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Design in traditional free and open source



Thank you. It's quite bright up here. So I, as Aral has alluded to, the reason I got invited, the thing that got me invited was a job. I used to work at Canonical, and by extension, as part of the Ubuntu community. Can I have a quick show of hands as who uses open source software here. And who has contributed to open source software. So there's a fair few of you, so there's a lot of things I don't need to say. I'm very glad of Cole's talk, asking what a designer is. I think there's a question as well about what design is. And I'm concerned about running out of time because I could talk endlessly on the topic of doing design in free and open source software…RMS, if you're still here.

One, to make sure my punchline isn't lost, I'll start it at the beginning. Design in open source gets a really bad rap. What you hear about is how hard it is and how horrible it is and how much you have to argue with people and all those people online slagging you off and telling you you're rubbish at your job. And in my own bastardisation of Hanlon's Razor, I'd like to remind everybody that they shouldn't explain with malice what can adequately be explained by lack of shared vision, lack of a common language, and absence perhaps sometimes of manners, or maybe simply an inability to communicate.

Everybody in any open source project community will be wanting to do a good thing. The question is, have they agreed ahead of time what that thing is. And I think what might be different here in this project is that we're starting by talking about what the vision is and why the vision is. If we're just battling freedom and ignoring convenience, then we've got a problem with adoption. Is adoption what we want, or do we just want to be a specialist community of people who care about ethics over convenience, or who are asked to sacrifice convenience for ethics.

One of the things, on the subject of communication and design, one of the things that was most successful when doing the Ubuntu project; when I joined, one of the first statements that was made to me very early on by somebody within Canonical, he's an Argentinean fella; he goes: what do you think it's like for me. They say to me, here's this woman, she looks nice; she's your new boss. But what he illustrated to really was some of the sentiment of the community. There was no agreement that we as design should be there. The community had functioned perfectly happily without us, and they didn't know…we didn't know how to speak to each other and it took a long time to get that right, so whenever you're trying to do something in any open and collaborative community, you have to remember the motives of the people you're working with, and what's driving them, and how to work together is not easy.

So I hope the panel talk gives you an opportunity to ask more questions, but I'd just like to remind you that malice is very, very seldom a motivator.

Thank you.


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