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Máirín Duffy 🙋 @mairin@mastodon.social

Feedback greatly appreciated :) I'm proposing a talk about UX design in open source at a UX conference. I'm a bit intimidated bc I don't normally do UX conferences. What do you think:

"Open source technology is now mainstream. Technologies large and small that impact people all over the world are powered by open source platforms, libraries, and backends. There’s an urgent problem, though: open source has become synonymous with shockingly poor user experience (UX)." ... => cont

· Web · 12 · 17

"In this talk, we'll discuss the imperative need for UX in making software freedom ubiquitous and accessible to all. We’ll talk about how open source’s UX challenges enabled the proliferation of echo-chambered, disjointed, and incompatible social media platforms. You’ll learn about the forces in open source development have lead to its UX challenges, tips for making design work in an open source context," ... => con't

"and how to deal with the culture shock of working in an open source project that may not have much design experience! Let's help people solve problems without becoming a product themselves, using open source."

Any/all feedback / wordsmithing / tomato-throwing greatly appreciated :)

@mairin Your text does have me wondering how you get from application UX to social media echo chambers. They don't seem to be readily related without a few intermediary hops. Would make me curious to attend your talk just to understand that.

This reads like the talk will be a meta-discussion about the subject of getting UX folks into opensource, rather than a talk about specific UX issues and how those specific issues my be resolved. If that's the thrust of your talk, I think you've nailed it.

@monsterjavaguns @mairin I agree with this feedback; I'm confused if the talk is about "UX in open-source in general" or "UX in open-source social media". If you haven't already planned this: it would be good to show some "good opensource UX" examples to 'soften the blow' ;)

@meejah @monsterjavaguns
it's definitely not social media specific. maybe i should drop that reference. it's more about the 'user as product' biz model and silo-ing of apps / compatibility!

@mairin (Just to be clear: I do agree with your central idea that in general opensource UX is .. bad). I personally would love to know how to get "UX people" excited about working on open-source projects!

@mairin Will there be a public recording of this?

I'm a hacker with a bit of a UX streak and this is definitely relevant to my interests :3

I need a talk description that is separate from the abstract I already posted a draft of, tell me if this is too cheesy:

"Open source has become ubiquitous with bad UX; in this talk we'll talk how this happened and why reversing this trend matters for everyone, particularly those concerned about ubiquity of the user-as-product business model. Once you're fired up to see this problem solved, we'll talk
about some approches to UX specific to the open source development context, " => cont

"as well as how to get over the cultural barrier between design
culture and open source development culture. Take heart: the foundation and drive behind open source means it has a greater potential to
deliver a great UX than profit-motivated, user-as-product solutions."

Nice!! not cheesy.


@mairin just maybe check the repeated words and phrases, also is ubiquitous the right word?

@MightyPork @mairin perhaps "synonymous" rather than "ubiquitous"?

My main question: will this talk be uploaded to the net and where/when can I find it?? Sounds awesome 😃

@mairin This looks good. I feel like that we've already made great headway in reversing perception that open source has bad UX. But I may be in a bubble. :D

@sri I think the GNOME project is a nice little bubble of Doing It Right that unfortunately not a lot of projects have kept up with :(

@mairin Yes, and probably a good anecodate to use if you're going to a UX conference. I'm trying to do something similar with open source marketing and community management. In general, that's kind of non-existent for general pure open source/free software projects (eg no company behind it)

@harriskenny @mairin I'm working on a talk for SCaLE, although that is more about working with upstream, and the other one is a subject matter that I've been musing about since I'm considered GNOME's unofficial community manager

@mairin This description feels very clear. I have a much greater understanding of where your talk is going now.

I'm trying to figure out what are the best parts of this description that could be used to clarify your general abstract.

@mairin I like it! I think I'd drop the "Take heart!" section because it's implied in the talk that you have solutions.

@jonbell maybe instead:

"The foundation and drive behind open source means it has a greater potential to deliver a great
UX than profit-motivated, user-as-product solutions, making it a compelling area of software for designers to be involved in."


@federicomena i have a *rough* recorded version from a practice run - i gave a version as a keynote at Ohio Linux Fest, but apparently their video recording didn't work. I gave it better then. Anyway happy to PM you a link to the rough one, I really need to re-record for general consumption.

@mairin @h from the POV of someone employed in tech but who wasn't *that* bad at art when in high school (1980s)

1. teenagers in my country had (have?) at age 14 to select "options" of subjects when in high school. this splits them into "arts/science" groups.

2.this again at ages 16-18 (a-levels) and at University. I dropped out because I wanted to do cool things with multimedia but it wasn't recognised as "serious idea" in 1992 and not possible to transfer between arts/science courses ++

@h @mairin

3. so this split should be dealt with/stopped from *high school* onwards (this does appear to be happening thanks to RPi/Arduino etc)

4. old gender divisions have returned too for teens/YA- where "art is for girls", "tech is for boys" (there was better attitudes in my Catholic junior school in late 1970s, where genders were allowed and *encouraged* to do art together and I saw the same on the "kids hour" of German Catholic TV recently (I watch it to improve my German 😆) ++

@mairin @h

5. a lot of FOSS tech is based on command line apps.

