GNOME’s Cultural Reboot

January 12th, 2005

Seth Nickell has written a very interesting article over at GNOME Journal: Experimental Culture. He argues that the focus on usability has had a very real and beneficial impact on the GNOME project but this change has come at the expense of creativity. Developers are afraid to experiment because experimentation is often coupled with half-baked implementations and unclean code - things which the current ‘usability is holy - keep things simple’ culture of GNOME is rabidly against. He goes on to say something very perceptive:

There are a number of interesting projects going on right now with various degrees of experimentation (beagle, luminosity, tomboy, gDesklets, etc, etc). Some of the related/peripheral communities in GNOME are already much better at this, notably the pygtk and gtk# communities. On the one hand, its easier to prototype software in python and C#. But another effect might be that by and large people writing in these areas aren’t thinking about “how do I get this in GNOME”, if only because of the still extant natural resistance to non-C applications in core GNOME. It leaves people more free to experiment. That in turn promotes a culture in these communities that is open and encouraging of experimentation.

Seth’s also written a kinda postscript to this article on his blog where he talks about design being the new focus as opposed to usability. I hope these pieces gets a wide audience, not just in the GNOME community but the Linux development community at large.