Floss your open source UI once a year

I’m excited to be taking part in the 3rd FLOSS Usability Sprint later this month. FLOSS stands for Free/Libre/Open-Source Software (think Firefox, Thunderbird, ubuntu, gimp, and all the other freely downloadable open software which have making significants inways into the commercial software giants’ cash cows).

Why the sprint? Open-source software has been traditionally known for relatively poor usability. Reasons include focusing on more technically sophisticated users (and why not? if you are going to code for free, you may as well code highly-featured stuff that you would use), a lack of centralized management (contributing to feature bloat and inconsistency), and a lack of financial resources for investing in usability and design. However, the FLOSS community has recognized the problem and their is a burgeoning movement dedicated to alleviating it.

The Sprint will bring together open-source developers and user experience professionals to – over the course of one intense weekend (hence the term sprint) – brainstorm, interview, usability test, prototype and iterate improvements to a number of open-source projects. Projects signed up so far include Drupal, HyperScope, SocialSourceCommons, and SocialtextOpen.

Interested in taking part? Are you a user experience researcher or designer with a bit of time on your hands in late October who would like to do your bit for open source? Are you in an open source project and worried that your UI isn’t Mum/grandfather/non uber-geek friendly? Sign up here.

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