively little computer experience navigate around the OS X desktop for a few minutes, and then turn around and tell me that it flows very nicely and just feels nicer than what theyre used to. If Id put the same person on KDE or Gnome, they probably would have spent half of their time fighting their own intuition, and the other half wondering why they were being forced to sit in front of such a clunky desktop when their Windows XP computer worked so much better. Regardless of whether or not you think that KDE and Gnome are poor front ends (see Religious blindness [slashdot.org] ), Mac OS X has proven to be a much more usable, friendly, intuitive interface to a Unix back-end than anything that the Open Source community offers.

I suspect that there isnt one single reason for the poor quality of user interfaces, but here are some explanations Ive heard roaming the Open Source circles: geeks value integrity over beauty; the gender gap in Open Source communities; its intuitive to the programmers so why would they fix it? (see Programming for the Self [slashdot.org] ), the belief that a pretty user interface can always be designed later once theyre done the real work, the belief that user interface design isnt real work, and several others.

Many of these sound like very plausible causes, and I suspect that the true reason for user interface neglect is a combination of many of them. However, if the Open Source community wishes to truly prosper and have their tools used by the general public, it is fundamentally necessary for them to recognize that the majority of the users will never know that they happened to invent a particularly clever algorithm for synchronizing the multi-threaded editing of their complex data structure. What the user will see -- and what theyll judge the project based on -- is the user interface. If its inadequate, no one outside of other geeks will touch the program.

Documentation

Project X has fairly lengthy documentation, which isnt always the case in Open Source projects. Unfortunately, the documentation is for a deprecated version of Project X and they just slapped the newest revision number on the title. Also, it assumes that your system is configured exactly the same way that the documentation writers system was configured. You also need to be very experienced in system administration, and know how to manipulate the programming language its written in, because errors are going to occur that arent mentioned in the documentation, and youre going to have to know how to debug them.

Open Source projects tend to have a major problem with providing decent documentation -- if they provide any documentation at all. Because they dont have a contractual responsibility to provide this documentation, its usually intended to be a general guide rather than a complete manual that you could hand to a novice. Imagine what the following sentence looks like to someone who knows little about Unix and is installing it for the first time: You will need a list of MD5 checksums for the binary files. If you have the md5sum program, you can ensure that your files are not corrupt by running md5sum -v -c md5sum.txt. [3 [slashdot.org] ] The most common response to this complaint is if they cant understand it, theyre not ready to install it, but then how are they expected to learn? Documentation should always cater to the lowest common denominator.

Also, anyone who has ever had to debug a problem in Open Source software knows that the answers dont lie in Open Source software documentation: theyre found in Usenet articles, bulletin boards and chat logs. Users who cant figure out how to do something runs to alt.projectx.devel and asks the same question as hundreds of users before them. Some expert takes pity on their plight and responds to their question, but never documents this answer. So when the next user hits the same problem, the process has to be repeated. Additionally, this is making the fundamentally flawed assumption that users are capable of finding these alternative streams of communication [4 [slashdot.org] ], or that theyre patient enough and care about the product enough, to bother. Without adequate documentation, Open Source projects are inherently at a disadvantage.

Feature-centric development

Upon installing Project X, you have a powerful set of tools at your fingertips for accomplishing a wide variety of tasks, with dozens of impressive features associated with each of these tools. Unfortunately, upon installing Project X, your Unix groups break. During my numerous correspondences with the developers of the main fork of Project X, I was shown where to download patches for many of the problems in the Project X release, and reminded that although it still had some problems, Project X certainly had lots of cool features, didnt it?

At the very first lecture of the Software Tools and Systems Programming class that I took, we were carefully instructed that the best software tools are small programs that do one thing well and interface cleanly with the other tools. This sounds like a philosophy which is perfectly suited for the Open Source movement: if you have many contributers and they all create one (or several) small programs that do one thing well and interface cleanly with the other programs, a very clean and powerful system can come out of it. And I believe that this has been proven by the durability and longevity of the Unix operating system.

