Use the Force!

As you may know, a little ribellion is rampaging in GNOME. Some people (mostly “simple” users) are complaining against GNOME contributors (mostly developers and designers) about properties and preferences available on new Power panel in System Settings. Probably this will not be the only one change that will shock you. Do you want another example? Well, in GNOME 3.0 you’ll have to place an image file in ~/Pictures if you want to use it as background¹ or use Set as Background feature provided, for instance, by Image Viewer.

There will be big changes. Last week I got a short talk about new stuff in GNOME  3 and my opening slide was: Mantra: “We are going to break your desktop…”

I’m sure GNOME designers and developers are doing their best. I suppose it’s not simple achieve “design a self-teaching interface for beginners, and an efficient interface for advanced users, but optimize for intermediates“. But I also think GNOME userbase needs a little assurance about future directions. We are not developing GNOME for an ideal and stretched user, but for actual people.

So there are two open questions (to everyone) that could be good to answer:

  • is the currently chosen design immutable and “written in stone”? Come on, it’ just GNOME 3.0, we’ll have 3.2, 3.4, and so on until 3.32². Do you think it will be the same for the next 5 or 10 years? Are you sure we can address everything here and now? 3.0 is a starting point, there will be time and chances to reintroduce stuff or improve our favourite DE.
  • how can users/developers/contributors interact with designers? I suppose you can’t say “hey, here is a bug in your design” and file it on bugzilla. Here is no way to demostate it’s a lack, or it’s reproducible, or effects all people using the UI. Well, unless it’s related with i18n or a11y stuff (see for instance this bug, about Power settings and L10N/I18N). Here is a way to say “your design sucks in $THIS_AREA” in the hope this rant could start a virtuous circle of improvements? Here is a way to say “no, we want $THIS_WAY and we’ll not change” without being a Pure Dumbass(TM)?

I suppose the best way to gain users’ confidence is avoid to shut up like a clam and show more openness to any input and/or need. On the other side, remember that open source doesn’t mean “you can ask, you will obtain”.

… or… you can Use the Force! :D

[1] basically, the Background settings panel lacks an “Add” button
[2] GNOME 3.34 == GNOME 4.0, I’m sure

Tags: , , ,

25 Responses to “Use the Force!”

  1. Anon says:

    It’s one thing to have an incomplete implementation, I would accept that, but hardcoding stuff on purpose is completely different.

  2. Juanjo says:

    I agree with you, we’ll see other versions that probably will polish the resulting product.

    Anyway, the point is not that Gnome 3 will be imperfect, something that usually happens with ALL the software, but they may release something that will be *broken* for some users (I don’t know how many, but I’m still looking for someone that actually loves Gnome Shell in its current state).

    This is OSS, and there’s natural selection. Unity, KDE, LXDE, XFCE,… you name it. I don’t think people will stick with Gnome 3 just in case everything gets better in next versions.

  3. andrew says:

    Booting a gnome3 image of 2.91.6, I was quite shocked. Nautilus looks like it’s from the 80s, the window decs are HUGE and annoying to me, fonts were too large for my screen, and the worst part – I couldn’t change ANY of it! I can’t believe that UI freeze is in two weeks, it’s quite scary.

  4. Jones Lee says:

    I agree with you that major release should bring in new changes for the better. However what you think better doesn’t mean so for majority of user especially for whom who dislike Netbook-like UI. This is a thin line between the Force and the Sith, just hope that GNOME won’t turn bad like Luke.. may the Force be with you.

  5. jlp says:

    Probably the biggest problem I have with the GNOME design process is how hidden from view it seems to be. As an interested user, I’ve tried to find out what’s going on, but all I can find is some mock-ups scattered all over the wiki plus the very occasional post on Planet GNOME. I’m just a user, not a developer; I’m not going to sit in an IRC channel all day everyday just to see what happens.

    It would be nice if there was some kind of centralized summary of what’s happening, what’s being discussed, or whatever, posted on a regular basis in a visible place. People could comment, kick ideas around, etc. At least they wouldn’t be caught so completely by surprise.

  6. fredo says:

    Gnome 3.0, and especially Gnome Shell is really going to be the worst desktop experience ever.
    Gnome designers must be on drugs, i’m going to stick to gnome 2 until this piece of *** goes out of gnome desktop.

  7. Tomasz says:

    Luca, the fuss is not about design. We lack good design in freenix world and GNOME3 effort is step in good direction. The problem is breaking user use cases. Unconditional suspend on lid close will break many people workflow, breaking all the network connection. Not all connection could be re-established after resume (think all those IRC session and SSH with passwords).
    This is not something that computer can figure out. Of course we have mechanisms for inhibiting suspends during time-critical jobs like burning DVD, but those cannot be applied to SSH or irssi. Those two could inhibit suspend when having active connections, but sometimes those connections aren’t critical enough. What I’m getting at: only the user knows if his network connection can be broken or should stay established. Computer cannot decide, and forcing one choice will break some use cases. (It is told that forcing the other choice – not suspending – will in turn break some laptops, but I would call them broken by design).
    Every laptop has either key-combination for suspending or user can select Suspend from main menu. Closing the lid just doesn’t mean “user want to suspend”.

    Now, we luckily have a way to make it behave properly: there’s a dconf key to fix the situation. It only need to be documented properly and made discoverable. And this could be a problem.

    Now, to sound little trollish:
    1. GNOME documentation is very weak: it talks about obvious things and skips things really needing being documented (example: what exactly ,,application mode” or ,,reduced resource mode” in Metacity do?)
    2. Option from gnome-power-prefs was removed because of screen estate. We can save a lot of space using smaller margins and font without so big interline. Why break user cases instead of saving space?

