We need a dream (Ep. IV: A New Hope)

As I said earlier, what’s lacking to make an awesome XMMS2 GUI client is a common vision.

We need a dream!

I have a dream that one day this community will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “when the music is end xmms power of the pc.”

I have a dream that one day on #xmms2, the sons of former GTK+ developers and the sons of former Qt developers will be able to work together on the code of a GUI client.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Microsoft, a state sweltering with the heat of instability, sweltering with the heat of dull interfaces, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and music.

I have a dream that XMMS2 clients will one day live in a community where they will not be judged by their GUI toolkit but by the content of their user experience.

I have a dream today!

(Kudos to Martin Luther King for the original draft.)

In the end, all we want is an awesome music player.

But do we all share the same definition of what an awesome music player is? Probably not. In fact, I don’t think most of us even knows what an awesome music player is; if there were one, we wouldn’t have to build one, right?

So the goal here is to gather qualities that we expect of such a project, and refine them into a common vision. I won’t start dropping design mockups or fancy feature ideas until we have established what we all want, conceptually.

What I expect of this GUI client, and the vision for the project, is that it should be:

  • Exciting
  • Original
  • Expandable
  • Clearly focused

Nobody wants to work on boring project — at least nobody in the FOSS community. Elsewhere, people do code for money and dream of larger cars and larger breasts, but in the XMMS2 community, all we dream of are exciting coding projects. It should be exciting enough to make developers drop their own projects to work on it, and to make users fret about it. It should be exciting enough to compensate compromises by the quality of the end result.

One way to make it exciting is to make sure it is original. It’s way more thriving to build something new and unique than to try to replicate something everyone has seen before. Harder, yes, but more exciting! For the users, it will also help it stand apart from the variety of existing music players, either as a grand fiasco, or as a sexy newcomer.

Because people love to experiment and to make things their own, it should be expandable: rather than a static monolith, it should let developers and users play with it and customize it and adapt it to their needs. There will always be limits of course, but to remain true to the XMMS2 spirit, we should favor a modular design and bundle freedom inside.

Finally, it is primordial to establish a clear focus on what problem this client is meant to solve. The worst usability often comes from a blurry focus, or the wish to solve too many (or all) different problems.

I will come back to the first three qualities in future posts, and elaborate on the clear focus in the rest of this post.

Before anything else, we need to define what we want the target audience to be: newbies? your mum? the average random user? hardcore music fans? “everyone”?

It’s a tough call, but clearly, by trying to content everyone, we couldn’t provide the best solution for each group of users. But if we look at the XMMS2 demographics and, more importantly, the (brand new) Vision, it’s easy to see that we already target a particular niche of music listeners: demanding audiophiles, passionate fans who care about music. Which is very different from “everyone” or an average user.

Concretely, they might tend to have larger music libraries and more complete releases than scattered tracks. They might be more keen on browsing and organizing their music (using tags, folders, or their own semantics), on fine-tuning their audio setup (soundcard, equalizer, gapless playback), on joining music networks (e.g. Last.Fm) and discovering new music. They are the people who spend multiple nights getting complicated plugins and fancy themes working in foobar2000, to provide a full experience for their music; not the people who gaze in wonder at the atrocious WMP fullscreen visualization.

We can expect slightly more patience and curiosity from them but in return, we must provide them with powerful tools, with a great user experience and ways to make it their own.

Now, it doesn’t mean that the player should be unusable by anybody outside that niche. Simply, it should focus on filling it as best as possible, before anything else.

Therefore, my suggestion is to make this XMMS2 GUI client a great music player for people who care about and love music, and make it a rich experience for playing, browsing, searching, organizing, discovering and enjoying music.

It is an ambitious goal, but I believe it is one that is exciting, original and expandable!


Pearl, by Camila…

Addendum: FLACvest just posted a
very flattering post about XMMS2
and mentions similar attributes
that would benefit XMMS2: Totally Fresh and Unique, Beautiful,
Cross-Platform, some “magic” ingredient!

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