Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Diversification within the software development world

For the longest time, open source and free software was often characterised by homely graphic design.

Websites that supported such software, like SourceForge were a blight upon the senses. The graphics were garish. Nothing fit inside a browser window unless that window was full-screen. Even then, not always. Fonts and colours made things unpleasant to read. Controls were not helpful.

The documentation was typically pitiful. People depending upon documentation were typically pitiable.

You had to really want this stuff in order to partake.

Recently however, I came upon a link to a site that lists a handful of open-source programmes that run on Mac OS X. The site is called, Open Source Mac. It calls itself a simple list of free, open-source software for Mac OS X.

Forget about any of the software, the site itself is appealing. It has rich, juicy icons for each of the apps that are featured. The typography is simple but appealing. The font sizes and colours help organise the page. This astonishes me.

What does any of this mean?

I think it signals a sea change.

This site, is not one like, A List Apart. It is not a font of design technique and consideration. It has no mission statement like, "FROM PIXELS TO PROSE, CODING TO CONTENT". I'm a big fan of A List Apart, even though I lack the skills to exploit the knowledge that they profer.

It's not a site like David Siegel's Welcome to my Casbah. This site is one of the first that I used to frequent after reading the writer's critique of Netscape Navigator 1.1. Was it even called Navigator at that point?

This site, is merely a listing of software — a simple listing.

One of the programmes that they recommend is titled Xfactor. Xfactor has a lovely icon. The home page is simple and pleasing to the eye.

This is a huge development.

Why?

Because it means that the open-source has penetrated past the early adopter stage. People with the skills to put up such pretty web pages weren't working with open-source software a year ago. People who could create nice icons weren't working with open-source software a year ago. People who could write well and were willing to were not working with open-source software a year ago. For certain, they were not putting together the graphics and the layout of free software and lists of software. Check out TUCOWS for what things could look like. I know, that's mean. I will say that TUCOWS looks wonderful in contrast with its previous appearance.

This development is critical for two reasons. First, it means, as I alluded to above, that people other than the hardcore geeks are looking at open-source without a jaundiced eye. Second, it means that other talents are being introduced into software development.

Consider that in the light of Apple's inroads into the unix or linux communities. People with different perspective and different talents are being welcomed into the insular open-source developing community.

Where will this lead?

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