Geeks & Enthusiasts
To sum it all up: OSS developers should learn to live with the fact
that their software is no longer exclusively used by geeks and
enthusiasts– and if they cannot cope with this, then clearly state
that your software is a hobby project– this will save a lot of hassle
and takes away the ground under the feet of ordinary users complaining
and whining over features.
The funny thing is that smart developers use interaction design
methods (such as ethnographic observation) and customer feedback in
order to set the roadmap based on user needs.
A “hobby project” would use all the random stuff geeks and enthusiasts
say on mailing lists to set the roadmap, because hobby projects
confuse mailing list posters with users, and Internet noise with data.
I offer the following definition of geek/enthusiast: you read
Slashdot, OSNews, eXpert Zone, Planet GNOME, this blog, or anything
else of that nature. Yes, this means you. No, you aren’t “an
ordinary user.” Sorry. Neither am I.
Does anyone else see the hypocrisy in posting to a mailing list with
the single canonical list of features that are absolutely necessary
to succeed on the desktop (if I had a nickel for every one of
those…); and then getting pissed when an “arrogant” developer has
their own opinion about the top priorities. How can developers who
have been working on the desktop for years, understand the resource
and technical tradeoffs, have access to direct customer feedback, and
so forth; possibly know more than J. Random Slashdot Reader;
J. Random, after all, is an ordinary user.
One reason Red Hat split Fedora from RHEL is that geeks/enthusiasts do
indeed have different priorities than the general population of paying
customers. This is even more true for desktop than it was for
server. In fact it’s kind of a defining feature of geeks/enthusiasts
that they aren’t paying customers, because they want to do it
themselves. People who pay are people who want a company to make it
work for them. So we split the OS to do two different things for two
I don’t think developers are always right or even usually right. But
they are more likely to be right than a mailing list thread or web
Your average Linux distribution has at least 50% of its effort and even
code size aimed at geeks and enthusiasts. If I were making a strict
desktop distribution, you’d see sendmail gone, the terminal gone,
Emacs gone, compiler gone, I bet I could even get rid of /bin/bash
eventually. And the product would be better for desktop users because
of the resulting focus and technical flexibility.
(This post was originally found at http://log.ometer.com/2005-03.html#11)