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Linux and Main: Creating a Place for Users in the Open Source Process

May 22, 2003, 01:00 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by William Lamb)

Several months ago I witnessed a heated debate in the open source community. The debate started here on the Linux and Main web site with an article by Dennis Powell called 'The Future Belongs to GNOME; Inertia to KDE,' in which he suggested that GNOME was overtaking the KDE project by being more responsive to the user community's needs. It became obvious while reading the postings that users do not have a place of their own in the open source development process. I would like to respond to some of the ideas I've seen posted and propose an outline for the proper relationship between free software users and free software developers.

"Some posts have suggested that developers and users are amorphous groups with a great deal of overlap. According to this theory, users become developers as they acquire skill and gain familiarity with software and developers become users as they lose interest and stop submitting code on projects. The problem with this view is that very few users have the skills needed to write code. In fact, the only place this is true is among the developer community itself. Developers of one application are users of other applications and are in a unique position to contribute to those projects by writing code for them. This is a nice situation when it exists, but it should be recognized as the exceptional situation that it is..."

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