But somewhere along the line, I think that Open Source programmers forgot about these fundamental concepts. Feature creep began to set in (and for once it wasnt because there were clients that kept demanding more). Its the individual programmer who wants to add the feature to a project that enables the current 2D graph to be displayed in 3D (accessible by cellphone, pager, and instant messenger), and then make it work with any of keyboard strokes, button clicking, mouse gestures, voice command, and laser pointer awareness. Theres nothing exciting about being the programmer who cleans up some of the libraries by converting common code blocks into singular functions.

With so much emphasis on features and geek cred, fundamental aspects of a programming project go missing. This isnt always core functionality like it is in Project X. Sometimes its a lack of focus on the user interface (see User interface design [slashdot.org] ), documentation [slashdot.org] , coding standards, security, project direction, specified target audience (see programming for the self [slashdot.org] ), etc. Its highly unlikely that all of these are wrong within a single project, but I suspect that at least some of them are missing in most Open Source projects. And I strongly believe that this is because of the personal advantages of ignoring the mundane work and spending more time building the fun stuff [5 [slashdot.org] ].

Programming for the self

When I was first installing Project X, I hit a roadblock that I couldnt get around, so I took a leisurely stroll to the Project X IRC channel. After explaining my problem to the Project X developers, they helpfully provided me with several commands and file changes that immediately solved my problem. However, I would have never been able to discover these fixes on my own, until weeks later when I became much more familiar with the Project X code base. When I asked them how they expected new users to figure this stuff out, they shrugged and replied that it had always seemed fairly intuitive to them.

A very common problem among software developers (and not just ones working on Open Source projects) is the fallacy that intuitiveness is problem-specific rather than audience-specific: what is easy to them will naturally be easy to everyone else [6 [slashdot.org] ]. Therefore, they dont bother simplying anything that they regard as intuitive. This problem is particularly potent in Open Source projects due to members of the community investing time only in building what features they themselves would want to use (see feature-centric development [slashdot.org] ), and the fact that audiences are often not as well defined as they are in commercial software (because you dont have to literally sell to a specific group). Also, Open Source projects dont have the usability experts that commercial software projects may employ.

The result is that Open Source projects are made by programmers for programmers, who then cant understand why the general public would bother with proprietary software when this Open Source tool is working so well for them. Meanwhile, the rest of the world begins to associate Open Source with software thats only accessible to the technocratic elite.

Before the start of every Open Source programming project, a conscious decision should be reached about whether this projects target audience is other programmers or the general public. If its the latter, there should be a regular effort to ensure that all elements of the project are accessible to this target audience. Programming for the self is an easy trap to fall into, but one that needs to be avoided at all costs when its not applicable.

Religious blindness
All too often, people wear their technical affiliations on their sleeve (or perhaps on their T-shirts) -- Tim OReilly [
7 [slashdot.org] ].

Since the beginning of the hacker age, programmers of all types have been unfortunately intolerant and bigoted on technical issues [8 [slashdot.org] ]. So when it comes to devout Open Source programmers, there's a strong tendency to immediately reject all proprietary software and anything to do with non-Open Source programs. Because of the philosophical and sociological issues behind the Open Source movement, this resistance is particularly stubborn.

While this has the advantage of increasing Open Source software usage amongst programmers themselves, unfortunately it has the side effect of preventing the Open Source community from learning what proprietary software has to teach. Concepts invented in the world of proprietary software are automatically rejected on the assumption that theres nothing that could possibly be learned from those who are competing with their movement.

There are still many things which software available for the Windows operating system does better than any present Unix-based system. Rather than admit that Windows is ahead in some areas, the tendency is to just ignore those particular areas. Likewise, since Apple has had so much success with Mac OS X, the Open Source community should be investing significant amounts of time and effort into cloning Apples good work, rather than insisting that Gnome and KDE are just as useful.

