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Joel on Mozilla

Anyone else get the same feeling when Joel writes about Mozilla, that you get when some free software developers write about Microsoft?

Just as some free software developers are committed to writing all kinds of negative things about Microsoft at every opportunity, Joel seems to love to dig up anything negative about Mozilla.  Mozilla is *all* bad, and the results were *no* good.

On the other hand, when Microsoft as flagrantly violates usability common sense as Mozilla does (MS with its three different widget sets, Mozilla with XUL), the Microsoft criticisms are tempered by praise for the development tools behind them. But how happy Mozilla's users are with *its* development model and how widely used *its* tools like Bugzilla are get ignored.

It just occurred to me that Bugzilla competes with fogbugz, but I still don't think that's the reason.  I just think this is a knee-jerk reaction of someone who makes all his money in proprietary software.

Neil Stevens
Thursday, August 29, 2002

Joel is just ignorant and stupid. He is happy with Internet explorer even though it has a million security problem, it is not standard compliant.
The thing with Joel is that he thinks he is a great develper but isn't and is jealous from Open Source developers that produce better code in a week than joel has in a lifetime.

Anti Joel
Thursday, August 29, 2002

Oh good, now we have an example of the other kind of knee-jerk reaction. :-)

Neil Stevens
Thursday, August 29, 2002

Anti Joel:

If you disgree with Joel on some issues that doesn't give the right to be rude.

I don't recall Joel caliming that he's a great developer or something like that. He's sharing his experience and view points with us and certainly if we disgree we can discuss it here in this forum in a more intellectual/polite way.

Have a good one.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

"The thing with Joel is that he thinks he is a great develper but isn't and is jealous from Open Source developers that produce better code in a week than joel has in a lifetime."

The thing with Joel is that he makes money writing software. Apparently, you are flipping burgers at McDonalds for a living. I hope you're happy with your "better code".

Frederik Slijkerman
Thursday, August 29, 2002

No i am a open source developer and i do make money developing open source software. I am tired of reading joel bitching about open source projects. Compare his products to open source projects and tell me if you can honestly say that his products are better.
Compare fogzilla to Bugzilla, Tigris' scarab and other bug tracking systems.
Compare citidesk to MT.
What gives him the right to complain all the time about open source projects?
He also complains about UI, does he use his own products?
The rest of you just bitch like him and defend him with no valid argument.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

I find defenses of Microsoft and attacks on Mozilla quite refreshing.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

"The rest of you just bitch like him and defend him with no valid argument. " -- Defend him from what? From articles like yours? You must provide an argument to support your assertions so that people can "defend."

BTW, I guess you are talking about "FogBUGZ" and "CityDesk."

Thursday, August 29, 2002

What's MT? I searched the net and tried just about every desktop content management system I could find (for Windows and Linux) before settling on CityDesk.

Darren Collins
Thursday, August 29, 2002

When Joel talks about Mozzilla, he usually talks about STRATEGY rather than SOFTWARE.

Whatever criticism you can have for the Code itself, the fact is that Microsoft continues to strategically out manouver all of its competitors.

They've taken on Lotus, Wordperfect, Novell and Netscape.  Each company had a massive, seemingly intrenchable monoply in its field and yet Microsoft defeated all of them.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, August 29, 2002

i'm guessing MT is movable type.  try

Thursday, August 29, 2002

I read Peter Trudelle's page, and he certainly comes off like a sensible person who has the wit to learn from the mistakes of others as well as his own.

So Mozilla 1.0 sucked.  And the preponderating majority of version 1.0 of Anything doesn't???  Let's get some perspective here.  I won't mention names, but a certain large--very large--computer firm that I worked at put out a 1.0 product, and their goal for release was just to get the product to *install* without errors.  (Oh yeah--you had to wait for the patches in hopes that it would start up without errors.  Heaven only knows which version actually did what it was sold to do...)

It seems to me that large corporations that try to co-opt open source projects are looking to get something for nothing, when *they* (not the supposedly "hippie" coders) are the ones living in the real world.  "Free-as-in-lunch"? I think not.  But the army of MBAs and bean-counters at these companies seem to think they can somehow suspend the laws of economics by trying to bring open source critters into their barn. 

The Mozilla Project, IBM's S/390 Linux stealth-port fiasco and other incidents like that just make me roll my (and resolve never to donate so much as a minute on any project "godfathered" by a large company). 

Not because I think that open source is a bad idea.  (I don't.) Nor because I think that open source folks can't work well with the proprietary software types. (Ditto.)  It's because I think that the AOLs and IBMs are too used to their "carrot-and-stick" way of treating people.  And so they reward the efforts of *volunteers* by treating them like (shudder) employees--including all the bean-counting and marketing and general political bulls--t that employees have to suffer through while trying to be productive.

And the punch line?  When that mismanagement inevitably fails, the companies have the brass to blame open source as somehow "flawed" as a model of development.

Even I (who have never straw-bossed a team of greater than three) know better than to do that.  Never forget that these volunteers are giving not only their time and effort, but also the best of themselves and their abilities.  And a degree of inspiration and passion that they've (probably) long since learned to not venture at work--for fear of the repercussions.  You don't stomp on that.  Period.

I normally agree with a lot of the stuff that Joel writes, and am actually pleased when I discover that I'm already doing some things "his" way.  ;-)  But in his passion for excellence (or at least the quest for excellence) in his profession, he needs to learn to respect that same passion in others.  The beauty of open source is that if you don't like it go download the source code and "fix" it.  That's typically an excellent cure for the hubris of the shoulda-done sort of criticism, no?  ;-)

D Clemons
Thursday, August 29, 2002

"A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text".

The problem with most of your comments on Joel's recent article is you aren't reading it in context.

Joel is not (first and foremost) bashing Netscape / Mozilla / open source / whatever bandwagon you like. He is (primarily) bashing what he refers to as the 'single worst strategic mistake that any software company can make' ( ). may also be helpful in identifying where he is coming from.


Matthew Wills
Thursday, August 29, 2002

The strategy of Joel and other commercial developers is to make a profit. Mozilla has no such motive, its strategies will reflect that, and some of them WON'T WORK in commercial environments.

So Peter Trudelle and Matthew Thomas have a problem with the UI and the design process. Yeah, it could be better. So work on it. Take your time if you want. There is no shipping deadline, no marketing campaign, no office space to pay for, no shareholders. Mozilla continues to work just fine for the geeks who use it, for whom UI design is not a primary concern.

The fact that Netscape chooses to base a commercial product on Mozilla -- well, that's their problem. To be blunt, while Netscape "sheperds" the process and writes a significant portion of the code, they literally do not own it. The extent to which Mozilla meets their commercial needs is in large part driven by the extent to which they themselves contribute.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

>>>It just occurred to me that Bugzilla competes with fogbugz<<<
FogBugz has to be a joke. Anyone who knows a little about "web programming" knows how easy it is to write that application (a week or two). I think Joel is just playing with FogBugz.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

If MT=Movable Type, then it's not really a competitor to CityDesk. CD is a desktop application, not a server application like MT. As such, CD puts content management within the reach of the average Joe with a Windows box, rather than restricting it to geeks who have the right server access/setup/knowledge.

Darren Collins
Thursday, August 29, 2002

It is amazing how many programmers out there only think about money. What about software engineering ethics. Why our industry lacks so much ethics, i can't imagine any other industry selling the crap we sell for the prices we sell them. What about the million of bugs in products that cost over $1000?
Open source can solve many problems that we face in the software industry and when looked at from this perspective you might appreciate open source much more.

open source developer
Thursday, August 29, 2002

We love opinions even when we hate them.  What Philip Greenspun did and what Joel is doing is building a company right before our eyes.  Joel has been kind enough to share many of his strategic decisions and to document how he arrived at those decisions.  He's given us a public place to to agree, disagree, and rant about the results.  Wonderful as far as I'm concerned.

Given the same information, folks will make different decisions.  The market will sort it out.  Most businesses fail.

Friday, August 30, 2002

If you are into user interface, and even right down to command prompt interface, you have to wince at open source. Its basic tennant is 'do what you want, as you see fit'. Sure that's fun, but it makes for a UI nightmare. Even at the command prompt (which is generally the most sensible way to use linux imo), how many ways do you know to do something as simple as exit a program? I can think of at least ten. There is no kde or gnome that can come along and rectify this situation, because each program will have to be mapped to the UI one by one, and naturally there are going to be a lot of imprecise mappings. Impossible task? Maybe.

I think because of this you have to take open source projects one by one, almost like programming languages.

Apache - great enough to learn the new interface.

Mozilla - five years and it still needs work, nothing much positive to learn about software dev there. Ok browser.

Bugzilla - worth learning the new interface

CVS - worth learning the new interface

98% of the abandoned junk on source forge - unless it is exactly what you are wanting, not worth it.

The idea that a UI person could go in and just 'fix' the problem isn't reasonable - if there are no standards you can't really standardize it can you? I love the idea of giving away what I make, and I do a lot, but I'm also really really thinking UI design / structure / standards are crucial. So I always have to speak in measured tones when looking at free software (including my own).

What no one on the inside or outside has been brave enough to say bluntly is "Open source is a giant fucking mess and has to start over!". It will never be useable until someone has the balls and authority to set up a group that dictates standards. Given the attitudes, I doubt that will ever happen, but you never know. Until then, feeding the open source attitude is feeding commercial software. Maybe thats ok, one gets the smug feeling, the other gets the customers - maybe that is the win-win everybody wants...

Robin Debreuil
Friday, August 30, 2002


UI?  There isn't anything particularly good about any of them.  Check it out, to reply to this message  (I'm on the kid's computer, Windows). 

1. Drag across that message to select.
2. Copy: Ctrl+C
3. Find notepad: Start | Programs | Accessories | Notepad (lucky for me I remembered where that stupid thing is, or I coulda been hunting for some time).
4. Paste: Ctrl+V
5. Hit reply link.

That's good?  Oh, heavens, I could have clicked Ctrl-N and made a new window, fewer steps, or perhaps 9 other different ways of doing the same thing.  BFD.

You want to kill a Unix app?  Ctrl-C works most of the time.  killall 'app' - that works too.  Who cares if there are different ways to do something?

Gads, watch my wife try to download pictures off the camera into "Picture It" or Photoshop.  What, it only took me 3 attempts to finally get the Win crap installed, and then it crashes all the time - consistently.  Same with the scanner.  That's good UI?  And then when it does work, its about 10 mouse clicks per picture to get them saved onto disk.  Then crash.

Check it out, Unix:
1. su
2. mount -t vfat /dev/hde1 /mnt/flash
3. cp -r /mnt/flash /media/pics/....
4. wait...
5. umount /dev/hde1
6. exit

Done.  256 MB (~350 pictures) transfered in under 3 minutes.  Substitute /dev/sda1 for /dev/hde when using USB (ooo, scary, more than one way of doing something).

Y'know, these windows fans spend all this time designing some UI, and then they move "My Documents" first under "C:\WinNT\profiles\only god knows where", and 2 more different places with each different revision - somtimes in "hidden directories".  How can I tell the kids to keep their bookmarks and files organized when someone keeps changing the location, and they can never find their files - somtimes homework.  And never mind there isn't a find command worth a tinker's damn.

Oh, so we tinker with the UI some more, and call it technology when its just more mental masturbation - jerking off with your brain.  Feels like somthings happening, but in fact you're in a room by yourself.  Twiddle the knobs here, make a new menu there.  You'l l go blind doing that.  Have to start in with the electroshock therapy for those addicted to regedit.

