Open Source Designer News?

almost 3 years ago from , Creative Director

I applaud the redesign efforts by Andrew and his team, and their efficiency in fixing the bugs that always appear with any major production code changes. Kudos!

In the spirit of new beginnings (and looking to the future), I actually thought it might be worth considering going open source. Put the site up on Github and have the community help fix bugs or suggest new features/design directions.

With such a vibrant community, it'll be a waste if DN doesn't leverage it to improve the site.

What does everyone think about this?

(Mentioned it here before, but I suppose it got lost in the barrage of comments)


  • Lee Nelson, almost 3 years ago (edited almost 3 years ago )

    No Here's why.

    • Design is more subjective than code Yes, there are many ways to write code and define architecture but at the end of the day the arguments are concrete. Decisions can be made based on performance and facts. If all of the designers had to upload usability results and scientific evidence with their pull requests, it might make sense. But, that would never happen. It would ultimately turn into a big debate about who thinks the headings should be sans-serif or serif, which leads me to my next point.

    • There needs to be an owner Somebody needs to own the project and in this case it's Andrew and his team. Be thankful that there's a kick-ass crew behind this community and use your egos to solve different problems. If this were open source, would you like to be the designer who reviewed pull requests all day? Would you want somebody else telling you how to design? Like any good product, their needs to be an owner who leads the direction.

    • This isn't a reusable piece of software Typically open source projects work because they are reusable pieces of software. People's main motivation to contribute to a project is generally because they are using that piece of software for a project of their own. We know this all to well at Medeo as we have been working with WebRTC for the past 2 years. There is nothing complicated about setting up a forum/community (whatever you want to call it). Half of the Rails tutorials out there will show you how to set one up in less than a day.

    • Learn from LayerVault Let's not go full circle here guys. LayerVault basically was GitHub for designers and it proved that we are a different breed.

    Ok, it's time to enjoy some of this north west sunshine. I am all for a community of sharing and learning from one another. I really hate what has happened to Dribbble in the past years. Keep inspiring one another guys.

    Your pal, Lee.

    40 points
    • Laurens SpangenbergLaurens Spangenberg, almost 3 years ago

      A few counterarguments:

      • Good design and open source do not have to be mutually exclusive. elementary OS is an example. As an open source design oriented OS, they've done some radical/controversial changes much to the controversy of many. They've removed the desktop (basically you can't put anything there,) implemented single click for the Files app (with no GUI to change it,) removed the menubar on all of their apps, and removed the minimize button, among other things. The designers and a few coders (whom have a good sense of UX,) are in charge of the design. While the design team does take input from others, they still have the final say and remain stubborn on a few key design decisions.

      • The owners of the design direction would then be Andrew and the current DN team. While others can suggest, they would always have the final say. Just because a project is open-source, doesn't mean everyone suddenly has a say on how the project should be run.

      • I'm sure that some readers of DN would want to improve DN by contributing code. While asking for help to code something in some open source programs could see radio silence, I'd be surprised if any help asked on coding DN would be left unanswered in this community.

      5 points
      • Lee Nelson, almost 3 years ago

        Laurens, thank you for the thoughtful feedback. I checked out Elementary OS. Very cool. Contributing to an OS and Designer News are two very radical comparisons. A community for a large project such as Elementary has many benefits. Performance, abstraction, legibility, all start to add up on a project of that scale. Not to mention a community to QA the whole application. For something the size of Designer News, there are many overhead costs with very little benefit. The reality is that a few CSS changes are not going to dramatically affect the amount of traffic to DN. In many circumstances writing the CSS yourself is actually easier than dealing with PR's and merge conflicts. Especially when the changes are trivial. Lastly, the DN team has done a great job of fielding questions. If anybody has some magical design improvement worth sharing i'm sure the DN team would listen to you.

        2 points
    • Ix TechauIx Techau, almost 3 years ago

      Surely ownership is irrelevant, as the DN team would be the ones deciding if a change from a pull request is implemented or not.

      1 point
    • Kevin KwaKevin Kwa, almost 3 years ago

      There needs to be an owner.

      As has been pointed out by others, the very nature of an open source project is that there will always be a team that makes the final decision on what to merge into production code (in this case, it'll be the DN team). This is the same for any project you see on Github. Ownership is not the issue here.

      This isn't a reusable piece of software

      I don't think reusability is the underlying consideration. As long as a project provides some value to the user (Chromium & DuckDuckGo are not really "reusable" software), there will at least be a portion of that userbase who will be happy to give back (by fixing code/reporting bugs). I can't speak for everyone, but my motivations for contributing to an open source project is to improve a product/service I find useful.

      Design is more subjective than code

      I agree with you on this point. "Design by committee" usually leads to compromises on user experience. However, "design" is but only one aspect of UX. If someone knows of a library that allows for a better search experience on DN, why not suggest it? The community can vote on it, and if the DN team signs off on it (refer to point 1), he/she can make a pull request. It's more about collaboration, as opposed to just being a passive participant. It also takes the load off the DN team as well.