Fighting for ones political stand is an honourable action, but refusing to acknowledge that there might be weaknesses in ones position -- in order to identify them so that they can be remedied -- is a large enough problem with the Open Source movement that it deserves to be on this list of the top five problems.

Concluding remarks

I believe that the Open Source movement has produced vast quantities of valuable software, as well as raised public awareness as to issues like open access and open content. The idea of freedom of information has been tied to the hacker culture since their beginning at the MIT AI labs [9 [slashdot.org] ], and remains an issue of much discussion today.

Open Source software is being increasingly used in developing nations, where the cost of proprietary software is too high, and by governments around the globe, who are resisting reliance on a proprietary company.

However, Open Source technology continues to remain foreign to the large majority of computer users. In order to accommodate these users, I believe that the five issues I mentioned must be seriously addressed and actively resolved. Due to the increases in Open Source usage, these changes should take place as soon as possible. They should be resolved before those sampling what Open Source has to offer decide to switch back.

Some of the issues resolvement would simply require a change of mindset, and some of them entail more work, but in the end what they would produce is what should always be the primary goal anyway: high quality software.

About the Author

Michelle Levesque is a researcher for the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies and a student at the University of Torontos Computer Science department. Her job includes designing and implementing programs to enumerate and circumvent state-imposed Internet content filtering. This past summer she and two colleagues traveled to Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico to study how computer technology -- especially Open Source technology -- can be used to benefit civil society in developing nations. The trip has been made into a documentary entitled Hacktivista.
Please direct comments to: ml@cs.toronto.edu [mailto]

Notes

1. In this paper, I use the general term Open Source, though often Im exclusively discussing Free Software. As well, when I use the term Open Source projects, Im usually referring to projects that have a contribution base wider than one or two individuals. Im also aware that some companies release Open Source versions of their software, and though I certainly appreciate their donation, Im excluding these Open Source projects in this particular papers definition of Open Source, as some of my statements do not apply to them. I made these generalizations for the point of simplification, and not for any political motivations.

2. Mozilla FireFox at http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/ [mozilla.org] , accessed 20 February 2004.

3. Debian Installation Manual, Chapter 3.

4. Reports from lots of users is unusual too; my usual rule of thumb is that only 10% of users have any idea what newsgroups are (and most of them lurk >90% of the time), and that much less than 1% of even Mozilla users ever file a bug. Nakakoji et al., 2002.

5. They just dont like to do the boring stuff for the stupid people! -- Bruce Sterling, 2002.

6. While hackers can be very good at designing interfaces for other hackers, they tend to be poor at modeling the thought processes of the other 95% of the population well enough to write interfaces that J. Random End-User and his Aunt Tillie will pay to buy. -- Eric S. Raymond, 1999.

7. OReilly, p. xii.

8. A Portrait of J. Random Hacker.

9. Levy, p. 7.

References

Debian Installation Manual, at http://www.debian.org/releases/stable/i386/ch-prep aring.en.html [debian.org] , accessed 20 February 2004.

Steven Levy, 1984. Hackers. New York: Penguin.

K. Nakakoji, Y. Yamamoto, Y. Nishinaka, K. Kishida and Y. Ye, 2002. Evolution Patterns of Open-Source Software Systems and Communities, Proceedings of International Workshop on Principles of Software Evolution, at http://www.kid.rcast.u-tokyo.ac.jp/~kumiyo/mypaper s/IWPSE2002.pdf [u-tokyo.ac.jp] , accessed 22 March 2004.

Tim OReilly, 1999. Forward, In: Jon Udell. Practical Internet Groupware. Sebastopol, Calif.: OReilly Associates.

Portrait of J. Random Hacker,&quot at http://info.astrian.net/jargon/A_Portrait_of_J._Ra ndom_Hacker/Weaknesses_of_the_Hacker_Personality.h tml [astrian.net] , accessed 20 February 2004.

