I got some good comments on my last post. Let me try to clarify what I was trying to say, because I don't want to be misunderstood as being denigrating toward users:

Make something beautiful, and make it available. The users will come, and from the users, contributors will rise. That's what sustains a project like KDE. The users are not the end goal, IMO, but they are an important part of the feedback cycle that gives us a healthy and active community of contributors.


Your goals come off as selfish and very developer-centric. I suppose this is a luxury that an open source model provides. I fully understand your desire to operate in a utopian contributor community, but I sincerely hope KDE as a group has the wherewithal to keep attitudes like yours on the development level and put some people with some marketing expertise on the management level, for the sake of our beloved project.

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Users are the goal.

By twerq at Fri, 06/27/2008 - 15:24

> Users are the goal.

But why? I honestly don't understand. Beyond the value of a userbase as the incubator for new contributors, what is the benefit to maximizing the number of users? Why should it be any bother to us if most people decide they would rather use Gnome, OSX or Vista? We aren't a corporation, we don't need to compete for marketshare to survive. We need a mindshare, as I have already (repeatedly) stated, to keep a healthy population of contributors. But if we have that, I'm happy.

Put it this way: I think my program KStars is pretty popular, but really, I have no idea how many users I have. How would I know? The numbers I know are the number of people who email me thank-you notes, or who blog about KStars, or who file bug reports, or post on our message boards. In other words, I cannot even be aware of users until they have chosen to be active; i.e., until they decide to become contributors. For the rest, I suppose it's gratifying to know they're out there, but as long as they remain totally invisible, wherein lies their value to the project? I just don't get it, I guess.

Maybe this whole argument is a mismatch between our definitions of "contributor". To me, anyone who moves beyond simply using the software I am calling a "contributor". That could be as simple as sending me an email, or as large as joining the team of developers. Any activity means you've joined the community, in my view.

I'm interested to hear your reply.

KStars: A desktop planetarium for KDE

By Jason Harris at Fri, 06/27/2008 - 16:33

Sooooo this is entirely subjective, and not directly related to KDE or KStars, and really what we're doing here is comparing two totally different ways of looking at a software project.

> > Users are the goal.
> But why? I honestly don't understand.

1. Users make your software better.

To me, better software means
- Operating more quickly and efficiently
- Meeting the common needs of an more diverse set of people
- Being easier to use and at the same time more powerful and effective
- Operating more reliably on more varied hardware

I understand that "better software" might mean something different to you.

2. So few users end up becoming contributors (svn commits) that you need as wide a userbase as humanly possible in order to build a team big enough to excel at the above points.

3. You, as a developer, exist to support your software, not the other way around.

By twerq at Fri, 06/27/2008 - 22:28

> > > Users are the goal.
> > But why? I honestly don't understand.
> 1. Users make your software better.

twerq, I think you need to read what I have actually written, rather than what you think I am saying. If you do, you'll see that our entire argument stems from the fact that we are using different definitions for "user" and "contributor".

I have said repeatedly that I consider any user who takes action beyond silently using the software to be a "contributor", and therefore part of the pool of people that KDE needs.

Now, you say "Users make your software better". By my definition of the term Users, this is simply not possible! The feedback loop with my invisible users is not closed, so they cannot have any effect on the software. If they do take action that leads to making the software better, then they are a contributor, by definition! I hope this is clear.

> 2. So few users end up becoming contributors (svn commits)

Yes, you see? You imply that your definition of "contributor" requires svn commits. That is completely unlike what I mean when I say "contributor".

You need to recognize that the outrage you are feeling is simply because you thought I was saying something that I never said. I suppose in retrospect I should have said "active community members" instead of "contributors".

good day!

KStars: A desktop planetarium for KDE

By Jason Harris at Sun, 06/29/2008 - 05:36

Yes, I guess everyone is misunderstanding Jason's definition of a user. A user, as defined by Jason, is an absolutely passive user.

I think we do need users, to increase the rate of conversion into contributors :)


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By jackascii at Sat, 07/05/2008 - 12:11

If users (customers, insert your analogy here) aren't the end target of your code/software/product (again, insert analogy here), then I think the community at large is simply confused, not by the uselessness of the user, but of the uselessness of the coder/code.

In other words, what is the intrinsic value of the software? What is it's purpose? *Why* is it being written, if not to be used? And what do we call someone who might use it? ;-)

*Who* do you actually have in mind to *use* it, and why?

The problem lies in that, and please do correct me if I'm wrong, that in your personal opinion, zeros and ones are in and of themself the purpose and goal. Anything that adds more zeros and ones is a positive. That which does not add zeros and ones in a meaningful sequence is not logically necessary for these zeros and ones to exist. The entire point of the whole game, for you, is to facilitate this.

For most of the rest of us, we're looking to use the software. To us, we place a different intrinsic value on the code. The code is superb, and done to a skill level very few of us possess, which is why you devs are the rock stars of our community. That "community" being users ;-)

Those users whose only purpose is to meaningfully disrupt a project need to be handled with skill. Agreed. But if (and Goddess help us if it ever does) it ever comes to the point where all that's left of F/OSS is a mutual developer masturbation-fest, devoid of anyone actually *using* it, it'll be attitudes like this that history notes.

Not to downplay the *vital* importance of recruiting more developers from the userbase. It's obvious you're all working yourselves down to the bone.

But first dismissing your userbase as completely and utterly insignifigant, and then, as damage control, "promoting" them to a necessary evil of fistank status from which you might land help isn't, well, helping.

Note that I'm not one to complain - I've just never quite felt so insulted or patronized.

By khensucat at Thu, 07/03/2008 - 07:57

What is KDE's current vision? According to KDE's homepage, "KDE seeks to fulfill the need for an easy to use desktop for UNIX workstations, similar to desktop environments found on Macintosh and Microsoft Windows operating systems."

Who is the target of the codebase, then? Who should be listened to? The picky-and-poisonous mainstream users or the primadonna devs with their own itches (fame, weird needs, etc) to scratch?

They are all valid, if stereotyped-for-the-sake-of-example, choices but if you tell me that "users don't matter, except as a source of potential devs", then I, as a consultant to multiple SMBs, see a divergence from the overall mission of KDE and cannot, without doubt, recommend KDE to companies because they cannot rely on having their needs met.

"Build it and they will come" may work in Hollywood, but in real life you have to understand your target, your point B.

If mainstream users are the end goal, then are you satisfying your mission. If not, and mainstream users are not the end goal, what is?

By alphadog at Thu, 07/03/2008 - 13:51

Jason makes a valid point when he says he wants users who can become contributors. This, in my opinion, expands the user-base, and helps keeping the community alive and moving forward. If we look at users as people who just use, well they are like what torrent might call leeches. But, again, if you are creating a superior product (for free), you cant stop people from using it, and it seems you might like them to stop, and if not stop, not to recommend it to other leeches. And, in making it easy, you are helping people like many of our parents, to be able to use their computers easily, and safely. I am a developer, unfortunately, I can't contribute in a coding way as I don't know anything in the whole desktop field, and my interests lie elsewhere. I believe it is interesting and I try to raise bugs if I find any. I raise them at openSUSE site or at kde site, whoever I feel might be able to use the information better. I don't know if that makes me a contributor, but I dont know if I have the expertise to be a contributor. My dad, I can't even imagine trying to raise a bug as he is just not comfortable enough with computers. I hope he is with time. What do I qualify as? A leech or a contributor?

By shishirverma at Sun, 07/06/2008 - 19:24