I actually quietly attended the Desktop Architects conference in Portland, but avoided catching up on the mailing list about it until now. Thanks to Burgundavia for linking to the Linus thing. Here are some of my favourite quotes from the discussion.
The majority of end-users want a simple printer dialog. In fact most people will just hit the Print button without changing any settings. These users are not 'idiots' they just have better things to do then futz around with printer settings. On the flip side I'm sure there are many pre-press publishers who want to tweak and change every setting. The two design goals do not have to be at odds with one another. A good design will satisfy both.
-- Gregory Raiz, Windows developer
To put it in mathematical terms: "The Intersection of all Majorities is the empty set", or its corollary: "The Union of even the smallest minorities is the universal set".
It's a total logical fallacy to think that the intersection of two majorities would still be a majority. It is pretty damn rare, in fact, because these things are absolutely not correlated.
-- Linus Torvalds, kernel developer
When user interfaces means that something CANNOT BE DONE, it's not about "usable design" any more. At that point, it's about UNusable design.
Any Gnome people who argue that it's about "usability" have their heads up their asses so far that it's not funny. I've argued with them about this before, and I know others have too, and mostly given up.
"Usability" is an issue only if you can do something at all. But if you can't do the thing at all, it's pointless to talk about usability: the thing is BY DEFINITION not usable if it cannot be used for a specific task.
-- Linus Torvalds, again
If I have an overall point here, it's that all of us who are maintainers should be willing to make choices and take the heat, and that it breaks our ability to make good software if we start thinking "all things to all people," or "I can't do anything, so I'll just punt or bow to the flames." Either we have something to contribute due to our professional skills, or we don't. Users (like Linus) vote with their feet on whether we contributed the right things for them personally, or focused on someone else instead, or just failed to do anything useful for anyone at all.
If nobody uses my software, I want it to be my fault. And the same if they do use it. Why else would I bother trying to be better or worse at my profession?
-- Havoc Pennington, designer
Not Taking Things Too Seriously
Seriously, this has been entertaining. And I think Linus has made a lot of good points that certain people in the GNOME world should make an effort to take to heart. I found myself nodding rhythmically as I read most of his mails, even if he was being a big jerk half the time.
-- Nat Friedman, person who doesn't take things too seriously