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From Alessandro Bottoni <>
Subject Open Source Software Philosophy (was: The User is the King)
Date Fri, 23 Jun 2000 08:49:56 GMT
[Stefano mazzocchi wrote: ]
	> Do not leave them alone in the dark with a complicated setup
procedure and
	> obscure documentation: most of them just have no interest and no
time for
	> such an exercise.

Just tell me: do you feel I've been doing this?

[Alessandro Bottoni]
No, I just did not like the following sentence:

>> I have more 'flight time' with Cocoon than the others. But I think
>> that's partly a consequence of the time it takes to get Cocoon cooking.

>Ever considered how much intentionality there is in this ;-)

I'm quite sensitive about this topic. I use a lot of Open Source software
and I "believe" in it. I think it will be an important part of the software
landscape in the next 5-10 years. Unfortunately, too often I hear the
software developers say something like:

- "I'm hopeless at documenting software" (Linus Thorvalds!)
- "The code is the better documentation available" (James Clark?)
- "This has not been done yet becuse of the lacking of volunteers" (too many
- "For information about the installation procedure, please contact the xxx
mailing list" (too many cases...)
- "I'm trying to write good software. I hope someone else will document it"
(guess who?)

Frankly, I find this way to deal with the end user quite irritating. It
looks like software is considered a private question among developers, not
aimed to any real user. I'm sure you met a few university professors used to
tell you something like:

-"I just developed a nice algorithm. If you like it (and you HAVE to like it
if you want to get that damned degree...), you can implement it in the
language you like most. Your homework!"

Did you like them? I did not. And I do not like to see a possible sign of
the same mental habit in the people that build the tools I use for my work.

Consider this: by building open source software, you fill a market niche.
For commercial companies would be very hard to compete with a free (gratis)
product, no matter how good, so most of them will give up. In this way, you
take the responsability of supplying the end user with the only (or one of
the few) tool available for performing that task. If you neglect the
usability of your software, you put a lot of (hard working) people in
troubles, after having kept them from having an alternative. Do you think
this would be fair?

It is for this reason that, no matter if you build software for money or for
hobby, it has to be stable, usable and well documented. I greatly appreciate
your effort in making Cocoon 2, but I'm concerned about the possibility that
not all the Cocoon developers really understand how much the software
"packaging" (installation, documentation, etc...) is important for the
people that depend on it. Because there is already a lot of people that
depend on it, at there will be a crowd of them in a few months...

Alessandro Bottoni (
Web Programmer @ Think3 inc. (
I do not speak for think3 and they return the favour

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