  8. Francisco says:

    “[1] basically, the Background settings panel lacks an “Add” button”

    Err… joke? Must be a joke, since it’d actually destroy discoverability of the “set photo of my puppy as wallpaper” feature used by every kind of user around.

    • Fabian says:

      Agreed, sounds like “difference for the sake of being different”. I have no pictures in my ~/Pictures directory but only subdirectories and my favourite wallpapers in particular are in ~/Pictures/Hintergrundbilder, so I won’t be able to select them from the Background control panel. Yes, that’s crap!

  9. Manish Sinha says:

    Probably this will not be the only one change that will shock you. Do you want another example? Well, in GNOME 3.0 you’ll have to place an image file in ~/Pictures if you want to use it as background¹

    This isn’t a deal breaker as much as Gnome Power management issue. All other issues are mostly usability issues, but the power management fuss is valid. How will normal people change the dconf values themselves?
    The solution could have been to provide a checkbox to disable “Suspend on lid close”. The default/out-of-box behaviour could be to suspend when lid is closed.

    Do you think it will be the same for the next 5 or 10 years?

    5-10 years? What will we use by that time?

    Are you sure we can address everything here and now?

    I know it can be change in future, but which designer is ready to change it. Gnome power management’s functional requirements have been edited to fit the UI

  10. Michael says:

    Well, this look like kde4. And while kde4 is now ready and usable according to most users, they hated it when it was introduced, and this was something that was reproched to the linux distribution. So yes, people will fix it later, and yes, gnome will carry this for years.

    But unlike kde, gnome people have prmoised ( at least, I did 3 years ago when being on Gnome booth ) that it would not break much stuff, unlike kde 4. So I feel like having lied to users, because the plan were at this time just a cleaning of libraries. Later it was we are gonna push shell. Now it is ” we push shell, and we remove feature that people have used and add them back later”. I agree that this is difficult job, but alinating the current userbase is never good, especially when part of it is contributing to the software…

  11. korbe says:

    Add a simply GTKComboBox to choose “What do” when lid are closed and a checkBox to chose to auto-off suspend when external screen linked ar not difficult.

    But I think there are more urgent: Network have no options.

    On Gnome 2.XX, we had many options essential in some places of connection (work, school, etc) like 802.1X security, IPv4 and/or IPv6 (or MTU in some case) but not in Gnome-Shell. /o\

  12. May says:

    If you use Linux (or etc), you’re likely to be adept at computers enough to want some control over how things work. GNOME seems to be designed for some kind of ‘average Joe’ who wouldn’t be using Linux anyway.

    I’ve been using GNOME2 for a few years. After GNOME3 comes out, I’ll probably switch to KDE or some mix of IceWM and extra GUI utilities (a file manager, etc).

  13. JairJy says:

    Ok, I have a rule to determine if some software/design is bad or good: compare it to Windows. If is better than the alternative created by Microsoft, is good software or design; simple uh? Let’s try it!

    For example, on Windows 95, you can configure your screensavers, actually, on Windows 7 you can install a screensaver, fonts or change the wallpaper by a context menu. On GNOME 2, you can’t configure any screensavers better worse installing one (no apt-get install-the-screensaver-that-I-saw-on-this-site).

    Now on the topic, since Windows XP SP2, their users can easily change power plans and adjust the behavior of Windows when they close the lid of their laptops. On Vista the things come more easier with a simple menu on the notification bar and a better UI when configuring power plans. Actually Windows 7 is more simple and easy, but on the configuration UI there is a “Advance Mode” where you can even configure CPU behaviors, battery optimization and much more.

    … on GNOME 2, there isn’t any UI to configure power plans, just a simple UI to chose where to suspend and how. It seems that GNOME 3 will not have this UI even.

    The point is… c’mon!, even on a proprietary and “eViL” Desktop Environment from 2003 you can do something better than this “modern”, 2011 DE.

    This is not to be more “user friendly”, instead these changes will make GNOME more “useless friendly”.

    And please, don’t tell me that in 3~5 years this problem will be solved because I’ve been waiting years to configure the slideshow screensaver and now I’ll can’t even change the wallpaper unless I put it on the Wallpaper folder, WTF? Even Windows 98 was more user friendly.

  14. magicben says:


    “no, we want $THIS_WAY and we’ll change to something else that have it!”

    that’s Pure Dumbass(TM) and very constructive answer.

    in response of KDE4 introduction which was all except a “Computer Desktop” i made the switch to Gnome. now with gnome 3 comming i feel i’m going to switch to something else again…

    if ever one day i’ll have to “USE the Force” and turn back to MS Windows(TM) the only ones to blame for this would be bad designer on drugs making software for monkey and not carring about long time computer users who have habits to use things $THIS_WAY

  15. Dave Neary says:

    Portraying this as “us poor users against the big bad developers and designers” is counter-productive.

    Put names to people, it will serve you better. Perhaps then you will see a bunch of people ganging up on a small number of people trying to do the right thing.

    Anonymising the people involved only makes it easier to exhibit the kind of antisocial ad hominem attacks we see in this comment thread.


    • lferrett says:

      Dave, ????????

      Do you really feel I’m accusing developers or designers for something? My hope was to provide a little step to make developers|designers and users more confident each other. Unfortunately only angry users commented :(

  16. My partner and I really loved analyzing your perspective on Use the Force! « Partially Skimmed. We possess a set of well above 500 Videos. And as a consumer its quite often challenging to decide on which video to watch.

  17. Solution says:

    I truly enjoyed discovering regarding this solution!