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A critical view on open source

Michelle Levesque, a scientist at the Citizen Lab of an Kanadian University took a deeper look at a bunch of open source projects.

The key sentence "It's my Open Source project and I'll code what I want to." displays a common problem (is it?) of open source software projects. Most software developed by an open source community is initiated and supported only by developers and there for only intended to be used by developers. If the project comes to a stage where it gets used by endusers (e.g. KDE, Gnome, OpenOffice.org,...) the developers have to take care of them, too. This has to result in what the article linked above states in the 5 most common issues:

  • User interface design

  • Documentation

  • Feature-centric development

  • Programming for the self

  • Religious blindness

The analyses states very well, which problems open source software faces, if they come to an end-user-near stage. Most developers give a shit on the user interface of their application and what a technically unexperienced user expects from it. IMHO this issue is not so present in the above stated projects (KDE, Gnome, OOO) but in many other tools, especially on Linux.

Documentation is another fairish point. Developers are used to dig through masses of mailinglist archives and read tons of technical docs to find a solution for the problem they have. But is an end user??

But take your own picture on what Michelle has experienced in open source projects and feel free to leave a comment here. I believe, that mainly the documentation is a huge issue the community (and for example PEAR) has to face if their products should become competitive. If they don't, leave everything as is, but is that the sense of our work?

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