usability, power, and senior project
Aug 25, 2005, 02:57am EDT
I had an interesting discussion with Eugene yesterday about some of the reasons why usability practitioners aren’t involved in open source projects. The main motivating factors for devlopers are also true for usability practitioners (to scratch one’s own itch and reputation), but there’s a problem with knowing how to get involved. For developers, there are clear paths to take like using sourceforge to create a new project or submitting a patch to an existing project. We need a light weight method for usability practitioners to provide feedback to an existing project like a source code patch.
It also seems like there’s a significant problem with how power is balanced between a usability practitioner and an open source developer. In most open source projects, the person in control is the software developer. That is, regardless of the feedback provided by a usability practitioner, the ultimate decision on whether or not to incorporate the feedback is up to the developer. In industry settings, the power between the two is more balanced; perhaps it’s enforced by a product manager. As most open source projects don’t have a product manager, it is up to the developer to want to share the decision making power with a usability analyst in hopes of having a better application in the end.
The other random thought I had was that colleges with senior project classes in software engineering should try to have one student interested in usability in each project group. If we believe usability is part of the design process, why aren’t we teaching this to college students?