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FLOSS quality and UX 

I think the discourse around the UX and quality of FLOSS sometimes misses something important. Software is not a free market of individual choice. Most of us are not making choices about the software we use. In the vast majority of cases, the choices are either being made for us or we are being strongly coerced in various ways. While improving FLOSS UX is important, improving UX won't generally move the needle on whether an end user will "choose" it. Other factors dominate.

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cstanhope i disagree somewhat. it is network effects that provide the strongest coercion. and those are either driven or gated by usabilty.

FLOSS quality and UX 

@bamfic Network effects are strong coercion, and once in place, are difficult to move even if something with better UX comes along.

Don't get me wrong. I'm really not saying UX doesn't matter, it's just that in many circumstance it won't save the day and we shouldn't ignore the surrounding social issues.

Network effect is one, but we're also commanded by institutions about what software we can use. Other people make purchasing decisions for thousands etc. :/

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cstanhope And then when you run into the issue of guides that aren't updated in the FLOSS community; having to run something like GnuHealth on CentOS 6, for instance, because people don't update their freaking documentation.

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cambridgeport90 Yeah, definitely. Documentation should be considered part of UX in my opinion. Of course, it's not as easy to show off as UX changes. :/

But I definitely appreciate good documentation. It can make the difference between success and failure when using software.

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cstanhope
yes and no. ease of use and ease of support are part of the factors as to why a software is chosen.

if something is easy to use than the clunky alternatives AND trivial to access (e.g. servers are readily available and reliable) people will use it so much that companies will adapt. that is what happened with google docs and calendar...

FLOSS quality and UX 

@eylul You say: "AND trivial to access (e.g. servers are readily available and reliable) people will use it so much that companies will adapt."

I agree that this is a possibility (if individual choice is available), but running servers and maintaining infrastructure goes beyond improving UX. We're now talking about what type of organizations can accomplish those tasks and how they can get traction in a market long influenced by the proprietary competition.

FLOSS quality and UX 

@eylul My original toot was condensed from a much longer thread I had composed but hadn't shared. One of the thoughts I had in my thread was this:

UX alone is not enough to "win", to become the default. The UX is only one component of a much larger set of issues as to why free software is not the default. Let's not beat each other up for a UX "failing" to win the market. Let's focus on supporting each other to improve UX, to make free software excellent in all dimensions.

FLOSS quality and UX 

@eylul I wouldn't stop on just focusing on the software, but again there's a larger set of thoughts I hadn't shared yet. :/

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cstanhope
first of all sorry for not immediately answering this. its been that type of week. What I said there is also a condensation of a lot longer thoughts and experiences (observing and beinvin dialogue) with organizations about what stops groups to move. For smaller organizations or movements just starting usually the use of the tool begins with the free tier. So yes ease of starting to use and later availability of support is important but [cont]

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cstanhope
I have also seen people move from existing org tools to other unofficial ones due to ux adventage. Also ux is a factor on smaller groups and companies that might not have a huge budget (money or time) to decipher a tool that is hard to understand and use. :) tldr I don't disagree with what you are saying exactly. would love to have a larger conversation on this at some point.

FLOSS quality and UX 

@eylul I think you bring up some excellent points. I admit I didn't have the small org/group foremost in my mind when I wrote my original toot. I was focused on all the ways being able to choose a good UI/UX is thwarted by the circumstances people find themselves in. I didn't focus on the conditions under which they could make choice and where UI/UX could be the determining factor.

FLOSS quality and UX 

@eylul (Don't worry about how long it takes to respond. I feel honored whenever somebody takes the time to respond thoughtfully. So thank you!)

FLOSS quality and UX 

@eylul @cstanhope Another thing here is "network effects". Like, "welcome to company X, we use Google Calendar to schedule meetings..." Now you're a Calendar user too.

FLOSS quality and UX 

@meejah
that happens on org to individual level yes, but as I said if the tool company uses is not easy, and there is an easy option that people can use individuals will gravitate. as I said thats how google calendar got where it is. there were other calendar tools /integration tools organizations were using when it showed up.
@cstanhope

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cstanhope I'm curious, can you elaborate on what some of those other factors are in your opinion?

FLOSS quality and UX 

@alcinnz I really need to write this up, but in terse toot form:

Network effects. Examples: MS Office and Adobe products. Git is a (mostly) positive example of this.

