Sun, 21 Jan 2007

Hireling priests

In my religion (Quakerism), we have no hired professional priests. The problem with hired priests is that their job gets mutated from one of helping the flock struggle with the burden of discerning Gods will, into one of keeping their job. The fire gets lost.

I think that Nokia has a similar problem with the 770. When you have a large full-time staff, they lose their fire. And yet, what else is Nokia to do? If they are going to build hardware, it needs software, and they surely cannot rely on the goodness of strangers for their software, can they? And that is exactly what they are already doing, by using the Linux kernel.

So lets explore this fantasy, wherein Nokia builds hardware and the rest of us write the software. I am firmly of the opinion that open source solves some problems poorly. The work that Tigert does (art and design) is not done well by the ordinary developer. If left to their own devices, they will also neglect usability.

There is definitely room for a paid staff. But I think that if you want to write the best software, most of it has to be written by the people who will be using it. Of course, that leaves Nokia with a chicken and egg problem. With a new product like the 770, how do they have users without any initial software?

Like all open source projects, you need to prime the pump. That is best done through contractors. Pay them to write the initial build, and then get out of the way. If the spec that they build to is fux0red in the usual way that most software designs are, it will get fixed. But in the meantime, users will at least have something which is minimally usable.

Nokia can get developer attention just as they did -- through subsidised hardware. They would also have gotten developers involved sooner, just as the OLPC has done. If you are building a really cool product, people will be lining up for early hardware. And, if they do not, then maybe the product is not as wonderful as initially conceived?

Nokia will probably not take this advice, but if they do not, I fear that they will continue to publish software that sucks.

Posted [15:08] [Filed in: 770] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]