The little flamewar with Linus about usability do bring up a few good points. So usability was made a focus for the GNOME 2.x series and a lot of good have come of that, but it has had some unforseen side effects.
First of all, the vast majority of GNOME users and developers don’t know the details of why certain things are like they are in any given module, we only know the details of the select modules we develop/follow closely. The issue of printer options as discussed is one good example, I had no idea (before the Linus thread) why things where the way they where.
The problem is that we and the community in general have started to assume that UI design decisions are behind everything in GNOME being the way they are. So when people come complaining about missing printer options, the assumption is that that its a design decision and not simply something not implemented yet (as was the case in the printer options case) or Havoc simply not having had the time and interest to work on Linus’s mouse button mapping issue enough to bring it to completion. Yet, out there people assumed this things where caused by design decisions, even people relativly close to the development community, and often people would even give this assumption as the answer to anyone they talk with who brought up the issue.
The rate to which this belief has become embedded in peoples conception is actually amazing. I have had multiple discussions with people complaining about this or that in GNOME, and when looking into it finding that the reason something is the way it is has nothing to do with a ‘make it simple’ design decision, but simply that the developers haven’t gotten around to it yet, or in some cases not being aware of the usecase/need. And I have then found that when returning with this information I actually have to spend a lot of time convincing people that their wanted functionality XY is simply a lack of developertime/awareness and not a concious UI design decision.
This is a problem in many ways. It creates fertile grounds for silly misunderstandings like the issues brought up by Linus.It might also cause a lot of people to not create patches adding the functionality they want because they assume its omission is on purpose and thus hindering people from joining the project.
On the other hand I guess it do mean people have a lot of faith in the level of the UI design work going into GNOME, since they obviously assume nothing is in GNOME or ever happens in GNOME without a lot of UI thought having gone into it :)