feature request - with an explanation

Sean Egan seanegan at gmail.com
Tue May 29 17:27:39 EDT 2007

On 5/29/07, Ivan Levchenko <levchenko.i at gmail.com> wrote:
> First of all, I would like to apologize on sending to two mailing
> lists at once, i just wanted to make sure that i would be heard,

discussion at imfreedom.org is a very inappropriate list for this thread.
Removing it.

> earlier, it was a lot easier to choose
> the right contact for the person - i just had to make a quick look and
> bang - i have the jabber window open with the guy, and i'm already
> talking to him. now, its a lot easier for me to make a mistake and to
> send the guy a message via msn.

It's recommended that, if you have one person with an MSN and a Jabber
account on your list, that you group them together. You can then make
Jabber the higher priority contact, and things will work the way you

We've generally conceded, that it might in fact be useful in cases to
have a protocol icon in the conversation window. As you point out,
it's important for you to know what protocol the person you're
chatting with is using. You do not make a strong case that it's
important for you to know what protocol everyone on your list is
using, at a glance.

> Another point is that a lot of people use different accounts at home
> and at work, for example at home my friend uses his yahoo account and
> at work, he uses his msn, but he seldom puts an away message on his
> home computer when he goes to work. Earlier it was a lot easier to get
> to the right im account to talk to my friend, now, it isn't.

The point I tried to make at
http://pidgin.im/~seanegan/blog/identity.html was that if you try your
hardest to please everyone, you wind up with something that's mediocre
for everyone. I argue that, yes, for a non-trivial portion of users
the changes referred to there do hurt the experience. But, I argue,
that for most people it's an improvement and, as such, a net positive.

As I mention in http://pidgin.im/~seanegan/blog/momentum.html anytime
you change something that people have grown to depend on, people will
be upset as they have to adapt their behavior to accomodate it. I use
complaining about the introduction of protocol icons in Gaim as an
example, and the un-ending praise of the protocol-iconless Adium as
evidence that promotes this point.

This change hurts because it requires of you non-zero effort to adopt
to it. Once you adopt to it (as you have already adopted to the old
behavior), you won't have a problem with it.

> In the comments, you guys, the developers talk about how much of a
> good decision it was to make the icon standard for the people, but
> take a look at it from a different perspective -
> since the day the bug was opened - one month ago, till the day
> comments were turned off for the bug - you got 114 comments!!! That
> means that it really was important for a lot of people.

114 people is statistically insignificant for a project of Pidgin's
scope, and, indeed, this proves nothing other than "there is a
non-trivial number of people who preferred the old behavior," not
necessarily, "the old behavior was better."

> When i first started to use linux and open source software, i was
> really happy about one thing - you always have choice in everything
> and you can always make a difference in something. In the world of
> Microsoft - when you don't like something that has been changed in yet
> another version of windows - TOO BAD; but in open source software, you
> always had the choice to change it yourself. unfortunatley, i'm not a
> developer, so i will have to rely on you guys  - the people that are
> giving the world a choice - a choice other than proprietary software.

Also, in "the world of Microsoft," corporations that want your money
will bend over backwards to please you. The result is, in the case of
many commercial applications, a mediocre amalgamation of inconsistent,
obscure features that one or two people really wanted to pay for, but
just get in the way of everyone else. I think Microsoft Office is a
good example of this [1].

One of the biggest advantages of non-commercial software is that it
can avoid that temptation to add every feature under the sun to please
as many people as possible. It can focus instead on the needs of a
very small subset of people (namely those who actually work on it).
Focusing on a small group of actual people makes an application that
is ideal for the larger group it represents, although it may be less
than ideal for others. Trying to please everyone, however, makes
something that's less than ideal for everyone.

> But since this has happened, its just going away from the open source
> way as i see it.

I think you have a warped view of free software. I see the "open
source is all about choice!" argument a lot, exclusively from
self-proclaimed "non-programmers," like yourself. I think they have a
tendency to combine the freedoms afforded them to modify the software
with the sense of entitlement they're used to from "the world of
Microsoft," and conclude that they have the right to demand changes
are made for them. I can't remember ever hearing an actual free
software developer cite "choice," as what free software is "all

That Adium has existed so long without protocol icons, and without
huge uproar that there are no protocol icons, is all the evidence I
need that it's far from a critical feature, but rather a change that
people can adapt to. There's nothing fundamentally different between
free software and proprietary software regarding "choice." If
anything, proprietary software's desire to get your money and its
integration into a real market economy, encourages them to offer more

This is fine, though, because nobody really wants choice. People want
software that does what they want it to do. Choice exists only because
it's impossible to have one application that does what everyone wants
it to do for themselves. Instead, we target a specific, actual, real
subset of real, actual users (ourselves), and those like us, enjoy
having software optimized for themselves.

> Thanks a lot once again for all your great work on the Pidgin IM
> client and I really do hope that you will bring back the multi
> protocol icons - as a preference option or plugin - it really doesn't
> matter, but you will be listening to a big crowd of your users if you
> will help us out and put back the functionality that a lot of users
> have gotten used!

I promise you'll get used to this too. :)


[1] Of course, anything said about "open-source software," is a
gigantic generalization that isn't true anywhere. There are plenty of
free software projects that will bend over backwards to get new users.

More information about the Devel mailing list