Why we need artists


Picture by theodevil

The Free Software community is a great community, but a bit narrow. Most of the people are geeks and there are many more men than women. Disclaimer: I would consider myself a geek. It is true that the older I get the less geek I am, but during my childhood, my early youth and my University years I was a true geek. And that was almost yesterday…

Artists is a very influential collective, they are one of the best PR any product can get. They influence people, the media and even governments. We need writers writing novels using Ubuntu, musicians making music using Ubuntu and video artists editing their films using Ubuntu.

Designers are also influential. Let’s face it, blogs by designers talk about more beautiful stuff that those of hackers. If you read Planet Ubuntu, a lot of the information there comes in the form of code. On a designer blog you’d rarely see the word branch if they are not talking about trees. Why Ruby on Rails got so much attention? Was because it was the best piece of free software ever? Probably not, but it attracted designers. Designers and developers starting working together using the same tools and they spread the word.

One of the examples I always use for the FLOSS community being too geek is PyRoom. PyRoom is a simple but great distractions-free writing application that, obviously, is coded in Python. I love the application and use it almost on a daily basis, but using the name of the programming language as part of your application is a clear indication that the technology you’re using is as important as the features your coding with it.

I am not saying that we need less geeks in our community, I am just saying that if we want to reach the 200M users goal, we need to have a wider community. And that’s why I backed Novacut on their Kickstarter project. Because they are focusing in talking to film makers as part of their design process. Because they have one in the team. Because I think they could help Ubuntu getting a wider and very much needed community. And they can fail, as anyone can fail, but I think it is worth supporting those brave enough to try. I am looking forward to seeing what Novacut brings.

As a side benefit I think that having a less geeky community will bring more women into free software. I’ve always defended that one of the reasons of the low ratio of women to men in FLOSS communities was mainly due to the geekyness of these communities. For social reasons (or a combination of social and biological ones), the proportion between men and women among geeks is far from the fifty percent. I am not trying to explain why: I am not a sociologist, nor a psychologist, but I think most people would agree that that’s the case. Bring more non-geeks to Ubuntu and women will be among them.


  1. I am an artist as well as a geek, having been developing games for several years. I am that rare kind of breed that can deal with code, music and visuals at a time.
    I have always released content for free, without even asking for donations. Because of that, I use open-source “hobbyist” software such as the G.I.M.P and so on…

    It’s very, very obvious they never talked to users about their software, much less artists that try to make quality content. The worst is that also being a coder I can see why they do things so uncomfortable for users, and it’s quite painful to see the lack of insight.

    You mention the topic of men and women. For me, as a geek, code is the same if it codes from a man, a woman, or a computer, that code just needs to work. But for me, as an artist, I miss the variety women might introduce (specially in my field, where women never, ever venture, for some reason.). But they never will because it takes a level in masochism to use most existing open creation software.

  2. True artist are great at PR. And the Novacut ads are great, but I don’t have a lot of hope that anything working will come out of it. OK, so they got $25K+ in donations, but they also are $100k+ in debt and they hope to build a business really fast out of Novacut. I don’t see that happening, but I would love to wrong. I didn’t donate, but I told a lot of news site about Novacut the last few days. I want everybody to make up their own mind. Some of their UI ideas are truely awesome.