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Re: Users versus developers (was: Tempo mark alignment)

From: Valentin Villenave
Subject: Re: Users versus developers (was: Tempo mark alignment)
Date: Sat, 23 May 2009 19:57:10 +0200

2009/5/23 Tim McNamara <address@hidden>:
> "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.

Hi Tim,

As I told Xavier, please do not cross-post. Since you're starting a
new discussion, let's keep this on -user.

I am not sure I appreciate your "50 years of age" point :-)

As you said, helping can take many forms, particularly for us
non-programmers. But when we want something to be addressed and we
can't do it on our own, what we can do really boils down to two
things: either we can help the programmers so that they are available
to deal with our problem, or we can find more programmers.

The first option is achieved by handling everything a non-programmer
can do: managing bugs, helping new users, writing the newsletter, etc.
The second option is achieved in two ways: helping expand our
community (and hoping this way more programmers will join on a
long-term perspective), or hiring someone (with decent money) to let
him learn the code and implement the feature/fix the bug you want.

> 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.

I think it already is. After having been a Encore/Finale/Sibelius
power-user for years, I have entirely switched to LilyPond while
writing a large score (which made me re-typeset about 200 pages from

> 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.

Ever heard of the good cop/bad cop thing? Well, Graham is the bad cop.
It's his way of dealing with users, and this way is more necessary
than you may believe. Thanks to Graham our documentation has improved
in many huge ways; we also have more bugfixers now than ever.

Saying that the program is "not intuitive" or that the documentation
is "difficult and opaque" will not help. We do welcome concrete
suggestions, such as "this input syntax would be more intuitive",
"this sentence should be rephrased this way; this chapter could be
divided this way", etc.

Users do have a right to comment. But their contribution will be more
valued if they have done their homework.

> 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.

I don't think this is true. Proprietary software is rarely developed
faster than Free software, except in particular "niche" projects --
which includes, in some ways, LilyPond.


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