Gnome Worstation OS Followup

The last post seemed to get some attention. I also think it has been misunderstood. So I would like to briefly reframe it.

It wasn’t a rant about GNOME Shell or about design driven development. Neither was it a dismissal of the urgency for a strong developer story. I like the fact that we take risks and innovate in design. I also think that our developer workflow is broken, and fixing it is a priority.

To sustain a healthy project and community, we need a mission. This is not news, and we have articulated our mission in the past. But I think it should be re-evaluated all the time, and tested against the real world. When we choose our mission, I think we could do better than blindly chasing the elusive User to the next frontier. I think we could re-evaluate our role in this ecosystem.

New magic gadgets are coming out every day. They have large screens that let you directly interact with the content displayed on them. Did I say magic yet? They are truly magical. They are very good at hiding all the nitty details. In fact, they do a really good job at that. Too good.

When I was first introduced to the web in ’94, I thought “Cool the Louvre has a virtual home. I want one too.” I was able to sit at that same computer where I witnessed that wonder and create “Eitan’s Slime Pit”. We are not far from a reality where a kid would look at the world through their tablet, enjoy their magical digital life, and have no means to truly create their own presence on the web or to author their own app.

This is where I think we should be. We should be a free and accessible environment that enables creation. I think that is an important and critical mission in the Free Software Movement.

Gnome Worstation OS Followup

16 thoughts on “Gnome Worstation OS Followup

  1. lottin says:

    I agree, and would add that touch interfaces are suited for consumption of information, not production of information.

    1. jewelfox says:

      That is a statement of opinion, which contradicts mountains of empirical and anecdotal evidence. iPad apps today (not “tablet” apps — Android’s probably not even 10 percent there) enable creation on a scale beyond what many desktop apps can, and allow people to do it with far less hassle or experience.

      The biggest challenge for GNOME, if it wants to enable creators, is to show how it does so better than Apple. I feel that the Free Software philosophy is enabling in and of itself, but if you ask who it enables, the answer largely seems to be “reclusive geeks with too much time on their hands and no desire to understand others”.

      1. lottin says:

        Well, I would say it’s a conclusion that follows logically from a few pretty unquestionable facts, namely that fingers as pointer devices are 1) less precise, 2) less efficient and 3) have less controls than mice. It seems obvious to me that anything that can be done with a finger-based interface can be also done with a mouse-based interface at least as easily and efficiently, while the reverse is not true. The only advantage of touch interfaces is that you don’t have to carry around a proper pointer device, which is convenient and okay if you don’t have to do a lot of input, that is if you are mostly consuming information. But for production? It’s like telling a painter that fingers “enable creation” much better than a brush. Sorry, but no.

      2. jewelfox says:

        Your statement is based on conjecture, though, whereas many actual people are using the iPad for complex content creation tasks.

        I agree that its hardware configuration is suboptimal, but it and its apps have a number of advantages that make them more accessible to users and developers than competing content creation tools. Which, at this point, saying that’s not what they are is just name-calling.

        Personally, even if I had to use a capacitive touchscreen I’d almost rather use an iPad app than the GIMP. I’m given to understand there are a lot of professional graphic designers who’d rather have parts of their bodies amputated than use it, but I’m personally more worried about newbs.

        The free software content creation tools GNOME supposedly excels at running (better than Windows or OS X?) are not friendly to newbs.

      3. Let me give three assignments a student might get and think about whether you would rather use a tablet or a laptop/desktop computer for each of them. To me this _IS_ content creation.

        1. Write a 3 page essay comparing and contrasting the first Iraq War under George H.W. Bush to the second Iraq War under George W. Bush.

        2. Using data gathered in the lab, produce a scatterplot, line/curve of best fit and a printout of your data.

        3. Write a sonnet.

        Tablets suck for the content creation we are (or should be) asking most 10 to 18 year olds to do.

    2. Marco Shamas says:

      I totally agree with you. I have a dual HD screen, a wacom graphic tablet, a usb block number just to have extra keys. I have 2 ipads and I can’t think of me using the ipad to create anything serious or professional. Yes you can do some stuff, but even to write a long email it’s quite painful if compared with a laptop or a desktop.

      I think content creation with a tablet is pretty close to believing in people scanning QR codes in the subway.

      1. jewelfox says:

        Except that the empirical and anecdotal evidence bear out the assumption that people don’t scan QR codes, but they don’t bear out the assumption that the iPad (Android tablets don’t have nearly the app support required) is not a content creation device. Unless you define the term to mean “Something that I can plug a wacom tablet and two HD screens into.”

      2. Marco Shamas says:

        So it’s not that ipad is so far beyond to produce content, but you just think that is better for newbs that have to produce mediocre content. Because that is what newbs usually do.

      3. Marco Shamas says:

        >Personally, even if I had to use a capacitive touchscreen I’d almost rather use an iPad app than the GIMP.

        There isn’t only Gimp that actually between all the graphic programs for the desktop has always been criticized for its interface.
        If you need to draw on the Desktop use Mypaint that is perfectly fine even for people that are not experts.

  2. bochecha says:

    > “It seems obvious to me that anything that can be done with a finger-based interface can be also done with a mouse-based interface at least as easily and efficiently, while the reverse is not true.”

    Drawing? Making music?

    > “It’s like telling a painter that fingers “enable creation” much better than a brush.”

    You do realize that the computer could transform finger input into what happens when a painter uses a brush, mimicing pressure, angle,…

    Also, you seem to be confusing “touch” interfaces with “finger-based touch” interfaces. You could use a stylus on a touch screen, or even… a brush?

    1. lottin says:

      Ok, then what can I say… do it, build your “touch interface” OS, if it’s so great, and to top it all free, millions of people will want to use it. Me, I can only speak for myself, and all I know is that it is a clumsy interface for a desktop computer and that is the only reason I stopped using Gnome. I won’t be considering it again until the developers admit and correct the mistake.

      1. jewelfox says:

        I personally find GNOME 3’s interface much more graceful and intuitive than any other desktop OS’, largely for the same reasons you “know … it is a clumsy interface for a desktop computer.”

        Opinionating aside, I feel that principles like Fitts’ Law can be used to show the refinement of one interface over another, and that the biggest thing GNOME 3 violates is familiarity.

      2. Marco Shamas says:

        The best screen using a stylus at the moment is the Cintiq and is pretty expensive, not a mainstream tool for newbies.
        But if you read the review of David Revoy, that at the moment is the most prominent, respected and well known digital artist using open source software, isn’t so positive about this professional tool:

        – Cintiq is hot and makes unconfortable works after 4 hours on it
        – having eyes so close to the screen on a long period made headaches
        – distance between nib of the stylus and screen pixels is quite large for a precision work
        – finaly the precision and resolution is not very good ; I felt like I had to fill pixels on a grid.

        I could ink without stress to miss a line, but still it wasn’t comfortable and still frustrating to deal with the Cintiq.

  3. lamefun says:

    (sarcastic) Isn’t it cool? Computing will be finally for people! Also free software should be banned because it allow children to learn without educational intervention! Also upload should be banned because the only thing it’s really used in the world that is for people is piracy! Lets make shiny new world, that’s for people, not for hackers!

  4. John T. says:

    The only interesting consideration in the whole “mobile revolution” is something like Ubuntu Edge. Specifically the part of having 2 separate interfaces, tailored for 2 completely different use cases. No one is going to do productivity work on a phone itself, but they would surely replace that huge, expensive box under their desk with a cheap, dual-purpose phone if it was executed well enough.

    The GNOME desktop *direction* is fine. What already exists is still desperately in need of improvement though. Epiphany still crashes every 10 seconds.

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