GNOME: passionate people working on making technology beautiful

I’ll let you in on a secret. I’m a big fan of open source software. I think the GNOME desktop is great and changing the way people interact with technology for the better. But here’s the secret: I really joined the GNOME Foundation because I love the GNOME community.

GNOME is full of passionate people who care not just about technology but about the people that use it and the world they live in. Yesterday I had many conversations about GNOME, current projects, grand ideas for new ones, and technologies. I also had a discussions about saffron, Thailand, how a country becomes a member of the European Union, human rights, banking systems, … all with people that were extremely knowledgeable, had good ideas and wanted to learn more. (I certainly learned lots!)

Here’s a specific example of something I like about the GNOME community. It’s important to them that things be "beautiful." I put beautiful in quotes because I think the GNOME community means much more than pretty when they say "beautiful." I think they mean:

  • Pretty. The desktop, your user interface, should look nice. It should be beautiful.
  • Easy to use. Functional. When things flow smoothly and everything is in just the right spot, right where you expect to find it, it’s beautiful.
  • Done right. When things are coded right and they are reliable functional, easy to figure out, they are beautiful.

GNOME folks, agree, disagree?

7 Replies to “GNOME: passionate people working on making technology beautiful”

  1. Pretty — not quite :(, not for the default anyway, we really need to work on bringing in gimmie/awm etc IMO to make it look pretty.
    The other 2 – i think Gnome EXCELS at!

  2. ‘Elegant’ is the word that I use to mean what you are describing. Basically, it looks good and it works smoothly. This also applies to code, where it gets used a lot more.

  3. Agree and also disagree. Agree one fact that GNOME is getting better in both style and code. Disagree at fact that some geeky developers still loves to keep the ugly pixmaps icons rather than removing it from gnome-desktop. And GNOME still lacks a well-designed app. Most apps suffers from bugs at some point, some actually go under refactoring, some are just abandoned. It’s a waste of time.

  4. First, welcome. I am so happy that we have an executive director. I hope that you feel that you have the authority to make strongly-worded suggestions to the developer community of Gnome. Also, since you are very much a member of what is–in effect–an executive branch of our project, please spend a great deal of energy bringing members of the release team under your leadership. Not because they need direction (they are doing a great job!) but because RT has de facto power that also falls squarely in to the “executive” categorization. We *need* a strong executive branch and there’s just no one else that fits the definition.
    Now, to the topic at hand: I also agree with the “elegant” statement–code that is beautiful is an agreed upon idiom among hackers. We love elegant solutions to complex problems similar to how math geeks love solving complex problems with an elegant proof.
    Beyond that, I think you’d have trouble getting everyone to agree upon the other facets of your suggestions. Certainly there are many–myself included–that enjoy an aesthetically pleasing environment. But, many of our hackers and contributors don’t end up using Gnome because they feel it’s too bloated or lacks a level of configuration for those very reasons. (See XFCE’s following for a concrete example of our divided community.)
    I think we need to stop thinking about the “grandma” user as a benchmark. Hackers love usable software too: it just needs to stop targeting the lowest common denominator. IMO, the word “usability” should be substituted with “obvious”. It should be obvious how to do what you want to do in a Gnome application. The vast majority of our software already fits that description. However, we need move beyond thinking that our software needs to lack features to achieve obviousness.
    Gnome: elegant, powerful, obvious.

  5. @commenters: I think Stormy is asking about our notion of beauty, not if we necessarily think Gnome is beautiful in these regards.
    I think your three points characterize fairly good my notion of beauty. I do however see that Gnome does not always match up to those.
    I am convinced that this stems from the fact that our current codebase does not satisfy 3). Very far from in fact. I will elaborate on this in a blog post when I have the time. Although I think my opinions are clear enough from :

  6. Stormy: I think you’re right, Gnome developers do struggle to make the thinkgs they make beautiful, both internally (code) and externally (interface). Decoding Liberation has a nice chapter on the relationship between free software and aesthetics.

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