GUIs seem to get "bolted on afterwards", and when end users manage to get to the support communities (often on difficult to use things like git*) stuff like UI/UX changes is "batted away" as "cosmetic" and marked "WONTFIX" etc and/or devs say "code it yourself or pay someone to do it" *because* there's noone looking at customer complaints or dwindling sales figures like in Redmond, Cupertino and other "bad" corporates (end)

@vfrmedia People are trained to specialise and forced to make hard choices at all stages of their development.
This doesn't necessarily lead to development of a person's fullest potential. It leads to development of a capitalist state's fullest potential.
It didn't use to be this way in countries like France (and countries that copied their education system), but most of the world today is making integral educaion a thing for the rich only.



exactly and this change (for teenagers) happened fairly recently, around 1987 by my memory. I had mental health probs in late 80s from pressure of parents to do well in exams and really missed being able to do art, music etc, before that time I never had any trouble with highschool, lots of friends across all groups, no bullying etc, was still seen as one of "cool/rebel" kids and that was in spite of having "odd/niche" techie hobbies (I did do some high tech pranks/mischief 😉 )


i suspect its symptomatic of the record inequality that started to grow in the 1970s.... specialization and tdst scores to have better shot at livelihood since middle and lower class portion of pie ever shrinking

@mairin Did you try to quantify/categorize problem? There might be a false dichotomy based on hearsay and out focus on some few platforms originated from Silicon Valley obsessed with (I hate the ambiguity of the use of the word "experience" here, but that's another story). I work a lot also with enterprise software and compared to this almost any random project really shines. So, if, say 40% is free software, 55% is enterprise, what is left? How do we measure what matters?

its a good question. im not sure how to quantify. i spent some time getting data on social media posts about open source and UX but thats a self selecting population. I sort of rely on folks to be familiar with the bad UX connotation bc i only have so long for the talk and that could be a whole other one. I think the reasons enterprise UX sucks are diff than the reasons FLOSS is known for bad UX tho

@mairin I don't want to influence your talk in any way, I only want to make sure we do not measure quality of free software just by looking at most visible examples of desktop environments (still trying to catch up with Windows 95?;) or office software. I think free software fails badly mostly when trying to mimic some user interface fashion du jour. Those failures are highly visible but I don't think they matter much in the end. Cool endeavour, hope to be able to attend or listen to your talk!

(and I agree, btw, actually the only usable enterprise sw im aware of is FLOSS :-) )

@mairin Here's what I read (into it):

The "user-as-product business model" uses open source as a backend, and then builds shiny, proprietary, picture frames that entice (and trap) users up front. End users *do care* about being the product if asked, but they have to be able to use the tool 1st.

In part, I'm sensing you're wanting to:

1) create open source UX collaboration

...so there can be...

2) better end-user options


3) less user-as-product

leading to

4) a better world

@mairin Are you proposing to include some stuff on not only how it might get fixed, but how we convince everyone that it's fixed once it is? That seems important to me ("open source is crap at UX" has the status of a meme which can't be argued against these days, in my experience, and it makes me sad) but it might be outside the scope of what you plan to talk about? I mean, Fedora and Ubuntu have had design teams for ages, but I can't convince anyone this is even the case...

with this audience... im not sure. ive never felt comfortable in broader, non FLOSS UX community. The venn diagram between the well knowns there and open source community is... not very intersectional. but maybe i overestimate the importance placed on celebrity.

@mairin that's fair. This is a cool thing you're doing; brave to go into that audience. I hope it goes well.

@mairin this is *SO NEEDED*! Thank you for doing this.

@mairin I did some edits on the text:


(Note: I do this for the Michigan!/usr/group website so I have some experience punching things up and making them coherent. Hopefully the edits help make this better.

Will this talk be recorded? Seems like an interesting talk. Looking forward to hearing it!

i am giving them the ok to record so we'll see how that goes. ill do a screencast to make it more widely available if needed.

@rysiek I noticed there's a big gap between the "the user is a coder and obviously understands the inner workings" approach and the "the user is an idiot and can't handle more than one button". The user=idiot approach made me quit Windows and I never regretted it. I think most open-source stuff takes user=expert approach as an opposition. However, I want to believe there's something in in the middle that is a good UX for both experts and beginners.If you know how to do it, please tell me

@Wolf480pl @mairin for me that's the difference between GNOME and KDE. In GNOME I always felt like I am being treated like an idiot who can't handle more than 2 options; in KDE it's options galore (which is daunting to many newbie users).

I always thought the right approach is "show the basic options but have the advanced ones available one-two clicks away". Like a checkbox "show advanced options". This seemed to strike the balance in my experience.

@rysiek @Wolf480pl yep, the fancy UX designer term for that is "progressive disclosure" :)

@mairin @rysiek what is the UX designer term for helping the user learn the underlaying (data/domain/component) model in a smooth way?
In many situations knowing the underlaying model (eg. knowing that git stores history in a graph of commits) really empowers the users, but at the same time, it's difficult to explain the whole model in a short time, so you probably want the user to learn it gradually.

@rysiek @Wolf480pl we call the ways we make the user's mental model harmonize with the underlying model of the software 'affordances' - eg slideserve.com/fola/mental-mod

@mairin @rysiek
I've seen the words "simple and elegant" in the presentation, and it reminded me of this post, which may be relevant: