10 ways to make better open-source software

Want better open source? Here are 10 ways.

I really like this article that discusses 10 ways to make open-source software easier to use/more humane. Here are a few of the 10 (I'll leave you to the read the rest, all of which are insightful):

  1. Get a Benevolent Dictator
    Someone who has a vision for the UI. Someone who can and will say "no" to features that don't fit the vision.

  2. Write a Plug-In Architecture
    It's the only good solution I've seen to the dilemma of providing a complete feature set without bloating the application.

  3. User Testing, User Testing, User Testing!!
    Without user testing, you are designing by guesswork and superstition.

The author then traces through what a few successful open-source projects have done to figure out why they're so easy to use. He initially highlights Firefox, quoting Asa Dotzler:

From the very beginning of the Mozilla and Firefox projects, one of the questions we?ve always asked ourselves is "what's painful about the web" and then we went about finding ways to take away that pain. Tabbed browsing, integrated web search, pop-up blocking, session restore, software update, all of these features, and many more, were designed to make painful, difficult, or just plain sucky things a little bit less painful, difficult or sucky.

It's hard work to make things easy to use. This is perhaps one of the areas of innovation that software, generally, needs most desperately, and one of the top reasons that Apple has been so successful. For open source to continue to grow it, too, must become easier to use.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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