[Humanist] 25.513 where the thrill is

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Mon Nov 28 09:18:25 CET 2011

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 25, No. 513.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Mon, 28 Nov 2011 10:40:28 +0900
        From: Christian Wittern <cwittern at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 25.509 where the thrill is
        In-Reply-To: <20111125060539.E5A9C20B213 at woodward.joyent.us>

>> As I like to ask, what sorts of
>> people do we call "users"? Do we really want to be positioning our
>> audience at the end of a production-line?
>> Yours,
>> W

>  This is something that bothers me. Releasing a program without a
> GPL/BSD-type licence automatically places the audience at the end of a
> production line. But then again, if what one is releasing is a large,
> fully-functioning program with a user-friendly GUI, then most of the
> audience will end up in that position anyway because the skills needed to
> make anything of the source code will be so far from universal that it
> might just as well be closed. I wouldn't even bother looking at the
> sources for GIMP, for example (though don't get me wrong, I'm certainly
> grateful that it exists!).

I'd like to chime in here and bring in a slightly different perspective. In
recent years I came to see software development, especially of open source
software, essentially as a community process.  This means that while there
might be releases (and some are releasing very frequently), these are not
meant to be finished products, but rather thrown out into the community with
an implicit or explicit request for feedback.  The software development
process is not so much designed on a whiteboard and then implemented, but
evolves based on the feedback of other community members.

There is for example a large user community around the Ebook management
software Calibre, most of them users of various ebook devices, but also
software developers.  As new devices come out or limits of the various parts
of the program are discovered, users voice requests for improvements and
developers implement them.  There is no strict dividing line between these
roles and indeed, most of the developers are also users most of the time,
and of course there are occasional visitors and core members.  And then you
have experienced users that explain advanced features of the software to
newcomers.   If we look at this as a whole system, I would think that the
users are at least as important for the development of good software as the
developers are.

All this makes me think that there is not an 'end' of the production line
and our audience is not 'the other' sitting out there, but potential members
of a community with whom a conversation is opened by releasing a piece of

All the best,

Christian Wittern

-- Christian Wittern, Kyoto

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