Open source user experience

Celeste Lyn Paul celeste at
Wed Feb 18 20:46:35 CET 2009

On Wednesday 18 February 2009 02:09:11 pm Aaron J. Seigo wrote:
> On Tuesday 17 February 2009, Michael Rudolph wrote:
> > So we could just be happy that everybody likes us (well, besides
> > ourselves, designers seem to like us :-), but we could also think
> > about some kind of outreach program, with which we try to bring both
> > cultures closer together. Basically what the user council does for
> > users and developers.
> what would such an outreach program look like in your mind?

I would expect something that OpenUsability attempted and failed at: a neutral 
ground for developers and designers to meet. (Perhaps they didn't fail, KDE 
just didn't get much out of it)

> honestly, we're lacking a couple of critical tools to really start bringing
> designers in en masse; plasmate is a step towards addressing that, but
> certainly can't/won't be the whole answer.

Plasmate won't solve the people problem, it just provides a more useful design 
tool to work with UI elements than Qt Designer. That's fine when the designer 
might want to get their hands dirty, but I don't know if it would really 
support the creative process. Maybe I just don't know enough about the tool.

People are the biggest hurdle. Not only where do we get them, but how do we 
get good people, how do we get good people we want to work with, and how do we 
keep them. The HCI working group was supposed to do a lot of what you are 
discussing, however, that was an obvious failure. As soon as it was founded 
pretty much everyone involved but me and Nuno dropped off the face of the 

If we can get people, I would say our second challenge is having a place to 
think and discuss independent of current development. The Plasma team really 
brought the future to KDE4 because you were able to think so high above the 
ground and get cool things done (something that GNOME has been struggling to 

However, the entire KDE project needs to be able to do this. To me, Plasma 
feels like a very exclusive team which is difficult to get in to. There is a 
small set of people working on an influential part of the environment, but if 
you aren't developing Plasma widgets then you don't get to join. If other 
people wanted to rethink high level concepts such as windows and workflows, how 
do they do that when all of the creative thinkers are locked in a room 

Lately, I've been feeling there is Plasma on one side of the wall, and then 
there is me with what's left of the usability project on the other, with Nuno 
and the Oxygen team straddling the wall for random bits of UX. I do my best to 
help the developers who come to be with help, but it's not too creative and 
limiting without team members. You've probably noticed my involvement with 
Kubuntu has increased over the past year in addition to my other KDE work. The 
simple reason is that it allows me to get involved in shaping the user 
experience more than KDE does. I always try to push the good stuff upstream 
afterwards, but that's not the point. I should be doing it upstream to begin 
with so everyone benefits.

So the moral of my rant (I didn't begin my response with this in mind, sorry) 
I guess is that Plasma has a lot of things going for it in terms of it's 
philosophy for creative processes. It could be used as a model for founding a 
more project-wide initiative. However, it doesn't seem like an open 
environment which can be easily joined, either by fresh designers who are 
interested in contributing or extended in to the rest of the KDE project. I 
don't know how that could be solved.

~ Celeste

Celeste Lyn Paul
KDE Usability Project

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