Wait, wait. Let me repeat that and make it a little bigger, because in the brevity of that sentence you might have missed it’s sheer awesomeness:
This is a great opportunity.
Matt is a computer science professor at Allegheny College, and he’s teaching an interaction design course this coming semester (which starts next Thursday!) Matt is an alumni of the Teaching Open Source POSSE program (POSSE standards for “Professors’ Open Source Summer Experience”) and a writer for opensource.com, and he is passionate about getting students involved in free & open source software and improving the connections between FLOSS and academia. So when you read his blog post, where he’s offering up the students of his Fall 2010 interaction design class to help FLOSS projects, you can be assured he means business.
So here’s what Matt is asking of you:
- You need to be a developer or manager directly involved with the project you’re submitting for interaction design help. While I am sure we all have our pet bugs in Firefox or Nautilus, if you’re not directly involved in these projects, you’ll not be able to provide Matt’s students the upstream contacts and guidance they need for their work to be effective.
- You need to be open to UI changes, and not of the mindset your UI is already perfect. Matt is looking for folks who want the help, and who are willing to consider the data and the suggestions for improvement his students will be providing.
- You have to commit to respond to students in a timely manner. These students will be working within a 14-week schedule. If you take 2 weeks to get back to a student, you’ll really impact their ability to get their work done.
This is not so much to ask given what Matt is offering here:
- Your project will be part of a list Matt will provide to his students to choose from. If a student ends up working on your project, they will have picked it from other projects and likely be genuinely interested in working on it. (And motivated too, to get a good grade )
- The students will work within your existing community infrastructure. Already have a mailing list, IRC channel, etc.? Matt’s students will engage with you in these places the same as any other contributor.
- You will receive a usability evaluation and/or mockups and suggestions for improving your interface from an interaction designer in-training! What you choose to do with that data is up to you, but please consider it seriously!
Now, I know there are tons of you out there who are ready for interaction design help and are definitely willing to work with designers, because I hear from you all the time! There’s not enough interaction designers in the FLOSS community, and I believe programs like Matt’s that engage up-and-coming designers in the FLOSS community early on will help build up our interaction designer population. They provide a wonderful mutual benefit – the design students get to work on real-life projects, not just throw-away designs that are abandoned forever at the end of the semester – and the developers involved get the design help they desire but have such a hard time finding because of the dearth of designers. Help provide these students a great experience in interacting with our community, and maybe they’ll stick around!
Note that you won’t become a surrogate professor here – Matt will be teaching and leading these students throughout the process – if you have any concerns or questions throughout the process, if something isn’t working and you’d like it addressed, just get in touch with Matt.
So what are you waiting for? Don’t be shy! Pop on over to Matt’s blog and sign up!