On his latest post about Linux usability, St. Hermann replies to Andres Solomon’s comment about the typical Linux developer’s mentality and how users choose their favorite distros.
It has been shown (through blogs, mailing lists, etc) before that the typical Linux developer (here I’m mostly refering to application developers/maintainers) will often feel irritated if someone doesn’t follow the proper protocols for giving him feedback… Let me say this again so not to leave any doubts: Some user finds some application/code appealing to their need and wants to provide the author/maintainer some feedback, in order to improve said application/code… and the author/maintainer gets offended by it! All because someone who, chances are, is not very computer savyy and doesn’t know how to “properly” file a bug. This is the equivalent of a mechanic feeling offended when someone pulls up to their shop with a broken car but who cannot explain all the mechanisms involved in the ignition system! “No, I won’t fix your car because you don’t know how to explain the problem in a way I can understand!”
I believe I have touched upon this subject here before… Being a programmer, I have had my share of unpleasant feedback from clueless users who did not really understand the internals of my application but insisted that it played “pump up the jam” whenever their process was finished! But I also have had the pleasure of dealing with people who actually took the time to not only ask lots of questions about my applications, but were also able to contribute with excellent feedback! I know I could have ignored the clueless user and only cared for the feedback I deemed “appropriate” or that allowed me to “scratch my own itch.” The moment I turned my application into the free, open source world, like it or not, I become responsible for it. If I can’t handle dealing with my users, then maybe I shouldn’t ask for feedback… or add a disclaimer in bold letters stating “USE AT YOUR OWN RISK! IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT OR IF IT IS BROKEN… THEN DON’T USE IT!!!”
Those involved with maintaining linux distributions need to understand that their often non-remunerated hobby is not a hobby anymore! Ubuntu gets it! Their community gets it and it shows… everywhere… their forums… IRC… More and more people have switched over to Ubuntu because the end user IS the most important piece of their puzzle! Eventhough I have installed programs from source, compiled and modified my own kernel, and am always using the command shell for my daily needs, I think that an OS should just work out of the box! I should not have to understand anything about device drivers in order to use my new wifi card on my laptop! I have absolutely no interest in the matter besides the fact that I need it to do my job… There are other people however, that will drool with excitement at the thought of working on device drivers!
Linux is not for the l33t only anymore! I remember when I first heard of Linux, the thing that stuck with me was the ability of being able to customize it to my needs and liking. It turns out I am a developer and I can do just that! But what about the hundreds of thousands of Linux users out there who only know how to browse the web and send email? Shouldn’t their voices be heard when they try give back to the community with their feedback??? Isn’t Linux about giving people choices?
Ubuntu has become my distro of choice and I highly recommend it to anyone… newbie or seasoned user! It works! And users are taken care of, no matter what their level of computer “expertise” is.
Update: I was kindly corrected by St. Hermann, the blog author. It was his reply to Andres Solomon’s comments and not vice versa. :)