Comment of the Day - October 22, 2005

Posted by tadelste on Oct 22, 2005 9:35 PM
Lxer- Article; By tuxchick

The bit about the Open Document plug-in for Microsoft Office users was absolutely great, a good lesson for many FOSS advocates.

Related to the article A Mile in Someone Else's Shoes.

The bit about the Open Document plug-in for Microsoft Office users was absolutely great, a good lesson for many FOSS advocates. As Brian wrote:

"I don't mean to sound cynical," I wrote, "but what is the advantage for Linux or open source if OSV enables MS Office users to handle the OpenDocument formats? Isn't that taking away a pain/pressure point for them to switch to or another OD-compliant application?"

That is so not the point, and I am glad that Con Zymaris has the wisdom and insight to recognize this, and that Brian does too. Pain is the Microsoft way. Linux and the FOSS world have long been the leaders in interoperability and usability- no one else, with the exception of Novell, even tries. (And poor ole Novell just can't seem to acquire any traction, which is such a mystery to me.)

What, you cry, usability? Linux? Pish tosh! Yes, usability, and I mean it, but not in the sense of pretty buttons and sleek menus. Those are nice, but they are worthless without meaningful underlying functionality. I mean it in the sense of being able to cobble together a network of practically any combination of platforms, and everyone will be able to share files, do email and other messaging, share printers and other peripherals, access databases, get authenticated, get firewalled, get tunneled, and whatever else is needed.

I mean it in the sense that users have easy access to tens of thousands of software packages, so that whatever need they have chances are they'll find an application to meet it. If they can't, they can modify or create one. Giant obvious examples being Google, Pixar, Amazon. Microsoft sure couldn't take them where they wanted to go, no matter how pretty the menu buttons.

Microsoft's strategy is based on making it too painful to use anything else. Never mind what sort of bizarre contortions it forces into product design. We don't need to emulate that- it doesn't work, and it does not serve users. It's funny how FOSS advocates are often derided as idealistic, dreamy hippies- I think it represents the ultimate in pragmatism. The dreamers are the ones who think that punishing people and making their lives more difficult is a good way to win them over. (other folks have made this very point here, but I'm too lazy to look them up.)

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