As many of you are most probably aware I work for Canonical and some of my blog posts from here are syndicated to design.canonical.com. I was asked a rather interesting question on that blog and partly due to the impatience of the asker decided to respond by way of a post. My other motivation for responding in this way because I didn’t want an interesting question to be lost in the comments.

The question: “I wonder if the ‘open for all’ in FOSS makes the design part suffer from ‘design by comitee’? What are your thoughts on this?” – Tor Løvskogen Bollingmo

It can be hard to avoid any design anywhere being subject to influence by committee. It is very hard to avoid being influenced by people who are louder, stronger, more powerful, more persuasive and to avoid giving discussions too much weight. Get too many stakeholders involved and things can quickly get messy. This is the very reason I am an advocate of user-centred design. Good data is the ultimate opinion neutraliser.

In open-source, it seems to me, we suffer from a proliferation of design by enthusiasm. A passing comment turns into a mock-up, which turns into some code and before you know it – KAPPOW! – ladies and gentlemen, we have a feature!

We definitely don’t want to curb our enthusiasm, but I do think we need to learn to direct it.

Ideas are cheap. Let’s learn to be discerning. Let’s get enthusiastic about building great things for a set of target users to fulfil a particular need.