Monday, June 19, 2006

Why do people hate Flock???

Ok I have to rant about a couple technological things. They are not directly related to Flock specifically, but they have been active in the Flock world recently. At least the world of "users". Why do so many open source people have a problem with Flock? I can't tell you how many times I've seen people complain that "Oh Flock is just Firefox with some plugins". Now if you just look at a feature list this is technically true, but if you have used Flock and Firefox with said plugins then you know what a monumental difference there is. What's lacking from Firefox with the plugins. Drumroll please. . . . ."USABILITY RESEARCH!!!!!"

After reading the other day about the Better Desktop Initiative it's obvious to me that the people getting paid to develop open source software understand that software by programers for programers will never go anywhere in the general market. Let me say this again. Software by programers for programers is USELESS to non-programers. And most firefox plugins are software by programers for programers. Not all of them are, many of them are wonderful, Forecastfox is fabulous, as are the majority of the transparent plugins that are meant to speed up the performance of your browser or make pdf downloading easier, or other such niceties. However, the RSS reader options in the firefox plugin section for lack of a better description are terrible, and I haven't found any decent blogging options. Why? Because they lack integration with each other. Do the blogging plugins work with the photo upload plugins, work with the shared bookmark plugins? No they don't. And what would it take for these plugins to work together. A unified effort with unified developers working on all of them, and someone getting paid in some manner so the project stayed alive. Hmmm. Now in order for this to happen one would assume that one would need a product. Something that you could eventually sell, or at least give away and have it bring people to a sponsored search partner or some advertising media to bring in revenue.

Now I want all you developers out there to stop being a developer for a minute. Now think about advertising. Try to get inside the head of a person who doesn't know what a plugin is, or how to configure one, or has the expertise to navigate an interface with no formal usability testing behind it. Now will this person respond to unified plugins (translation, ew I'm gonig to have to configure it myself), or a social networking browser that brings together all your favorite features for you? (translation Yay! someone else got paid to configure it for me!!!).

I am so sick of hearing about "Linux on the Desktop" and "Of course linux is good enough for everyone" and "why are you still using office, when Open Office will do everything you need, and it's so similar in interface (anyone who's ever watched a non techie go from office to openoffice and try and find the word count knows there are enough differences to matter to the base consumer, even if not to the basic adept corporate receptionist).

For the record. I don't use Flock, I've downloaded every version to see what it's about, and I find it exciting. I am a techie. I don't care about it personally, and I run a linux desktop/server, and I have used OpenOffice since it was StarOffice 5.1, and I used several of the OpenOffice pre 1.0 releases. Going back to 2000. I can do all of that, but I also know most people can't. The year of the Linux Desktop will come when the people giving back to open source projects for free understand they aren't coding for their buddies. They are coding for the guy down the street that coaches basketball, and his wife who has taught French since 1985. We all know their kids can use our stuff, and yes if they got over they psychological block against change in technology we all know they are intelligent to use our stuff as well. But they don't want to get over that block, it isn't worth it to them, and it's time we stopped asking them to.

Novel/RedHat/Xandros are not going to have the kind of money for usability research that Microsoft has any time soon, and Microsoft already has a huge head start on them and a larger paid developer base than they do to keep that lead. Our advantage is our numbers, but the numbers need to know what they are facing and honestly approach it. And for the record Kudos to those few of you who do.

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