Ubuntu developers recently announced their intention to fix a number of minor but noticeable usability bugs, which they've termed "Paper Cuts," in time for the release of Ubuntu 9.10 next October.  This is a huge step in the right direction for Ubuntu, and reflects the kind of usability-oriented thinking that is central to making it a success.

The ten bugs slated for correction so far mostly involve ambiguous user dialogues or interface inconsistencies.  None of them on its own is enough to turn someone off to Ubuntu, but added up, they detract substantially from the Ubuntu experience.

Additional bugs that have been identified as potential targets for the paper-cut campaign similarly represent seemingly trivial issues that, together, negatively impact the smoothness and professionalism of Ubuntu.

Three cheers for Ubuntu

While bugs like these seem minor in comparison to show-stopping problems like broken graphics drivers or missing wireless support, the Ubuntu developers, and Canonical's "Design and User Experience" team, deserve credit for recognizing that issues that appear trivial to geeks can be major obstacles to normal people trying to use Ubuntu.

The Ubuntu developers should also be commended for resisting the temptation, all too common in open-source development, to blame problems on upstream programmers and refuse to address them.  While a majority of the bug reports for the first ten paper cuts were initially dismissed as issues that required patching upstream, Ubuntu's teams have now recognized them as problems that they can and must address.

Let's hope this marks a new trend in bug tracking where downstream developers are willing to take on issues that aren't their fault, no matter how trivial they may appear.

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