Institutional: Powerful people making decisions as to what software other people must use. Examples: Google suite at schools or proprietary learning management systems.

Governmental: Similar to institutional. Procurement policies that favor proprietary software. Laws that favor proprietary software.

FLOSS quality and UX 

@alcinnz Commercial: Default OS that comes with computer or phones. Lockout practiced liberally. Antitrust weak and ineffective.

Financial: Venture capital used to destroy competition and capture markets. Links us back to governmental and commercial.

These are the ones that are most prominent in my mind. There are probably more once I give it more though. Any combination of these might be operating in any given domain at any time.

FLOSS quality and UX 

@alcinnz I just thought of another.

Educational: Proprietary software is taught and pushed as "industry standard". Think about courses people take where they learn the ins and outs of Adobe or MS Office products, etc.

In some ways this is institutional, but it feels a little different, so I'm calling it out spearately.

re: FLOSS quality and UX 

@cstanhope And this is not even specific to s/w, free or not. Just direct outcome of lobbying. Which group outlobbies all the other, those proposals will be accepted as the preference of the entire "society".

Anyway, it's a deep rabbit hole of the intricate connections between technology and politics.

re: FLOSS quality and UX 

@amiloradovsky Yes, I think you're absolutely right about that.

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cstanhope I'd say it's more the opposite problem. When FLOSS projects don't prioritize UX or have poor UX, they aren't accessible for most end users.

If a freelance artist or designer can't get their job done in time without proprietary tools, they don't have the option to use FLOSS alternatives, even without a boss telling them they have to use Adobe.

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cidney This is entirely anecdotal, but my limited experience with introducing free software graphics (GIMP, Inkscape, and Krita) to people breaks down into two categories.

Category 1: Already knows and uses Adobe.

Category 2: Does not already use Adobe.

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cidney Problems encountered in Category 1.

Network effects:

* Inability to get help from peers.
* Difficulty collaborating with peers.
* Difficulty explaining choice of tools to peers or client.
* Clients that essentially require Adobe.

Inertia:

* Doesn't work exactly like they're used to, and they don't have much time or motivation to learn a new way.

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cidney In Category 1, even if the UX/UI is fine, they still "can't get their job done in time without proprietary tools" because of the issues the issue I listed. Additionally, any software glitch or unfamiliar UI/UX encountered can at any time be used as a reason to abandon the effort. Whereas any issue encountered with Adobe is essentially overlooked. (I don't blame them.)

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cidney Problems encountered in Category 2:

None really.

I'm not saying there aren't problems, but people in this category tend to deal with them just like people deal with problems they have with Adobe in Category 1. However, the people in Category 2 do still feel pressure to switch to Adobe due to the network effects of the industry. Inertia, of course, doesn't play into it.

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cidney Please note, I do not fault the people in Category 1, but I also do not jump to the conclusion that the tools are faulty, especially in light of Category 2 people. I don't think there is any UI/UX that by itself would overcome the network effects and inertia of Category 1. Perhaps if the software was effectively exactly the same as Adobe, it might work, but that is a losing game.

I suppose Adobe could always become free software, cutting the Gordian Knot. ;)

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cidney Anyway, apologies for the lengthy response. It would've taken more time to make it shorter. If you got this far, thank you for your generous attention! :)

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cstanhope Long is totally fine. :)

Both of the artists I work with use Krita and Blender regularly, in addition to Photoshop. One of them learned 3D modeling with Blender and uses it exclusively; the other started with Maya and is frustrated that Blender doesn't follow industry conventions, so still uses it for some things.

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cstanhope My impression is that Krita has prioritized UX and being artist-friendly from the beginning, and anyone who's done digital painting in Photoshop will find it intuitive.

While GIMP and Inkscape had really bad UX for a while. There've been tremendous improvements in both recently, but GIMP's gotten enough of a reputation for not being usable that people are reluctant to try it more than once (and feel negatively about all FLOSS art tools because of that.)

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cidney Oof... Yeah, I could see that. A bad reputation tends to echo around long after it is no longer warranted. I suppose it becomes "common knowledge." :/

FLOSS quality and UX 

@cidney I haven't personally encountered people who regularly use proprietary and free software in the course of their work, so thank you for your own anecdote. It's good to know. :)

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