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Mark Shuttleworth's Radical Vision - page 2

Insane Persistence

  • October 1, 2009
  • By Carla Schroder
Mark is big on design:

"If we really want to make a difference in this world, in the consumer world, we have to write software that can compete with the best-designed software out there....

"We have to figure out how to... deliver stuff that is usable, and consistent, and fits users' brains. We have to figure out how to start software development with a very strong view of design, of user expectations."

He thinks to achieve this that developers would benefit from working with professional designers and usability experts. This collaboration needs to start early, before difficulties are hard-coded into the program:

"APIs and middleware make a huge difference to what's possible in the user experience. Guys say "Look, I work in the kernel, I do device drivers, I don't have to worry about user experience." But decisions made in the kernel can have an enormous impact on what's possible in the user experience."

So he says we're great at making software for experts, but have some way to go for making it usable and accessible to non-experts. Being plagued with multiple wi-fi stacks is an example of problems and poor user experiences starting from the lowest level. (Thanks to John Linville and the rest of the wi-fi team we now have a shiny new integrated wi-fi stack that works beautifully for users and developers.)

"We have to think carefully about quality. The code may be high-quality, it may be rigorous and robust and handle exceptions and errors really beautifully...but is really quality if what you've done is made it almost impossible for the end user to have a good experience, if the end user wasn't sitting right next to you?"

He closed with an invitation for anyone who wants their software reviewed by professional designers.

Those are just the key points, and I think it is well worth listening to the whole talk a couple of times, because these are radical concepts for the the herd-of-cats world that is Linux/FOSS.

Unfortunate Comments

Several gaffes nearly spoiled this talk for me, and I shall never be able to hear the word "releases" again without feeling a bit nauseated. Free tip to speakers and keynoters: Include your whole audience when you talk to them, especially when one of the themes of your talk is collaboration, community, and expanding the contributor and user base. Avoid stupid jokes. Stick to the subject. Thank you.

For those who are curious, please refer to:
Mark Shuttleworth's Community Has No Women

On keynotes and apologies

Explaining to girls

Sexism Debate

Carla Schroder is the author of the Linux Cookbook and the Linux Networking Cookbook (O'Reilly Media), the upcoming "Building a Digital Recording Studio with Audacity" (NoStarch Press), a lifelong book lover, and the managing editor of LinuxPlanet and Linux Today.

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