      P.S. It's good to hear all the arguments for and against. :thumbs up: for intellectual discourse...

      1 point
    • Steven CavinsSteven Cavins, almost 3 years ago

      Can you expand your thoughts regarding Dribbble?

      1 point
  • Willem ShepherdWillem Shepherd, almost 3 years ago

    I don't disagree with this, but I also don't feel like it is necessary. I think Andrew and his team are doing a fantastic job, their openness and response to critiques is incredible.

    I believe that too many cooks in the kitchen is in many ways the bane of design, but at the same time it is quite obvious that there are a lot of invested individuals who use this site as a resource and tool and would be more than happy to take the time to improve it.

    Keep up the good work Andrew!

    10 points
  • Andy LeverenzAndy Leverenz, almost 3 years ago

    I think this could be a cool upgrade for the community in terms of bug fixes and improvements. Whether Andrew wants to consider this route is certainly his decision. As an app maker by day, I'm wondering if he'll do the same with Designer news and convert into some sort of monetized based community other than ads/sponsored posts? Hopefully the focus of "community" doesn't shift too much. Just my opinion.

    7 points
    • Kevin KwaKevin Kwa, almost 3 years ago (edited almost 3 years ago )

      Yea ultimately it'll be Andrew's decision. Even with the site's source code open sourced, it'll still be up to Andrew and his team to decide if they want to implement any feature suggestions / merge any pull requests.

      monetized based community

      Any ideas on how this might look like?

      0 points
    • thierry rene matos, almost 3 years ago

      sorry for my bad english. i think in the same way. the great thing about DN is this great felling of community.

      1 point
  • Sacha GreifSacha Greif, almost 3 years ago

    There seems to be a perception with people not actively involved in open-source software* that open-sourcing stuff is some kind of silver bullet that will magically make people pitch in. At least, I know I had that perception myself before basically becoming a full-time open-source maintainer.

    But the reality is that the vast majority of people reading this would never contribute to DN even if it were open-source, for a variety of reasons: lack of time, unfamiliarity with Git, unfamiliarity with the codebase, not knowing where to start, etc.

    • Not saying you specifically. Just something I've noticed.
    6 points
  • Ian WilliamsIan Williams, almost 3 years ago

    While I like the idea of this for bug fixes and feature implementations, and I love this community, I have to say that I don't think it's in the new teams best interest.

    As someone just pointed out, they just bought it. I'd be hard pressed to give away something I just paid cash for a few weeks ago. I think this would be equiv to asking any other [content focused] startup to open source their product.

    6 points
    • Kevin KwaKevin Kwa, almost 3 years ago

      I don't really think they are really "giving away" anything too valuable. Andrew probably paid what he did on based on the value of the community and also the revenue projections from the existing advertising model. And not so much the source code behind the site.

      It's not hard for someone to replicate the same website and its functionality. In fact there are already free tools if you want to make a DN or HN clone – check out Telescope. It's probably more challenging to build and sustain an active user base.

      IMO, there are more benefits than costs to open sourcing. But since DN is a platform for open discussion, it's good to hear everyone's opinion.

      Thanks for sharing :)

      0 points
      • Sacha GreifSacha Greif, almost 3 years ago

        Thanks for mentioning Telescope! But as someone who did replicate the same website and functionality I can assure you most people drastically under-estimate the work involved when they say things like "oh, I could probably code the same thing in a week-end".

        3 points
        • Kevin KwaKevin Kwa, almost 3 years ago

          Didn't mean to devalue your effort... Just that the value in these community sites comes more from the number of active members rather than the underlying source code. Which is why HN will always be worth more than DN...

          Thumbs up for Telescope!

          0 points
  • Al Torres, almost 3 years ago (edited almost 3 years ago )

    Didn't they just buy it a couple months ago? Also spent money/hours to redesign it.

    3 points
  • CTodd LombardoCTodd Lombardo, almost 3 years ago

    Completely agree with this.

    3 points
  • Adam T.Adam T., almost 3 years ago

    It's a nice thought, but sometimes it's nice to actually own something through and through, which is what I'm guessing the DN team wants to do here. Open source is great for programming packages, libraries, etc., but I feel it's become overused for web-apps. Sharing is nice, but it's even nicer to "own" a quality product completely.

    1 point
  • Diego LafuenteDiego Lafuente, almost 3 years ago

    As a open-source guy, I can tell it's really hard to administer open source projects. That's a full time job, mainly, to review all the PRs, test them, select which ones you want to include or not, etc. I recommend to not go open source unless you want to share the technology behind this kind of forum.

    1 point
  • Drew BeckDrew Beck, almost 3 years ago

    I'm very skeptical that a community spot like this could function as an open source project as well, though if someone has counter-evidence I'd love to see it.

    OSing would create two sides of the DN community — one of those who only participate on the actual site, and the other of folks who also participate on the OS side. You'll end up trading one problem (some folks dissatisfied with the design and direction of DN) for two (two communities of folks dissatisfied with the design and direction of DN).

    0 points
  • Nick NobleNick Noble, almost 3 years ago

    Maybe we could ?

    0 points