Eric S. Raymond, 1999. The Revenge of the Hackers, at http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/opensources/book/ra ymond2.html [oreilly.com] , accessed 20 February 2004.

Bruce Sterling, 2002. A Contrarian Position on Open Source, at http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/network/2002/08/05 /sterling.html [oreillynet.com] , accessed 20 February 2004.

Editorial history

Paper received 1 March 2004; accepted 15 March 2004.

[slashdot.org] [slashdot.org]

Copyright © [slashdot.org] 2004, First Monday

Copyright © [slashdot.org] 2004, Michelle Levesque

Fundamental issues with open source software development by Michelle Levesque
First Monday, volume 9, number 4 (April 2004),
URL: http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue9_4/levesque/in dex.html

True about Open Source, but not because of it (1)

emtechs (770821) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853611)

I think that most the issues this paper puts forth are legit, and I would agree that many if not most projects suffer from them I don't think it is because the software is open source or free.

UI Design is deceptively hard (because it should seem simple in hindsight?) and the early versions of much commercial software suffers greatly in this regard as well. Why do some get better? Because people that matter complain. When paying customers gripe you have to fix it. When people try your software and then never use it again you may not even know why... This extends to documentation as well.

As for feature centricity and self-oriented programming they probably are straight forward results of people creating things because they want them themselves...

There is a fundemental difference in software that is written by people who want the end result and software that is designed, coded, tested and documentented by different people or teams. Maybe this should motivate those of us who use open source to give some better feedback to the authors!

Agree/Disagree (1)

sscottsci (222801) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853643)

I would agree with the common interface as an issue, since most Windows programs all look, and behave the same. Having stated that though, this is not true as Lotus Notes on Windows is not the standard GUI of Windows. The new Gnome and KDE interfaces are also changing the common GUI standard considerably for Linux (or other Open Source) all the time.

People have a natural dislike of the open source software I think as they have trouble obtaining and installing the software with little hassle. Downloads really need to be grouped together to ensure the proper libraries and associated files are installed on the computer. Backward compatibility with libraries might help too. Too often I have downloaded an open source program, to only have to go to 2 to 3 more sites to download the components needed to make it run. Sometimes, the newest component is not compatible so then I have more trouble getting it going. The separate components is great as it reduces duplication, frees drive space and ensures that the one file keeps all my applications up to date.

I do not think that the open source is worse off than proprietary systems, it is just sometimes too much choice results in bad choices by some people. If John Doe makes bad choices and can not get his software running, then all his friends that think he knows what is he doing suddenly thinks that the open source software is too hard to use and install. However, John Doe just had enough knowledge to be dangerous, but a large enough mouth to discourage others from trying. Some of the other people may not have made the bad decisions and would have the software running properly.

The #1 Issue... (1)

seanmcelroy (207852) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853646)

Really is, in my opinion, the lack of people newbie users can go and ask, "Well how do I do this?". If the resident experts were versed in more than the M$ products they are resident experts in, that might fuel its adoption, given the article's other points considered too.

Until companies can rely on unofficial, internal helpdesks in their local gurus, wide-spread adoption at the desktop level will be very gradual.

Religious Blindness? (1)

arevos (659374) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853647)

There are still many things which software available for the Windows operating system does better than any present Unix-based system. Rather than admit that Windows is ahead in some areas, the tendency is to just ignore those particular areas.

Don't people usually complain projects like KDE copy too much from Windows, or claiming OpenOffice is just a clone of Microsoft Office? And what about Mono?

I really can't seen much of a problem with open source projects not using ideas from proprietry software. Quite a few people would argue that they do this too much!

open source vs commercial development (3, Interesting)

l33t-gu3lph1t3 (567059) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853651)

The pitfalls mentioned in the editorial seem to be more common to open source projects than proprietary solutions, and I believe the issue may be with control.

