A good example of something I tend to dislike, in geek culture. Users who are talking about issues they have are getting confronted with evidence that they may be wrong instead of any acknowledgment that there might be an issue. Basically, a variant of the “blame the victim” game.
Granted, Al-Qudsi’s post could be interpreted as a form of provocation, especially given its title. But thoughtful responses are more effective than “counterstrike,” in cases in which you want to broaden your user base.
So the ZDNet response, unsurprisingly, is to run some benchmark tests. Under their conditions, they get better results for Firefox 3 than for other browsers, excluding Firefox 2 which was the basis of Al-Qudsi’s comment. The “only logical conclusion” is that the problem is with the user. Not surprising in geek culture which not only requires people to ask questions in a very specific way but calls that method the “smart” one.
One issue with a piece like the ZDNet one is that those who are, say, having issues with a given browser are less likely to get those issues addressed than if the reaction had been more thoughtful. It’s fine to compare browsers or anything else under a standardized set of experimental conditions. But care should be taken to troubleshoot the issues users are saying they have. In other words, it’s especially important for tech journalists and developers to look at what users are actually saying, even if the problem is in the way they use the software. Sure, users can say weird things. But if developers don’t pay attention to users, chances are that they won’t pay attention to the tools the developers build.
The personal reason I’m interested in this issue is that I’ve been having memory issue with both Firefox 2 and in Flock 1.4 (my browser of choice, at least on Windows). I rarely have the same issues in Internet Explorer 7 or Safari 3. It might be “my problem,” but it still means that, as much as I love Mozila-based browsers, I feel compelled to switch to other browsers.
A major “selling point” for Firefox 3 (Ff3) is a set of improvements in memory management. Benchmarks and tests can help convince users to give Ff3 a try but those who are having issues with Ff3’s memory management should be the basis of a thoughtful analysis in terms of patterns in memory usage. It might just be that some sites take up more memory in Ff than in other browsers, for reasons unknown. Or that there are settings and/or extensions which are making Ff more memory hungry. The point is, this can all be troubleshot.
Helping users get a more pleasant experience out of Ff should be a great way to expand Ff’s userbase. Even if the problem is in the way they use Ff.