Design and Open Source Projects

13 Apr 2006 - 2:04am
8 years ago
3 replies
568 reads
Mike Beltzner
2004

Has anyone here contribtued to an open source project? One of my goals
for this year is to try and attract more participation in Mozilla
projects form members of the design communities (UX, HCI, IDX, IA,
Visual Design, I'm not choosy!)

As someone's who's only recently started working with OSS community
processes, tools and techniques, I know that a lot of the entry points
can be incredibly daunting, and it can be hard to determine where one
would *start* to contribute should one be inclined to do so. I held a
session at TorCamp 1.0 several months ago, and most of the comments
about why people haven't gotten involved centered around the fact that
the OSS tools were opaque and not geared towards the sorts of input
and deliverables normally contributed by a member of the design
community.

If possible, I'd like to try to tear down as many of those barriers to
entry as I can, and get a vibrant community of designers working
together to make open source products better.

So, to start this discussion rolling ..:

- have you ever contributed to an open source project?
- if yes, was the contribution used? was the experience fulfilling?
- if no, is there any reason why you haven't?

- what would make it easier for you to contribute to an open source project?

- what would you like to see more of in open source projects?

cheers,
mike

(ps: I'm going to be at CHI in Montreal at the end of the month, and
would love to meet up with people to talk more about this, and even
buy them some drinks!)

--

[ mike beltzner / user experience lead / mozilla corporation ]

Comments

13 Apr 2006 - 3:03pm
Hari Vepadharma...
2005

Hi Mike,
There is http://www.openusability.org
Lots of projects looking for usability folks. I have recently joined a
project - a translation tool. I have just started to look into it.
You have to register there. You can search the projects and if you find an
interesting one, you can contact the project's leader to get approved and
included.

--Hari--

13 Apr 2006 - 3:23pm
Mike Beltzner
2004

On 4/13/06, Hari Vepadharmalingam <vpdhari at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi Mike,
> There is http://www.openusability.org
> Lots of projects looking for usability folks. I have recently joined a
> project - a translation tool. I have just started to look into it.
> You have to register there. You can search the projects and if you find an
> interesting one, you can contact the project's leader to get approved and
> included.

I've looked at OpenUsability before, and from what I can tell, it
seems to be a set of online collaboration and communication tools for
connecting design practitioners with developers. I've always wondered
if the idea behind it was that it served as a bridge, providing tools
that the design practitioner could use, yet which were also similar to
those that the OSS developer typically used. Has that been your
experience?

It's always been my preference to have the design practitioner working
directly with the developer, as closely as possible to the design
tools that the developer uses; this reduces the time required to
ensure that everyone is in synch, and instead has everyone looking at
the same (or very similar) development artifacts. The Mozilla project
has, if anything, too many of these tools already, and one thing I was
hoping to get at was whether or not members of the design community
find them daunting or off-putting.

I have my own suspicions, and went through / am still going through my
own process of getting up to speed with these tools, but would love to
get anyone else's input who might have tried this before.

cheers,
mike

--
/ mike beltzner / user experience lead / mozilla corporation /

17 Apr 2006 - 5:33pm
niklasw
2005

Hi Mike

This is an interesting issue for me, I've spent many hours thinking
about. For any interaction designer finding it hard to 'talk' to the
people developing the products you design I recommend joining an open
source project. That's where in my experience you really have to put
your IxD diplomatic and linguistic skills at test. After that any
development team hurdles where you're paid to do IxD will feel simple
:)

About two years ago I participated in the xboxmediacenter project
where I for about a year contributed as as an interaction designer,
graphic designer and general usability advisor. I suppose
"contributed" is one of the key words in this issue tho it has several
facets.

Although a bit lengthy I'd like to share my thoughts on this and also
hopefully inspire others.

I have this notion/experience that working with o/s is also about
being part of 'the crowd' which also is 'the development team'. This
is used as a mechanism for validating participators, a validation that
is somewhat necessary as the normal monetary leverage is taken out of
the equation. The position in the crowd in other words has to be
earned usually by contributing with valid input. And I actually do
believe this is a necessary part of the process.

Here is the tricky part: In most cases o/s projects are started by
someone who has coding skills and an idea to start from and then it
usually grows to something quite big, from a coding pov. Hence joining
(earning the position) in an o/s project as a coder is some what
simpler just based on the fact that you can code. Then also (if I've
understood this rigth) you can as a coder take 'a part' of code and
work on that to prove your skills. In a simplified way explained like
this: adding functionality or solving a bug, add it to a 'local copy'
of the general code-base and test run it on your own to see that it
works and then submit it as a patch to be added to the main CVS
repository (or similar).

I supose this is part of what you refer to as the daunting or
of-putting tools problem? These tools doesn't support doing the same
on lets say a part/section/use case of the user interface. Maybe an
IxDer should f.ex. be able to check out the "add an extension" use
case from the mozilla-CVS? Then there are the bigger perspectives like
usually when working with IxD there are aspects that can't be taken
out of its context like terminology which means that you don't feel
like you can do your job properly if you don't have control or someone
is controlling the overall UX/IxD direction of the project.

This touches on another aspect that I encountered that it seems like
these projects are somewhat self-managed through the tools used, in
other words there isn't an appointed project manager and the tools
used seem to partially substitute as that.

Maybe this is/can or even has be solved externally via f.ex.
openusability.org? Maybe places like sourcforge should start hosting
projects that are initially only requirements specs based on well
structured use cases and interface designs with version handling as
well and from there try to attract coders? Actually I'd like a tool
like that in my daily job 8-)

In the xbmc-project, to get my voice heard I ended up creating my own
skin for the application. By doing so I 'earned' my spot and started
to get beyond the general complaints-noise in the forums and started
communicating and cooperating with the developers in the project via
mail and IRC. I had lots and lots of fun working with that project
learned a lot and I made many friends from around the globe that i
still stay in touch with even if I'm no longer involved in the
development. I' still haven't met anyone from the project IRL yet tho
:)

Anyhow I can only recommend doing open source work from a IxD point of
view and I hope more of my kind give it a try and I'll gladly continue
any discussion on the subject.

--Niklas

On 4/13/06, Mike Beltzner <mbeltzner at gmail.com> wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> Has anyone here contribtued to an open source project? One of my goals
> for this year is to try and attract more participation in Mozilla
> projects form members of the design communities (UX, HCI, IDX, IA,
> Visual Design, I'm not choosy!)
>
> As someone's who's only recently started working with OSS community
> processes, tools and techniques, I know that a lot of the entry points
> can be incredibly daunting, and it can be hard to determine where one
> would *start* to contribute should one be inclined to do so. I held a
> session at TorCamp 1.0 several months ago, and most of the comments
> about why people haven't gotten involved centered around the fact that
> the OSS tools were opaque and not geared towards the sorts of input
> and deliverables normally contributed by a member of the design
> community.
>
> If possible, I'd like to try to tear down as many of those barriers to
> entry as I can, and get a vibrant community of designers working
> together to make open source products better.
>
> So, to start this discussion rolling ..:
>
> - have you ever contributed to an open source project?
> - if yes, was the contribution used? was the experience fulfilling?
> - if no, is there any reason why you haven't?
>
> - what would make it easier for you to contribute to an open source project?
>
> - what would you like to see more of in open source projects?
>
> cheers,
> mike
>
> (ps: I'm going to be at CHI in Montreal at the end of the month, and
> would love to meet up with people to talk more about this, and even
> buy them some drinks!)
>
> --
>
> [ mike beltzner / user experience lead / mozilla corporation ]
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