With proprietary solutions, there are full indepth analyses of market need, product placement, user targeting, etc etc, which as far as I can tell, open source projects lack. The mentioned problem of documentation is a good example of this: if the target user is successfully identified, it should be obvious that unless the user is, himself or herself a programmer familiar with open source "documentation", a user guide covering every feature, behavior, and interface should be created. One software engineering practice (to which I subscribe to) is to create the user manual *before* coding the program, and not changing it unless there's a damn good reason.

Move along, nothing to see here (2, Informative)

mahdi13 (660205) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853652)

1. User interface design
2. Documentation
3. Feature-centric development
4. Programming for the self
5. Religious blindness

Same argument, different 'paper'
1. Improving and is nearly a non-issue these days
2. Documentation is more plentiful then most 'closed source' groups. If having less 'Dummy' books means less documentation, it's a negative I can live with
3. Doesn't MS Office count as a Feature-centric project? You can really put MSOffice in place of 'ProjectX' and it would sound the same
4. Sounds like a crappy project to me if the developers know of the problems but don't fix them.
5. There are lots of egotistical elitests, but I've noticed in the wild that there are less now then a couple years ago. If you punch everyone in the face and they all leave, don't be suprised when there is no one left to punch.

Overall it sounds like this guy had a bad experiance with A single project and decided to generalize it with all Open Source. I'd be nice to know what ProjectX is, then we all can get on them over it.

The Notes section seems to get the highlight of the paper.

Mistake in the first paragraph? (1)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853655)

I wasn't aware there was a sociology behind the "open source" movement, the Free Software movement yes but I thought "open source" was born out of practicality and not sociology...

Choice is killing us (1)

$lingBlade (249591) | more than 10 years ago | (#8853662)

I'm sure I'll get modded to the 7th circle of hell for this, but I think the problem with the open source community is choice. There's just too god damned much. Imagine you're in a mechanics shop, you're the mechanic and you need to adjust one itsy bitsy bolt on an otherwise trouble-free sports car, you open your toolbox drawer to discover every possible tool you could think of to get this one bolt tightened...

There's the old addage, just use the right tool for the job... yeah, what if ALL the tools are the right tool for the job? What then? Use any? Arbitrarily? Why is wrench m400 any better or worse than z767? What's the difference? They both tighten the bolt, they both do a good simple job of it, so why have so much fragmentation?

Granted this is a two wrench example... in the open source community (which I think should be renamed the Open Choice Community... because you've got nothing but choices) you've got soooooooo many options, it's mind boggling. Not so much to a seasoned admin or someone who knows a bit of everything or the zealots that claim superiority to anyone with so much as a simple question to why use one over another... it's mind-boggling for mom n' pop, and joe-six pack and so on down the line.

Too many ways of installing software, too many commands to choose from, too many ways of doing things and simply viewing data.

Now there'll be those that say I'm opposed to choice altogether and that I'm preaching for the "one ring to rule them all" mentality, that there should be one way to do things, one software vendor, one hardware architecture, etc... but that's NOT what I'm suggesting. I'm merely suggesting that we scale back some of the available choices that are out there in the Open Source community... when we pare things down a bit and get to the fundamentals, we could truly kick the ass of the money hungry, FUD spreading closed source competition.

I'm just voting for a balance between the MS way of doing things (their way) and the open source way of doing things (too many to list). We've got toolkits and window managers coming out our respective asses... and that's great for choice... but choice just for the damned sake of choice... is stupid, the choices should be brought down to "good" "better" "best"... brought from an objective point of view, or a standards board, or something/someone... there are bits and pieces of all the different toolkits, window managers and programming languages that are useful, neat, exciting and important... let's start taking the best of breed and really make a go of it.

That last part may sound a bit "rah rah" marketing speak for this crowd, but I'm serious, no sarcasm intended. Let the modding down begin.

What OSS project he work with ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8853666)

At first, this sounded very simular to a project I am working on. Then I relized there was a few things that our project doesn't have.

I did some searching, and the only project his name shows up in is GForge ... intresting, 2 references to this project on /. today alone :P

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