Let’s consider the Trinity Desktop Environment.
Okay, I admit it’s people who actually care. That’s the point: Open Source people usually don’t care about people, though they claim otherwise. As noted here ad nauseum, most Open Source developers don’t understand people. They may have it all worked out in the details of human usability and all the latest information on optimizing for human factors of all sorts, but they don’t understand people.
So when you run across an Open Source project that shows an interest in what people want, a sort of compassion which makes the computer serve the person, not the other way around, it becomes remarkable — worthy of remark — and downright admirable. We have Timothy Pearson, who has been for some months now trying to keep alive KDE 3. He calls it The Trinity Desktop Environment.
The fan base for KDE 3 is huge. I know from the experience I have had in helping ordinary users migrate to Linux, the KDE 3 desktop as a whole has been the single best path for migration in the history of Linux so far. No, this does not say anything about technological superiority; it says a wealth of things about meeting people where they are. I assert this is the moral high ground in software development. It matters not where you want to take them, and whether it’s for their own good, if you refuse to meet them where they are. Something in the total combination of factors in what makes KDE 3 what it is/was constitutes meeting people where they are. I don’t pretend to understand all the details, only the consistent effectiveness.
This, as opposed to the standard frothing hobby purist, who is quite willing to be forced to adapt to something devised by developers who have no clue about humanity. That describes the vast majority of Open Source developers and their loudest fan base. These are the folks who get all the press in all things Linux, particularly. I read recently a review of KDE 4.6.1, where the hobby blogger discusses finally getting used to thing he first found annoying, as if it was his duty to follow the developers’ dictates. The whole thing stunk of this divine obligation to embrace the sacred orthodoxy of developer righteousness as handed down by the Open Source hierarchy. I don’t tolerate that in religion and I won’t tolerate it in technology. For a community supposedly so free and free-wheeling, I assure you a stolid commercial bureaucracy is no more oppressive and disgusting than the unaccountable godlings of software development, because both of them are openly hostile to user’s needs and wishes. At least the commercially driven operations know they can lose money unless they can sell their goods, so there is some measure of accountability, but the free software folks simply assume you’ll fall down at their feet in awe of their obvious genius.
I overstate things, of course. However, if you’ve encountered the open hostility of some developers to user comments, you realize it’s only a slight exaggeration. I’ve encountered it.
You’ll have your own set of wishes if you test Trinity Desktop. I understand the current goals, in broad terms are to fix stuff the KDE project never bothered to fix, and add only a few really critical improvements in the feature set. For myself, I would be willing to spill hours of time on the keyboard in support of the Trinity Desktop Project if things already in the KDE 3 feature set would simply work. If it happens to also integrate nicely with more modern backend advances, I’ll be ecstatic. I say all this without yet even testing it on my Debian Squeeze system. I’m going to try that out soon on my laptop (I found Scientific Linux 6 too cranky on my hardware, and reverted to Squeeze). I’m going to support Trinity as a writer simply on the grounds of the idea.
Timothy Pearson, all I really ask is that you just make it work for Debian Squeeze.