Daily Archives: October 23, 2012

What Open Source Software has Good Usability?

Are you interested in software usability and open source? If so, my friend Jim would like your help. He is doing a study of usability in Open Source software. I’ll post his entire request below along with a link to his blog. Also, he’ll probably be doing some other interent based interolocution about this; I’ll pass on to you whatever he passes on to me.

Here’s the thing. Jim has been involved in Open Source software for a long time, and is the creator of FreeDOS, and it doesn’t get much geekier than that. (I think the FreeDOS developers manual may be written in a dialect of Klingon.) What he’s looking for is a good example of Open Source software (any platform, does not have to be Linux) that has a medium amount of complexity that can be served up for analysis of positive and negative (but mainly positive) aspects of usability. I’m going to suggest the following list for consideration:

Open Office Writer
The Gimp
Shotwell or Digikam
an IM client

This list runs from way complex on the top to (probably) way simple at the bottom. I would think that a study needs to be of more than the simplest applications because there won’t be enough to work with. (These are mostly GUI based applications; not sure if Jim is looking for any cli applications. VLC is certainly both.)

Have a look at Jim’s criteria below and make a few suggestions. The list above is just to get the brain juices going.

Here’s Jim’s RFI:

What programs have good usability?

I want to ask for your help in my study.

For my study, I want to do a “deep dive” on usability in open source software. After speaking with several “thought leaders,” my thinking now is that it’s better to do a case study, a usability critical analysis on an open source software program that has good usability. The results will be a discussion about why that program has good usability, and what makes good usability, so that other open source programmers can mimic the good parts.

I’ll also discuss what features are not good usability examples, so programmers can avoid those mistakes. But the focus will be more on the good and less on the bad.

Picking the right open source program is a tricky thing. The ideal program should be not too big (for example, very complex menus can “lose” the audience in the details) but neither should it be too small (a trivial program will not provide as valuable of results). The program should be approachable by general users.

There’s no reason the program needs to be a Linux program. However, I prefer that the case study be of an open source program. Many open source programs also exist for Windows and MacOSX.

The original blog, which you should visit, is HERE.

Will I see you at Mayday Books Wednesday PM?

I’ll be at Mayday Books with other authors of Atheist Voices of Minnesota: an Anthology of Personal Stories for a thing. Specifically, we’ll form a panel to discuss how atheism informs our political views and activism.

The discussion will be moderated by George Kane, and the panelists include Ryan Bolin, Greg Laden, M.A. Melby, Kim Socha, and Stephanie Zvan….

Mayday Books is a unique and fascinating little bookstore. Located in the West Bank community in Minneapolis, it’s a volunteer collective dedicated to selling radical and left-wing literature, and providing a space for political education and camaraderie.

After the discussion, which should end around 8pm or shortly after, those who want can hang out at Mayday Books for some social time and further discussion. Some refreshments will be on hand.

The event will be at 7:00 PM. Let me know if you want to get together beforehand at the nearby Anarchist coffee shop or something.

Breaking: Michael Mann Suing National Review and Competitive Enterprise Institute

My friend and colleague Michael Mann just released the following information:

Lawsuit filed against The National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute 10/22/12

Today, the case of Dr. Michael E. Mann vs. The National Review and The Competitive Enterprise Institute was filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Dr. Mann, a Professor and Director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, has instituted this lawsuit against the two organizations, along with two of their authors, based upon their false and defamatory statements accusing him of academic fraud and comparing him to a convicted child molester, Jerry Sandusky. Dr. Mann is being represented by John B. Williams of the law firm of Cozen O’Connor in Washington, D.C..

Dr. Mann is a climate scientist whose research has focused on global warming. In 2007, along with Vice President Al Gore and his colleagues of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for having “created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming.”

Nevertheless, the defendants assert that global warming is a “hoax,” and have accused Dr. Mann of improperly manipulating the data to reach his conclusions.

In response to these types of accusations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation and seven other organizations have conducted investigations into Dr. Mann’s work, finding any and all allegations of academic fraud to be baseless. Every investigation—and every replication of Mann’s work—has concluded that his research and conclusions were properly conducted and fairly presented.

Despite their knowledge of the results of these many investigations, the defendants have nevertheless accused Dr. Mann of academic fraud and have maliciously attacked his personal reputation with the knowingly false comparison to a child molester. The conduct of the defendants is outrageous, and Dr. Mann will be seeking judgment for both compensatory and punitive damages.

Journalists interested in further information regarding the filing of this lawsuit may contact Dr. Mann’s attorney at 202-912-4848, or jbwilliams@cozen.com.

Why Romney's "Route to the sea" gaffe is way worse than you think

In last night’s debate, Mitt Romney said this:

“Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.”

This is not the first time Romney has said this. In March, he said, “Maybe one of the few bright spots in the Middle East developments in the last year has been the rising of the people in Syria against Assad. Obviously, as you know, Syria is Iran’s only Arab ally in the region. Syria is the route that allows Iran to supply Hezbollah with weapons in Lebanon. Syria is Iran’s route to the sea …” When he said that in March, the Washington Post called him on it, but apparently his campaign ignored the correction.

Romney’s assertion that Iran is landlocked is wrong at several levels, but even the fact checkers and press are ignoring the truly alarming reason why this wrongness must be taken into account when considering Mitt Romney’s ability to manage US foreign policy. I’ll get to that in a moment. But first, a bit of factual context.

Here is a map of Iran, courtesy of the CIA: Continue reading Why Romney's "Route to the sea" gaffe is way worse than you think