[LAD] Experience driven design and Linux Audio

gordonjcp at gjcp.net gordonjcp at gjcp.net
Thu Oct 2 09:24:39 UTC 2014

On Thu, Oct 02, 2014 at 10:00:32AM +0100, Will Godfrey wrote:
> > I also realize maybe I am taking the original question off of what it was 
> > asking. The original talk was about something that is perhaps not 
> > understandable in the context of creation rather consuming. Many of the 
> > newer DEs are frustrating for developers (not just SW development), but 
> > developers even though there are many, are a very small percentage of 
> > computer users. Most are consumers, games and browsing are almost all that 
> > happens. From that POV win8, unity, gnome3, OSx, Android, etc. all make 
> > sense. From a developers POV (POV meaning personal use), they don't. 
> > Someone who is creating music, video or graphics is a developer and their 
> > needs are not the same as the consumer. Once that difference is pushed 
> > out of the way and one looks at the user experience from a developer's POV 
> > the "experience" that is expected is different but it is still there.

I found Unity to be far, far quicker and easier to get around than anything that has gone before.  It took a bit of adjustment after using Gnome 2, but I can't see me ever going back.

> As someone who tries to get the most out of anything I use, I find most
> commercial software extremely frustrating in the way it strait-jackets users. I
> think this also blocks curiosity and maybe stops more youngsters joining the
> creative communities.

But that starts to sound like the user arguments that put me off developing Linux audio software in the first place.  There seems to be a mindset of "software shouldn't waste cycles looking nice and being easy to use" which suggests that things ought to look shite and be difficult to use with every conceivable option exposed to the user, because it gives them "more flexibility".

This is fucking retarded.

Modular synthesizers are dead.  No-one except a few propeller-hatted autistic loonies who you wouldn't want to sit next to you on the bus use them.  Why?  Because they're a pain in the arse.

Bob Moog realised this very early on, and he (didn't really) invented the damned things.  What he realised was that everyone who uses a modular spends a day making silly farting noises and then gets on with having a couple of oscillators patched to a mixer, followed by a filter and finally followed by a VCA, with maybe an envelope for pitch, filter cutoff and amplitude.  So having realised this, Moog developed the Minimoog synth which was effectively pre-patched in a hardwired configuration that was what, as it turns out, most people actually used.

Yes, you can do a lot of things with a modular, but it takes a long time to get there and how many of them are ultimately musically useful? 

I learned the same lesson myself after coming at it the hard way when I wrote an eight-operator FM softsynth where any operator could be routed to any other operator (even itself) in a giant matrix of 64 controls.

It was fucking retarded.

About all it did was make distorted hissing noises or collossal farting noises, or with *extreme* care and turning off most of the operators you could coax a fairly convincing DX rubber band bass out of it.  If you set all the operators to feed back to themselves and feed the output bus, you got a brutal supersaw, which I guess was a useful trick.

Yes, it was extremely powerful and versatile, but actually it turned out that this didn't make it useful.  It needed to be *less* powerful and versatile to filter out all the useless combinations.  Ever wonder why your DX21 has only got eight "algorithms" by which the operators may be combined?  *That's* why.

> I think this relates back to the topic as in who's experience should lead the
> design?

I think the design should be led by someone with experience in observing what people actually do with the tools that are presented to them.  It's a sad fact that UX is a difficult and expensive thing to get right.  Car manufacturers learned this a long time ago - how many of you drive a car with a manual choke (me, okay) or manual ignition advance (no-one unless you're into *really* old ones).

Did Bob Moog "dumb down" the Minimoog?  Well, you could say that yes he did.  But you'd be all kinds of wrong.

Gordonjcp MM0YEQ

More information about the Linux-audio-dev mailing list