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:
Over the last so-many years, I’ve worked to put together many alliances and consortia, starting with the Open Source Streaming Alliance I co-founded in Amsterdam in 2000 or so with Drazen Pantic, Robert Geus, Jaromil and others, through to helping establish the Substance Consortium recently.
So, it shouldn’t be surprising that I’m involved in a new initiative to develop a new group, this time around open source and open science. The group is called The Open Source Alliance for Open Science. It was previously called ‘Open Source Super Friends’, which I preferred, but you win some and you lose some.
We are putting on a first event in Portland in May. It is invitation-only but you can request an invite here. We also have $ to sponsor travel.
The alliance is put together to help form a network of good-faith practitioners who wish to learn from each other to build a healthy ecosystem of tools and approaches to solving all the crazy problems in open science. My interest is in the ‘publishing’ (sharing) side of this, but when you get down to it, open science is, at its core, really a sharing issue. Open science is, in a sense, a publishing (small ‘p’) issue.
So if this is of interest to you, please apply. If you get turned down, it is probably because we consider you to be from an organisation that is not a good-faith actor in this sector. All proprietary projects fit that description, but also there are some open source projects out there that fit that description. If you are an open source project and get turned down, then I recommend you look deep inside your soul… you are being kept out for a reason.
May will be a busy month:
Well, it wasn’t today actually. It was when I was in Berlin (my fav city) a few weeks ago. I got this cool pencil with a sharpener on the end. It is all part of my great leap backwards. What is cool, is – I am actually using it. Y’know… now I’m getting increasingly out of the network, I start seeing these amazingly innovative new ways to do things …need to organise meetings? Use a (paper) calendar! Want to plan the rollout of new technology? Buy a cheap planning diary!
I know …I’m on the cutting edge. Analog scribal devices and reusable meaning-capture-surfaces. It’s the future (it’s my future at least…).