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Users versus developers (was: Tempo mark alignment)

From: Tim McNamara
Subject: Users versus developers (was: Tempo mark alignment)
Date: Sat, 23 May 2009 10:10:32 -0500

On May 23, 2009, at 6:34 AM, Graham Percival wrote:

My goal is not to insult you into feeling bad; my goal is
to insult you into HELPING US FIX THINGS.  Learn scheme.  Join the
Frogs.  Contribute to lilypond.  If everybody sits around saying
"why doesn't somebody fix this", then it WILL NEVER BE FIXED.

"Helping" takes many forms.

Like many LilyPond users, I know nothing useful about computer programming and so cannot help with correcting problems in the code. I have a full time-plus highly demanding job, a marriage, a house, ailing parents, I play music and have other hobbies. If you have gotten to 50 years of age then you will know what sort of things I am talking about; if you haven't gotten to 50 yet, then you will understand when you get there. I can't speak for Xavier, but I don't have time to learn Scheme or C. Sorry, that's just the way it is.

Using LilyPond and providing feedback from the "naive user" perspective is helpful, even if you find the results frustrating enough to shout at Xavier about it and to put it in the FAQ, etc. If you want LilyPond to flourish in the user space, which IMHO ought to be the goal because this project has clearly involved far too much dedicated work by many talented people for its use to be limited to a couple hundred people around the world, then it's necessary to deal gracefully with people like Xavier and me. I can afford Finale or one of the other commercial packages (or a pen and some staff paper), as can many LilyPond users. I use LilyPond not because it's free-as- in-beer because I believe in the philosophy of free-as-in-speech software, non-proprietary file formats, and want to help LilyPond develop into the premier music engraving application.

LilyPond is currently a difficult application to learn to use. It is not intuitive. LilyPond is very powerful and there are many, many options that can be used and often many ways in which those options can be used. The documentation is at times difficult and opaque. It is the newbies and non-programmers who will tend to remind us of this fact. Telling them that they have no right to comment is not helpful because the project loses their insights and may lose them as users. For many folks like me, our contribution is going to be limited to using LilyPond for practical purposes, then providing feedback and financial support. These things are not invaluable. You can't insult people into helping.

On the users' part, we have to recognize that FOSS developers don't have the financial resources to the kinds of things someone getting $500 for a software package can. FOSS applications usually develop much more slowly than commercial software. Programmers are doing this on a volunteer basis in most cases.

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