[linux-elitists] Re: GNOME > you

Jeff Waugh jdub@perkypants.org
Fri Jan 2 21:52:45 PST 2004

<quote who="Chip Salzenberg">

> > > I think I get it now.  Gnome 1 was a second system where the "first
> > > system" was, more or less, the common GUI standards of the time, esp.
> > > Windows and CDE and to a lesser extent MacOS.  Its option-heavy design
> > > was a reaction against the perceived lack of user control in those
> > > GUIs.
> > 
> > See, if you want your clever little joke to be even more clever [...]
> Jeepers, Jeff, ease up a bit.  *You* posted the "we were totally insane"
> link to Gnome 1 option tabs.  If they weren't a reaction to the lack of
> such knobs in existing GUIs, what were they?

Hrm, well, you asked: Abject laziness, immaturity and lack of forethought.
We really honestly believed that software that was more flexible and had
more options was therefore more usable and "more free". Havoc Pennington -
who is the target of so much ire over this debate - in 1998:

  "IMO we should end the thread based on that; configurability is always the
  best choice when it's pretty simple to implement."


And to compare, here's a subthread started by me in 2002. One of the many
lengthy flamewars about our changing approach that starts with a specific
question, and goes haywire with people making "you want to remove every
preference!" abstract accusations.


So, this makes me want to ask you the ultimate question...

> > Oh, right, so you can make things simpler by cranking up the cognitive
> > effort required to operate and understand them?
> You miss my point.  In situations where that principle applies, the only
> cranking is *down* -- specifically, *dumbing* down of interfaces to the
> point where they don't present adequate control for a given purpose.  It's
> when the world is complex and the interface won't let you deal with that
> existing complexity.

... so what behaviours actually get in your way when you use GNOME 2.x? The
"it doesn't have any options" answer is wrong - I'm asking which behaviours
are not to your liking, or have detrimental effects on your use of the
system. What kind of things does your brain say "oh, ow, mum, I really need
an OPTION here"? Because those are the kinds of things we might sit back and
say, "right, so, that's actually the *wrong* behaviour" - *not* that it
needs yet-another-bloody-option. Does GNOME not "present adequate control
for [your] given purpose"?

Honestly, when I hear this kind of stuff, nine times out of ten I ask the
above question and the person says, "well, I don't use GNOME, I use fvwm or
WindowMaker". Which basically means they're having these great big abstract
"won't you think about the hackers" protestations about "dumbing down" (yes,
everyone uses that one), "lack of control", "few deciding for the many" and
so on... They can't actually express their specific usability hangups,
because they haven't even used it to any great extent anyway. Perhaps, once,
they started GNOME, looked around at the preferences and thought "oh sweet
baby jebus, this is not what I am used to, I'm never getting out of this
alive!" Not really a good platform for serious debate about the merits of
our approach to usability.

Here's some reading references:

  "Free software and good user interfaces"

  "The Inmates Are Running the Asylum"

  "About Face 2.0: The Essentials of Interaction Design"

- Jeff

linux.conf.au 2004: Adelaide, Australia         http://lca2004.linux.org.au/
           What do you get when you cross a web server and a hen?

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