Update: This is a general criticism of modern development trends. Despite appearing on Planet GNOME, and referencing a current debate, this is not at all specific to GNOME. The point listed below was more a maintainer screw-up than anything else. It’s not a debate on good usability, because everyone has different opinions on it, none of which are right. The point you should be caring about is how users are treated. I know we’ve assumed too little of some people in Gaim and other projects. Not always, but often enough, and I know many other large projects do this as well. So please, focus on that part.
I completely agree with Davyd on the contextual information lost in notifications. I like GNOME, but I feel that we are taking a step back in this regard, and it’s leading me to wonder, are we assuming our users are really, really stupid and need hand holding?
Now, the Linux desktop is maturing, but there are a lot of areas that could be made easier. Things that confuse users. I hardly think “JPG” or “PNG” or “SSH” emblems are one of them. And really, do we think users have never seen JPEG or PNG files, have never heard of them, and would be confused and scared to use their desktop if they saw them?
If a user is connecting to a remote server and mounting it, they probably have some kind of understanding as to what SMB or SSH means. I mean, come on, they have to choose it first! It’s not some random technical thing we’re throwing at them. Context is good, and I know a lot of average users who prefer the context and turn on file extensions on Windows because they want to know what kind of file they’re actually working with.
The common question that I always hear is “but can my Grandma use it?” Are we really targetting senior citizens? If so, we’ve lost. Let’s take a page out of the proliferation books that McDonalds, Microsoft, and everybody else uses. It’s a simple one. Target people when they’re young! Contrary to popular belief, a number of teenagers use computers, and these teenagers understand things. They’re using bittorrent clients, maintaining websites, sending files across the Internet. Should we really treat them like they’re idiots? Sure, Grandma may not know what a JPEG file is, but I doubt she’s a heavy computer user anyway. Most likely, she plays solitaire, and I think her hand can be held with anything else. In the meantime, let’s not forget our younger users who really aren’t as stupid as we’re starting to treat them.