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Portrait: Eric von Hippel, user innovation, and FOSS

Posted by: Anonymous [ip:] on October 15, 2008 11:52 AM
This article makes me think of the public user response to KDE 4.0 and how this initial response has affected the development of new features in KDE4. The early response from users, when KDE 4.0 was first released, was rather negative. Many users pointed out the number of features they found missing in KDE 4.0 and, although the developers were clearly taken aback by the vocal criticism, they nevertheless started adding the features that users asked for. And just six months later they published KDE 4.1, which had many new features that users had requested, and the user response to that second KDE4 release was already much more positive.

So it seems to me that, while the developers' ideas are still the main source of innovation in FOSS development, also the user response can sometimes affect quite radically what features are added to programs. And when developers listen the feature requests that users make, then the users are more likely to find the resulting programs suited to their needs. Designing software that is suited to users' needs gives innovation purpose, direction, and pragmatic goals -- it's no more innovation merely for the sake of finding new ways to do old things. And such pragmatic goals can also become a source of new innovations: how to meet more efficiently the needs that users have articulated.


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