Will we learn to hide the complexity in Open Source?

Chris Messina has a pretty good story comparing Apple's Magic Mouse and the recently announced OpenOfficeMouse that was targeted to power users of OpenOffice.org:

At base, these products represent two polar opposite ends of the spectrum: Apple prefers to hide complexity within the technology whereas the open source approach puts the complexity on the surface of the device in order to expose advanced functionality and greater transparency into how to directly manipulate the device. Put another way, the reason that people would buy the $69 Apple MagicMouse is because they want Apple’s designers to just “figure it out” for them, and provide them with an instantly-usable product. The reason why someone would pay $75 for this mouse is because it strictly keeps all the decision-making about what the mouse does in the hands (pun intended?) of the purchaser.

What I worry about, however, is that pockets of the open source community continue to largely be defined and driven by complexity, exclusivity, technocracy, and machismo. While I do support independence and freedom of choice in technology — and therefore open source — I prefer to do so inclusively, with an understanding that there are many more people who are not yet well served by technology because appropriate technology has not been made more usable for them.

More focus on usability and clarity would be needed with most Open Source projects, but there are already some bright spots. GNOME, for example, has good tradition in simple interfaces. I recently made the jump from Mac OS X to Ubuntu Netbook Remix, and have generally been quite happy with it.

But for Open Source projects the challenge is more difficult than for proprietary products. On the other hand we want to provide a nice, usable experience, but we also want to let our users delve deeper into the functionality, to make changes and maybe even become contributors to the project. This is where new tools like OLPC's View Source button can do wonders if implemented more widely.