Majstor Trichko Znae Vsichko

Here in the lovely country of Bulgaria we have a saying – “Majstor Trichko Znae Vsichko”, which literally translates as “Workman Trichko knows everything”, which means nothing, so here have the semantic translation – “Don’t be a jack of all trades, but master of none”.
So, straight to the point now – I’ve been in the applications design business for Average Blokes for a while now and the most important thing I’ve learned is actually a rather simple thing – You can’t please everybody and adding customisation options isn’t always a solution.
You see, if you are designing (or if you can code too – creating) open source application you can’t avoid community impact on your app and the better it is, the more cherished the impact would be. However beauty of the open source community is that it’s really diverse and it has more kinds of folks that the light itself. I won’t bother bulleting all kinds I can think of, because that would require going to the store and buying a second keyboard, simply because the current one will fall part from typing. So, you have all those types of blokes in the community and the most interesting one (if you are making an app) are what I’ve (albeit cheekily) named – jittebugs. It’s not because they cause any kind of panic, it’s because for quite a while I’ve had Wham’s “Wake me up before you go go” stuck in my head on repeat mode and the lyrics are full with the word jitterbug, so you see – I had to name something after that word.
But who are those jitterbugs? Well, to put it simply they are the folks that come up with ideas and suggestions for your application.
You will get all kinds of suggestions – silly ones, wonky ones, ace ones, brilliants ones, etc … and you have to go through each of them and expression your opinion. Usually when an idea is a good one you add it to your To-Do list andthank the jitterbug fellah. The real fun, however starts when an idea is a bad one and you have to explain that to the bloke who proposed it, which very much regrettably is much more common than the other salutes and perks scenario.
Sadly a bunch of the users simply have no idea what is actually the right thing – for example you can get bug reports about “Maximise button is missing” despite that the app has certain amount of options in it’s interface and maximising it would only create whitespace. Or one about “Toolbar is missing modes” – when the user want to be able to tweak the toolbar – text below icons, icons only, text beside icons, etc … which will only break the look and feel of your application. Or … nah, I really don’t think it’s necessary to type more examples.
For our community is incredibly diverse and more colourful than a rainbow there will always be chaps that want customisation options and implementing those options those options will break your app, and you don’t want to make a broken app, do you? So, when you see such request politely explain to the jitterbug why exactly it’s a bad idea. Don’t go prepeared for full fledged verbal war, don’t just shoot “No. That’s not gonna be implemented.” as an answer, type a nice and polite answer with the reasons which render that useless for implementation.
Lastly, never ever assume the users are bloody idiots that have no idea what they want and what’s the right thing to do, however if you see a suggestion that doesn’t make sense, don’t be afraid to say grounded no, because that might somehow make this guy feel bad. There are times when declining is the right thing to do and if you don’t and proceed with implementing a feature that won’t improve your application or will make it worse it means you have to really learn how to say “No” when needed.

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Cos I DON’T wanna be Anarchy

You know that famous British punk band called “Sex pistols” ?
Yes – Ace!
No – Well, get to know them! :>
Anyway, for those of you who are not familiar with them, here’s a little something:

Music_Sex_Pistols_004826_

As you can see, there is torn up Union Jack and a badge saying “Anarchy in the U.K.” next to the band’s name.

But where am  I aiming with that? Well, the answer is actually rather simple – swap “the U.K.” (nothing personal, Britain, honestly) with “Free Software” and you will get cookies. … All right, you are not getting cookies (or cake for that matter!!!!!!), but rather “Anarchy in Free Software”.
See, I’ve been in the whole Free Software world for quite a lot of  time and worked (and still working) on enough projects to learn that sadly in not that small amount of them there is some a la anarchy status, because no one actually steps up to say “I will lead this project and I will take the decisions.” especially when it comes to the design.
You know, some people tend to accuse Mark Shuttleworth for being too much of a dictator and Canonical for being too … strict, but the fact is that Ubuntu would have never been as successful as it is today without the strong leadership.
There is a person or a team of such behind every application out there (well … duh) and unless you are part of such team and want the project to fail miserably your team has to make decisions. Sometimes they might be tough, sometimes they maybe easy, sometimes they might require to have a discussion with the userbase of your application, but you have to take them, otherwise you risk accepting ALL the contributions, which results in what we hear in Bulgaria call (caution – might be really hard to pronounce for non Slavic speakers) – “Mnou babi, hilavo djate”, which translates as “A lot of grandmoms, spoiled kiddoh.” … and just be glad I didn’t write that in cyrillic … :>
You know, it’s ace to see community contributions (no matter if they will be design suggestions or branches with code or a feature request) to your application, no I lied, actually it’s brill, but you can’t just accept them all without going through every of them and evaluating and if you have to discussing it, simply because saying no might hurt someone’s feelings.
You have to evaluate every design and code contribution or a feature request, discuss it with the other team members and if you have to with the contributor himself, before making the call.
Being ignorant jerk that says “To hell with everything, I’m gonna go giddy on power” is a big no no, but accepting everything is just as bad and sometimes even worse.
So, to sum it up:

keep-calm-and-make-decisions-8

OMG, Union Jack everywhere!!!! (no clue whatsoever why, though … oh well … :D)