And the end result is this "great UI"?  Its no better than Apple circa 1990 or OS/2 1994 (remember where the "start menu" came from) - only was it called "Start"? - sorry cannot remember, it has been too long.

A computer is a machine, and from all indications its going to remain a machine.  Oh, but we've got the best usability experts all gathered right here.  And for all that?  Nuthin'.  Thanks, but while you screw around and play with your little menus and reorg the task bars, change a radio button grouping into a list, debate whether a tab or a task bar is more intuitive (oh, heavens, dare I say I'm getting overly aroused) - I'll be quite satisfied that if I do stuble onto something these usability experts put together, kill -9 will be my friend.

Nat Ersoz
Friday, August 30, 2002

The point is not that the Windows way is the best way.

The point is that if you want to sell a lot of software to a lot of people making a nice profit in the process, then do things the windows way.

Its rather like QWERTY keyboards.  QWERTY keyboards are deliberately designed to slow down the typist.  It separates keys that are commonly used together to prevent a mechanical typewriter from jamming.

Mechanical typewriters are long gone but QWERTY remains.  A chap designed a better keyboard, that provided a demonstratable increase in speed and accuracy after just a couple of days retraining.  he went bankrupt.

Anybody brought a Betamax video lately?

The best method for HCI is not always the most saleable.

Ged Byrne
Friday, August 30, 2002

"Check it out, Unix:
1. su
2. mount -t vfat /dev/hde1 /mnt/flash
3. cp -r /mnt/flash /media/pics/....
4. wait...
5. umount /dev/hde1
6. exit"

So is that what your wife does now?

Do you generally get out of unix programs with the kill command ? I don't, am I doing it wrong? (btw, the point isn't different ways, the point is each program has its own way). Unix isn't open source btw, not sure how that came into the mix..?

Are you saying that open source programs don't have different interfaces? Or that win/mac interfaces are just as inconsistant?

As to this form, it isn't a windows interface, its a web interface. That being that, its a crappy one, which may be why you chose notepad to answer with (don't know). But then doesn't that mean shitty UI's annoy you?

Or was that irony, and simleys and winkeys just aren't your style?

A bit confused,

Robin Debreuil
Friday, August 30, 2002

"A chap designed a better keyboard, that provided a demonstratable increase in speed and accuracy after just a couple of days retraining. he went bankrupt."

Actually that is a bit of a myth...

Imo, most successful things do their task well, though sometimes failures can invent a pretty compelling denial.

Robin Debreuil
Friday, August 30, 2002


What a fascinating read.  The person I was thinking of was not Dvorak, but somebody from the 70s/80s who patented and tried to market a new keyboard design.  I remember watching a documentary comparing this failed inventor with the very successful inventor of the Black and Deckor Workbench.

However, I must bow to your superior sources.

Ged Byrne
Friday, August 30, 2002

An unbiased horse placed between two equally distant sources of food will die.  Same with people who do not allow themselves to be biased, they draw no conclusions and mentally die.

I don't really get how good CS people ignore this.  Didn't anyone study the environmental model of execution?  Doesn't code and thought exist in contexts?  That Foo someone's talking about is completely different from the Foo someone else is.  Is it impossible to keep multiple contexts in mind?

Why not be a complete person?  See multiple contexts, and don't apologize excessively for being biased?

Friday, August 30, 2002

BTW, some might be interested in these two links, about commercial vs. real technology.  McDonald's has nothing to do with food and Coke has nothing to do with thirst, but that is not important for the business world.

Friday, August 30, 2002


Reading the QWERTY link in more detail, I think it actually makes the point exactly.

The problem with the DVORAK keyboard was that while its design was technically superior, it didin't lead to a significant increase in performance.

I think this is the whole point.  You can make something that is technically superior, fine.  However, if it doesn't make a significant difference in the real world then that technical superiority is worth nothing.

