[linux-elitists] Re: Yet another mozilla atrocity

Jesse Hutton jhutton@eden.rutgers.edu
Wed Oct 8 17:30:19 PDT 2003

On Wed, 8 Oct 2003, Tanner Lovelace wrote:
> Jeff Waugh wrote:
> > The only issues you've raised have been abstract. Karsten has raised
> > practical issues (but hasn't been receptive to calm discussion about
> > them). So, yes, I think your point of view on the abstract issues you've
> > raised is wrong and underinformed (but that's okay, you don't seem
> > particularly interested anyway), and you have said that you can't provide
> > any insight into any practical issues.
> >
> > So, I'd prefer to be discussing the practical points with Karsten, really.
> I'm sorry, did I mistakenly wander into the gconf mailing list?
> Because I thought this was the linux-elitists mailing list.   Where
> else can you discuss abstract issues, if not here?

Since there seems to be such a thick communication barrier in place here
that is preventing the free flow of information, I'll translate: What Jeff
means is that your concerns (and the same might be said of Karsten, as he
isn't a gnome user either) are not founded on anything real or practical.
You don't use the system, and/or you have had no practical experience with
the system, so how could you know whether or not Gnome is limiting too
much configurability? Everything you're arguing is based on heresay. In
other words, you haven't raised *any* real points to address, only what
seem to be positions of principle (and which may or may not apply to
anything Gnome related) -- 1) that it is a mistake to limit configuration
options; 2) that non-coders can design good programs and configuration and
desktop integration systems too; and 3) that "users" like Karsten (who
obviously would *not* touch Gnome's "brain damage" with a ten foot pole)
are being dismissed out of hand (and worse, ridiculed) because they hold
different opinions than Gnome developers (and supporters).

As for 1), it simply is wrong if you want to end up with a sane, robust
system (especially when you're still relatively near the early stages of
development--I not familiar with the details, but I know that Gnome 2
was a *significant* rewrite of many of the lower level things).
Specifically, because configuration options add complexity
to programs, making debugging harder, all the while much of this
complexity makes for a klutzy, awkward configuration interface, even if
it's searchable. What if you're not a computer expert and don't already
know about every option you could possibly desire and therefor what's
relavent to search for? Or, what if you just don't care to wade through
what seems a bit excessive for configuration crap? Such interfaces can
be cumbersome. A rationally chosen and well orgainzed set of options can
be a good thing (tm), which also allows for better, more natural
configuration *behavior* (such as dynamically updatable options, etc).
This added complexity of a billion options can also make a problematic
scene for choosing a default behavoir as well. None of that makes for a
GUI that feels very well done.

2) is largely bullshit, i.e. do we have and takers for "non-architects
who can design good skyscrapers" or "non-aviation experts who can design
good airplanes," such that you or anyone else with their head screwed on
tight would risk their skin within one of these structures? Barring the
exceptional and rare creative joe who can come up with sensible solutions
for specific technical problems, I think it's clear that you have to
actually know something about the mechanics and implimentation details of
something in order to come up with a really great design. And, for my
money, Gnome is doing that better than anyone else right now (99.5% of my
experience over the last few years has been with free software
interfaces, however).

Finally, I think 3) is off base, because if you read back a little in the
archives you will see that it is not Jeff that has been putting up all
the f*cking attitude (though some of his comments are a bit humorous).
Martin wrote a somewhat long and informative introduction to some of the
problems interface designers must reckon with (unless they choose to
ignore them, of course), and the most thoughtful responses from the
Gnome-detractors were "weel, I don't see the problem with just doing such
and such," and "*FLEXIBILITY*", and "all we need is a little bunch of
libs to take care of that," etc. Can you see why such arguments are so
week if you have nothing solid, namely code (perhaps just an outline of a
design?), to back it up with? Note that we're not just talking about what
most users prefer about the look and feel of program interfaces (where
the buttons are, which options are presented, how well everything is
organized, etc), but the technical problems (at least talking *of*
them, as in of their existence) involved in the configuration and
functionality of the interface. There is a difference: I may know when
I get that nice, tingly sensation because an app seems like a particularly
well done tool--and, conversely when I don't like a program
interface--and that is great. More power to me. But that doesn't mean that
I'm qualified to criticize the design decisions that were made for its
functioning "under the hood," and for which I have no real competence.

> development list, at least as far as I can tell, so trying to
> act like it is after you've consistently failed to address any
> of my points just seems to show you don't really have any answers
> to my questions.  Perhaps you just didn't understand them and
> that's why you think they're "wrong and underinformed".
> Oh, and I personally don't believe anyone here will be able to
> provide you with any "insight into practical issues" with the
> attitude you've displayed (i.e. that of everything that disagrees
> with me must be wrong).

All that is being asked for is *how* exactly is Gnome limiting the user
too much? For example, are there any particular issues of configurability
that you're dealing with? (uhhh...no, since you're _not_ a gnome user) Any
particular programs? *That* would be the appropriate ("elitist") thing to
do on this list, speak of details not hearsay. However, there has been
almost no mention of anything beyond, "the gnome user interface no longer
has us enough switches to play with to satisfy the most gagity among us
and it's too restrictive," "they have changed a whole bunch of underlying
stuff for *no good reason* (thwarting application developer efforts),"
and "DAMNITALL, I can't edit my conf files by hand anymore!!"
(paraphrasing or otherwise "reading between the lines").

> Cheers,


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