Re: The Law of Least Astonishment
Sounds remarkably similar to the "Law of least amazement."
Open source advocates may be a tech cut above the average, but there is a reason the media is abuzz with the term "post PC device." and it's because the PC with a filing system and command line fully on show is only applicable to a very small percentage of users (as much as we may dislike that fact and wish it were otherwise).
As anal as I am with my computing, I tend to be a bit messy around my house. When you are a messy person, you stop seeing the mess. You tune it out from your perception. So things that have been out on that sideboard, stay out even though they should be tidied away and you stop seeing the some of the things that are out as mess. Recently I've realized this happens to a large degree with OS's. This has been Microsoft's problem. There are paradigms we get used to and we stop seeing the rough edges. Like the fact, on Windows, you can open a mail attachment, forget you have done it and then save your modifications to a temporary file that will (for the average user) get lost in the Ether. For the average Joe, doing this could be not just a little frustrating ( as I witnessed last week, as it happens, for a friend's daughter working on a dissertation for her finals - it was a major disaster).
What am I saying here? "The law of least astonishment" can easily become "the law of least amazement", which in turn can become "the law of leave the mess it as it is." but actually, as it is, has all too often been totally incomprehensible for the average user. Of course I'm not equating Linux to Windows, but I am pointing out that Ubuntu is at least pushing out to a new constuency and sticking with keeping the techie community satisfied isn't going to result in innovative and bold rationalized design.
Mark Shuttleworth sees the value of the "post PC" attitude to design (as much as we may hate that term) Do we want Ubuntu/Linux to remain "our thing" or do we want a wider constituency to appreciate it's benefits? If the latter we have to be prepared to let go of the notion the average Joe just needs to understand the advantage of being technically proficient, and accept that if the average Joe is going to get on board "the law of leave it as it is" can't be allowed to constrain.
I'm not saying widening the constiuency is the right future to aim at. In all honesty, I don't know. I'm just pointing out this is the heart of the dilemma for Ubuntu. Is there any practical feasibility in the notion of an Open Source OS that is developed to satisfy the needs of a wider constituency than the community of engineers developing it as "their thing." ? Can an Open Source OS be developed to aim at features that draw more people in who are not going to be contributors to the development effort? Is this asking for a level of altruism too far beyond the already altruistic ideals of the development community? I don't know.