For example, I just brought a new alarm clock.  Its digital, and has four buttons.  up fast up slow, down fast, down slow.

My old alarm clock just had two buttons, up fast and up slow.  This was a real pain if you had to go right round the clock, and if you missed it you had to go right round again.

The new alarm clock is so much easier to set, thanks to just two buttons.  It is technically very superior.

However, next time I buy an alarm clock, I won't bother to check how the clock is set.  I hardly ever set the time or alarm, so its no big deal if its a bit awkward.  I'll just get the cheapest one, same as last time.

Ged Byrne
Friday, August 30, 2002

I hate it when people get up in the middle of bowing ; ).

Yeah, that is surely the is the point, what works best for the real world sells the best. Marketing people know that well, satisfying the needs - technical, emotional, or otherwise...

I don't think that anything in there suggests the dvorak keyboard is technically superior though...? The only technical constraint is performance after all. Mostly it was fraud, and that qwerty was never designed to keep keys from jamming, did go through the speed thing with other competitors etc. Not sure if it was there or somewhere else, but I found it interesting that one of the big slowdowns is two letters with the same finger - opposite of what intuition would have told me. Also something that dvorak has a lot more of.

Ironically one of the things that most refutes this theory, I have to admit, is the fact that it has to exist. If you think that basically that the 'truth ultimately prevails' in a free market, then that would apply in any free 'market'. If you think of mind share as a market, then why do these legends persist so stickily? Why do people think dvorak is better, beta/apple were better choices, MacDonalds gets its cows from the rainforest, ben franklin held electricity in a key - I even read on the above links from Sammy (great reads!) that pre columbus people knew damn well the earth was round - shit, how long until the market of mindshare sort that stuff out for me?

So while I really believe that in an open market the product that best satisfies the needs wins, there is a doubt. Maybe we have a deep seated need to believe these gravity defying stories. It could be, but it sounds a bit like smoothing out the facts to fit the theory too. I guess there is no cost to believing a falsehood, so if it elevates you why not? Then again, the theory would probably have trouble accommodating people making business decisions based on facts like that and surviving, but they clearly do... Hmm.

Robin Debreuil
Friday, August 30, 2002

>>Are you saying that open source programs don't have different interfaces? Or that win/mac interfaces are just as inconsistant?

That after all that, how "open source" interfaces suck so bad (which you seem to equate with everything non-MSFT), nothing has been improved upon.

Oh, what does my wife do now?

"Will you copy the pictures onto the hard drive for me?"

Works every time.

Nat Ersoz
Friday, August 30, 2002

"That after all that, how "open source" interfaces suck so bad (which you seem to equate with everything non-MSFT), nothing has been improved upon."

Err, I included apple, you blurred unix, just for the record. So are you saying the win or mac interface is as confusing and inconsistant program to program, as linux apps? I'm not trying to put words in your mouth, just trying peg down what you mean by "not improved upon".

"Will you copy the pictures onto the hard drive for me?"

So that's the answer? Well, my wife plugs the camera into the front thingy, a screen pops up saying "do you want to copy the pictures?" (in her language actually) and she clicks 'hai'. Then she looks at them. Same idea with my Mom and Dad, though a different OS. Maybe they could all drop by and help you guys out some time?

Robin Debreuil
Friday, August 30, 2002

Why do people need to believe these stories?

I think there becomes a point where a product becomes so established, you feel like you have no point.

My 4 year old forces me into McDonalds, when I'd much rather been in the nice restaurant over the rode.  Captive within the golden arches, I'm happy to think the worse of the company.

Same goes for Windows.  The situation is made worse when Microsoft really do the dirty on you, and you realise theres nothing you can do about it, your going to keep having to use their product.

I think that when we feel we have no choice, we start to rebel.

Ged Byrne
Friday, August 30, 2002

"It is amazing how many programmers out there only think about money. What about software engineering ethics"

Who says writing open source software is ethical?

Tuesday, September 3, 2002

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