First Ever Free/Libre/Open Source Usability Sprint a Success

Developers and Activists Gathered in San Francisco to Make Open Source Software More Usable and Accessible

Aspiration, dedicated to better software for a better world, and Blue Oxen Associates, a think tank focused on improving collaboration, held the first-ever Free / Libre / Open Source Software Usability Sprint in San Francisco, California on February 18-20, 2005 (www.flossusability.org.)

The event was the first in a series of usability sprints focused on making free/libre/open source software more useful for nonprofits and activists.

The Sprint gathered Open Source developers - specifically those interested in creating software for supporting non-profit organizations - with usability experts. The group included 40-some people from the Bay Area, San Diego, Massachusetts, and even Berlin, while the web audience may have had further reach.

Under the guidance of Aspiration's Allen Gunner and Katrin Verclas and Blue Oxen's Eugene Eric Kim, participants worked on assessing the usability of 6 open source software projects, introducing the developers to a variety of techniques that they could use again on their own or with professional assistance by engaging directly with users. Each of the projects came to new understandings of how their current products can make specific improvements to reach their full target audience.

Some testimonials have been posted to the event wiki: http://www.flossusability.org/wiki.pl?SprintTestimonials

The March 8th BayCHI meeting in the California Bay Area (http://www.baychi.org/program) will feature more about how this got organized, what transpired, and what organizers and participants are hoping for in the future.

Blue Oxen Associates Executive Director, Eugene Eric Kim, says, "One reason open source usability is so poor is that developers never get the chance to interact with usability specialists or watch real people use their software. Bringing all three groups together to work on real projects jumpstarted the conversation and the process. The outcomes are manyfold: not only did this sprint improve the specific tools featured, but it also strengthened the ties between the open source and usability communities so that improvements are ongoing."

Event proceedings and ongoing work can be found at the Sprint wiki at http://www.flossusability.org/wiki.pl?FrontPage