Open source moving toward individual vision, away from design by committee

An economics podcast is an unusual place for a discussion of UI design, but this conversation with Eric Raymond (The Cathedral & the Bazaar) includes the usability of open source software.

Open source development works when,

  1. Capital goods required to do the work are cheap.
  2. The limiting factor on the work is human creativity and attention.
  3. The work is intrinsically rewarding.
  4. There is an objective metric for success that everybody in the hive mind can agree on without too much effort. Without that condition you get thrashing.
  5. Zero-cost communications.

Any designer knows Item 4 is a problem: different types of users with a wide range of experience, conflicting goals, etc.  The open source community is starting to recognize that UI design requires a single vision. They are appointing “UI dictators” within each project who “get their way.” “It’s better to have a flawed individual vision than try to do it by committee.”

EconTalk: Eric Raymond on Hacking, Open Source, and the Cathedral and the Bazaar
(program notes and audio)


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