Silver bullet or fool's gold: supporting usability in open source software development

TitleSilver bullet or fool's gold: supporting usability in open source software development
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsTwidale, M
Secondary TitleProceedings of the 27th international conference on Software engineering
Place PublishedNew York, NY, USA
ISBN Number1-58113-963-2
Keywordscourse project, education, lifecycle model, pedagogical, software engineering education, software process

At first glance it can look like Open Source Software development violates many, if not all, of the precepts of decades of careful research and teaching in Software Engineering. One could take a classic SE textbook and compare the activities elaborated and advocated in the various chapters with what is actually done in plain sight in the public logs of an OSS project in say SourceForge. For a Professor of Software Engineering this might make for rather depressing reading. Are the principles of SE being rendered obsolete? Has OSS really discovered Brooks' Silver Bullet? Or is it just a flash in the pan or Fool's Gold.In this talk I will mainly look at one aspect of Open Source Development, the 'problem' of creating usable interfaces, particularly for non-technical end-users. Any approach involves the challenge of how to coordinate distributed collaborative interface analysis and design, given that in conventional software development this is usually done in small teams and almost always face to face. Indeed all the methods in any HCI text just assume same-time same-place work and don't map to distributed work, let alone the looser mechanisms of OSS development. Instead what is needed is a form of participatory usability involving the coordination of end users and developers in a constantly evolving redesign process.

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