Saturday, March 7, 2009

Just an Artist without a Canvas.

About 3 weeks ago I posted a question on a user form at The question was whether or not a particular widget (the Canvas) was being actively supported and, if not, how to replace it's functionality.

After 3 weeks I've had 125 looks, but no answers.

The problem is that it's not really a technical question, it's more of a "which direction is Gnome going" type question. A regular user can't answer it. It requires an opinion of someone higher up in the Gnome hierarchy. Apparently they're not reading the forums. is the official support forum for Gnome. We need for people higher up to scan these boards once in a while or Gnome is going to suffer from "user rot". If we don't know Gnome's direction, we waste time going in the wrong direction. If it's wasted time, then why spend it on Gnome when I can be productive somewhere else?

We seem to be falling into the "self maintaining user-base" fallacy. It's been growing pervasive in many projects in the past few years.

It goes something like this: Because users can share information, developers need only provide a platform for sharing and the users will take care of themselves.

Um, that don't work. Some questions can only be answered by the developer or someone who has a big picture view of a project. A user can't tell another user the "correct" way to do some things unless they've received the word from someone higher up.

I'm not saying that the people running Gnome should spend all day monitoring the user forums, that's petulant and wastes developer's time. However, someone with access to the top, should check the forums for questions that have been in the queue for more than a few days and don't have answers. The questions that aren't being addressed by other users should be looked over and, if relevant, kicked up to the next level.

There should also be someplace where people can have limited access to high level Gnomes (Uber-Gnomes?) to ask "big questions". Things like "I'm thinking making Fortran bindings for Gnome, does anyone else think that's awesome?" or "I don't like sound server X, let's write a replacement." or "Hey Uber-Gnomes, what do you think is most needed in Gnome?"

The place would need to have the participation of the higher ups for it to be useful. Spending a year writing a replacement for sound server X, when there is already an official project in place to replace it with Y would be a colossal waste of time and programmers. People need to know that before they waste time.

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