Re: Documentation Standards was Re: [ox-en] UserLinux
- From: august <august alien.mur.at>
- Date: Sun, 7 Dec 2003 17:41:15 +0100 (CET)
I find I'm stuck on the oppsite side of this problem. As someone who got
used to computers before Windows, I found (and still find) Windows
horrible to use - the attitude that 'users should just know what sequence
of buttons to press' leaves me feeling completely frustrated every time
soemthing doesn't work. Now people are saying it's a great success that we
have OpenOffice - and when I try to use it I find it does exactly what
Word does for me: randomly swap fonts or styles, refuses to let me
determine which parts of a paragraph are in or not in bulleted lists, etc.
and gives me no control at all. When people in the past talked about
'linux taking over the world' I didn't understand that they meant 'linux
will clone windows'. At least, it appears that most do, leaving a few
retro grumpy old men to stick with their plain window managers, TeX, and
I think the history probably dates back to Apple computers and later
their "think different" propaganda campaign which was essentially (as i
see it) a PR pitch to get computer illiterate people to pay a lot of money
for computers they didn't (and maybe didn't want to) know how to use.
so I see two problems: one, we are still in an early age of computing.
Most of computing so far seems to be about selling computers into homes
and getting people used to them (addicted). the fact that the mouse seems
to be the most revolutionary invention to the computer shows that there is
plenty of more work to be done. this can't really be advanced computing.
two, the UI's of the two popular platforms are essentially populist (in a
bad way). the rhetoric of theses outfits is not only to make computers
easy to use, but to generate a monotone userbase and to HIDE most of how
the computer works from you. the monotone userbase has been hailed as a
good thing by software companies and 'users' alike as being a sort of
social protocal of acceptable conventions. Personally, I think you can
have a pluralistic userbase and still have acceptable conventions. by
conventions, I mean where to point and click the mouse, how a file browser
works, etc. About the platforms hiding things from you, there is a
tendancy to 'dumb-down' applications as graham pointed out. FLOSS
software, generally speak, does challenge you to know more about a
computer. At the lowest level, if you speak programming, it will
challange you to open and read the source code to see and understand it
dispite all that, there will probably never be a "do-what-I-mean" key as
most 'users' want.
The hacker republic problem is tricky. Guido von Rossum has said that
*everyone* who uses a computer should learn a programming language. I
used to think that was totally off base but over time I've come to
reflect on how much better the computer using world would be if this
were the case. :)
What we need to do first is figure out if software is more like
reading (the idea of teaching a society to read but *not* to write is
horrifying) or more like building a car (not everyone needs to know
how to build a car although even though it might be nice).
I think the read/write metaphor is less strong as the user/producer
metaphor. I think we have been duped into beleiving we are 'users' of a
computer, but in fact probably all computational work is production
oriented. we are using the computer to produce things. I know, its sort
of a glass-half-empty/half-full argument, but I think the switch to the
more positive sounding producer (user to me sounds like we are all
junkies) could shift attitudes. I also think the future of FLOSS is in
education. Instead of inviting conventions proposed by the 2 major
software companies into our kindergartens and elemntary schools, it would
make more sense to introduce FLOSS applications and environments. The
teachers (still) need to be taught how to use computers anyway. Why not
teach them to teach floss.
'nuff for now -august.