Is Open Source a diversion from what users really want?


Very interesting!

I wonder if going forward, large-scale apps like Ardour ought to (as Reaper did relatively early in its life) consider the “script extension system” to be a vital and critical part of the application infrastructure. This would mean, for example, writing large parts of “core functionality” using this system, rather than dropping back into C++ to get things done.

This goes on to talk about Emacs which is interesting.

Forcing the “core” developers to, as the saying goes, “eat the same shit” as regular users forces them to focus their attention on the quality of said “shit”. Removing the need to rebuild the application after most changes opens the application to contributions from people who cannot deal with (1) the idea of compilation and/or (2) the reality of compilation.

I’m involved with TiddlyWiki which has a similar issue — massive end user programming but a core that is very hard to grok, so few core developers.

Extensibility to users — and plugin development — feels a lot more like freedom than source code for sure.

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I came away with a really positive impression of the author. There’s a lot of honesty here, as well as a lot of openness. Clearly someone trying to hear the people using their software.

I think the TL;DR here is that Ardour is open source under the GPL, but users seem a lot more interested in full-powered scripting—which proprietary competitors have—than in learning C++ and navigating the build process.

Personally, this reminded me of a conversation I had with Mako Hill a while back, about early competition among web browsers. I remember it being really important to me that Opera and K-Meleon offered more configurability and extensibility than Internet Explorer or Firefox. I liked open source, and wrote quite a bit of compiled software back then. But I never actually “hacked” a browser, other than through the configuration settings and APIs it exposed to end users.

The guiding light for me really has become service. Find some people you want to help and help them. Listen to what they have to say.

There is a real danger in accepting some story or ideology that tries to speak for users. Especially one that tells you what users want is the same as what you want.


This is at the core of HCI research. You follow where the users go, not where you want to go.

I wasn’t sure how to respond to the post, to put it into words what I thought but yes, they were so focused on the language and the license of the codebase that they missed the bigger picture of what the users thought processes and workflows actually were.

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There are some kinds of software where I refuse to use non open source applications. I’m thinking primarily of backup / archival software. Whether I know how to build it or not, whether I intend to contribute or not, I don’t want to be left high and dry with backups made a long time ago.

Of course, there is no guarantee that any open source application will carry on for years but the door is left open, at least.