[Desktop_architects] Printing dialog and GNOME

Christopher Blizzard blizzard at redhat.com
Tue Dec 13 12:58:18 PST 2005

On Tue, 2005-12-13 at 10:10 -0800, Linus Torvalds wrote:
> On Tue, 13 Dec 2005, Havoc Pennington wrote:
> > 
> > Just to be pedantic for the record, when someone bothered to get the
> > real facts the feature in question was not shot down in the name of
> > usability.
> > 
> > Neither was the WM feature you brought up (and I can attest to that
> > one with 100% certainty since I would have done any shooting down that
> > did or did not happen)
> Does it matter _why_ gnome is inflexible? Not really. The "real reason" 
> seems to depend on who you talk to, but that doesn't change the underlying 
> fact.
> And the fact is, everybody uniformly seems to agree that gnome isn't 
> customizable. Whether the reason is "usability", "avoiding clutter", "I 
> couldn't get it to work" or anything else. Even you seem to agree, you 
> just don't agree that it's needed.
> And quite frankly, regardless of whether you agree or not, the 
> overwhelming evidence is that gnome eschews user configuration. A number 
> of things aren't configurable at all, and others are (I'm told) 
> configurable by editing some regedit like magic file that even gnome users 
> are afraid of.

I suspect that what you see as a raging hatred for user configuration is
instead just a symptom of what we consider important in GNOME.  We are
willing to prioritize "working well out of the box" and "consistent and
easy to use" over user configuration.  So that particular set of
features just never bubbles up to the top.  As near as I can tell it
just is a question of priorities.

That doesn't mean that we don't need to fix printing, and the printing
dialog - we still do.  But it means that fixing printing is probably
going to take a higher priority than adding new features to the window
manager. :)

> > Is your proposed guideline here that if any alternative OS/WM has a
> > feature, GNOME has to have it? If not, which "flexibilities" do you
> > consider important? How do you decide? That's the guideline I'm asking
> > you to think about and suggest here.
> The very fact that you even _ask_ is telling.
> The fact is, developers don't know what their users are going to need. 
> That's a very fundamental issue in any software engineering. The other, 
> almost as fundamental issue, is that asking users is usually not very 
> productive either, because (a) different users will give you different 
> answers and (b) users often don't even know.

In terms of things that are telling, I think that this is the most
telling paragraph that describes why you guys are yelling at each other.
It sounds like you're saying something like "you can't predict what
users need" and we're saying "you can predict what users need - just not
all users everywhere for all time."  Is this the fundamental difference
here?  I'm not sure, still digging around for the root cause.

In any case, this is a different question that hasn't been asked here,
and one that I think people are stumbling over and that is "what are the
effects of design decisions on the size of an open source-based
community where choice is more important than design focus?"  I suspect
that given that question I would expect that the KDE community would be
larger, but less focused on a single vision.

> But the fact that users and developers don't know does NOT mean that 
> customization is bad. Quite the reverse. It means that defaults make 
> sense, but since you don't know what they'll be doing, you should always 
> strive to have ways to let _them_ make the choice when they have some 
> reason the default doesn't agree with them.

I kind of agree with this statement, but I think it's overused to
justify all kinds of nonsense and avoid good system integration.


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