The Mozilla folks are doing their post-mortems.

Peter Trudelle: “At the time Netscape created mozilla.org and open sourced its codebase (3/31/98), we were not aware of any models on how to do large-scale UI design and development in open source.  Netscape itself had a history of strong, innovative UI design, but had been steadily cutting back, with some budget decisions being made by managers who privately considered UI design little more than eye candy sprinkled on at the end of a release.”

Matthew Thomas responds: “Why my behavior tends to suck.”

It’s very frustrating doing any kind of design work, architectural or UI, with a dispersed group of volunteers. Things which Matthew could have persuaded someone in person at a whiteboard in five minutes took hours of typing into Bugzilla, accompanied by no end of useless interjections from the world at large who made most UI bug reports look like slashdot threads with the filter set to -1.

There just isn’t enough bandwidth to do good design when a team is geographically dispersed. I’m not saying it can’t be done at all, but the results are vastly better when the entire team is physically in the same location. I’m convinced of this, and will never agree to do software development with a dispersed team.

About the author.

I'm Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Trello and Fog Creek Software, and CEO of Stack Overflow. More about me.