Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why One Hundred Paper Cuts is Great but Will Ultimately Fail

I just noticed I have a bad habit of posting 3...Image via Wikipedia
I whack pretty hard on Ubuntu (and Gnome) for minor usability problems, which they deserve. One-line fixes, supplied simple patches, and erroneous error messages that go unfixed for years should be embarrassing, shouldn't they? Heck, HUBackup did nothing but segfault starting in Dapper (6.06), but it wasn't dropped from the repositories until Jaunty (9.04). That's almost three years of continuously broken packages.

There's hope on the horizon, though. One Hundred Paper Cuts is "A project led by Canonical's Design and User Experience team to improve user experience in Ubuntu by identifying 100 small points of pain for users, or "paper cuts", and healing them!" Unfortunately, many more bugs have been reported than the required 100, and these bugs need to be triaged. Users to look for bugs that don't meet the criteria:

  • bugs that are system-wide (Nautilus, Gnome panel, etc), rather than app-specific (F-Spot, OOo, Terminal, etc.)
  • bugs that impact standard workflows (like connecting to the network, copying files, browsing folders, etc.), rather than specialised or corner case workflows
  • bugs that are easy to address, rather that ones that require significant design or development efforts
  • issues with existing features, rather than requests for new features
  • bugs that relate to usability and design (like size of the notification bubbles), rather than broken software (e.g. notifications flickering in fullscreen)
Non-conforming bugs need to be marked "Invalid." Unfortunately, the above criteria are broad enough that just about any bug can be excluded if the triage-er (I'm pretty sure that's not a word) doesn't like the bug. Even more sadly, the first and last points exclude real usability problems, like default applications with major usability bugs that could be fixed in moments (but wont be) or broken software that's also easily fixed (but isn't, for some reason).

My prediction? 100PC will ultimately fail because of:
  1. Politics over which bugs are "important"
  2. Real problems on the desktop that could be targetted will be marked "Invalid" because they don't affect Nautilus or Gnome Panel (or even if they do).


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