29 Nov 2002 moshez   » (Master)

Thoughts About Usability

I am a very introspective person. When I feel a certain way, I would like to understand why I feel that way. I have wondered why I am so often irritated by people talking about usability in free software. An example of such an article (and a fairly good one, at that) is available from the GNOME Usability Project. I was trying to understand what the core of my irritation with the article. Then I stumbled on this gem:

Most of us probably want people to operate our programs, we desire "users"

And then it hit me. I don't.

I honestly don't care whether people use my programs. I write them to solve a problem. If the problem later comes up for someone else, I will point them at the solution I wrote (or helped write). Then, if it works for them, fine. If it doesn't, they're free to hack on it until it does solve their problem. They can, of course, not use it at all -- in which case I will usualy dismiss them as idiots, because I've already solved the problem, and move on with my life.

The only usability I care about is mine. I want to be able to use the programs I write. If nobody else can use it, that's perfectly fine -- as Franky says in Rocky Horror Picture Show: "I didn't make him.... for you!" [and the callback: "but she gets him anyway"]. This sums up my feelings. I don't make programs for others -- but they get them anyway, because I am careful to license them freely.

All this, of course, doesn't mean I don't care about bug reports. I try to keep my code clean and bug-free as I can. But, if there is a disagreement about what the program should do, at that point I will turn a deaf ear towards my users.

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