The FOSS UI Problem

by Dustin Puryear

I have to admit I laughed when I read Randall Kennedy’s blog “Why FOSS is still so unusable”. Kennedy was himself commenting on another blog about the 15 reasons why FOSS projects often crap out. (The “15 reasons” blog has been getting popular and is making its round around the blogosphere.)

Kennedy obviously has some issues with the FOSS crowd, and I can’t say that he doesn’t have some justification for his feelings. For example, he comments that some FOSS developers tend to be lazy in how they approach their work; if you’ve ever looked in source code you may agree. That said, this affects “commercial” programmers as well. The “many eyes” FOSS approach doesn’t tend to counteract this problem.

Anyay, I invite you to read Kennedy’s blog and let me know your thoughts. Kennedy is obviously not in a loving mood with FOSS, and so his views are a tad on the extreme side I think, but that doesn’t discount everything that he says.

Why do FOSS projects have such bad User Interfaces (UI)? There are exceptions of course. However, there are a lot of X and web-based UI’s that are just.. confusing. I think this has to do with the fact that the FOSS coders want to focus on the internal guts of the application, instead of the User I/O layer (yes, I made that up and it’s a bad term). While I can see why that happens (heck, even I prefer to avoid the UI when possible), it can easily be argued that a good program with a bad UI is really just.. a bad program.