I don't know how many times I've run into this particular mistake, but free software developers keep making it, so I think it's worth a brief post. Free software is based on contact between users and developers. Without that, it's just not very efficient, and any free software project that breaks that bond is going to flounder for the same reasons that so many proprietary products flounder -- total disconnect with the users.
More and more people are discovering free software. Many people only do so after weeks, or even months, of using it. I wonder, for example, how many Firefox users actually know how free Firefox really is—many of them realise that you can get it for free, but find it hard to believe that anybody can modify it and even redistribute it legally.
When the discovery is made, the first instinct is to ask: why do they do it? Programming is hard work. Even though most (if not all) programmers are driven by their higher-than-normal IQs and their amazing passion for solving problems, it’s still hard to understand why so many of them would donate so much of their time to creating something that they can’t really show off to anybody but their colleagues or geek friends.
Sure, anybody can buy laptops, and just program. No need to get a full-on lab or spend thousands of dollars in equipment. But... is that the full story?
Programmers. The system administrators worship their bit twiddling capabilities. The users exchange vast quantities of beer for new features and tools. And the project managers sell their souls when they make the magic work. But inside the average programmer’s psyche are several demons that need exorcising.
A bit of a departure from our usual fare, Design Concepts with Code is an artistically focused book which talks about the problem of designing the look and feel of websites (or web applications). It’s free software friendly in that it focuses on code and standards rather than specific design applications.
One message that came through very strongly was that if you rely too closely on the tools, they will stunt your creativity
In my ongoing investigations as a newcomer to the free software movement I've been digging around looking for case management application frameworks that would work for social services organizations... not law firms. I have begun to look at the plethora of software available and the number of free software projects under development. The numbers are staggering.