I just found this article from 2004 that reflects exactly on an issue I am writing about for Opensource.com (to be published shortly).
Open Source software is produced by programmers. Programmers are very different from the general public (a far greater proportion of programmers are intuitives than in the general public, for instance). This means that when programmers produce open source software, since they are largely scratching their own itch, they will tend to produce the software for themselves, and in particular be perfectly content with the (programmer-oriented) user interface.
If Open Source software is to make inroads into the general public, something will have to be done about this. The typical response to a complaint about a piece of open source software is “I’ll show you where the source is.” But by definition, the people with this particular itch won’t be programmers, and they won’t know how to fix the problem: the general public will have an itch they can’t scratch; the programmers won’t have that itch, and so won’t scratch it.
This means that if Open Source Software is to appeal to people that are not producing it, the programmers are going to have to start learning to scratch other people’s itches, or people who are able to mediate for the non-programmers are going to have to find a way to tickle the programmers, so that they will scratch it.
I just wrote to Steven and thanked him for writing this great post. He replied with a link to an article he wrote on the topic:
Unfortunately, his article is behind a paywall, so I can’t get to it. But good to know he has written more on the topic. He also did this W3C talk on the topic: