[linux-elitists] Re: GNOME > you

Jeff Waugh jdub@perkypants.org
Sun Jan 4 08:31:14 PST 2004

<quote who="Jeremy Hankins">

> So when the first axiom in your world view seems to be "but users don't
> care" I find that very, very significant.

I don't think it's fair to describe it as "the first axiom in [my] world
view" at all. It was a response.

> Then when I discovered that it's in fact based on the idea that there's an
> objective distinction between how one does work (i.e., what one does to do
> the work) and what the work is, I became very interested indeed, because
> that's something I completely disagree with.

You might be trying to hammer down hard beliefs or distinctions where there
are none (I merely gave an example), which would explain the response. But
let's see, I'll come back to that afterward.

The example covered two people's approach to writing a document (what), with
one having very specific technical requirements as to how he'd go about it,
while the other did not share similar requirements (how). Perhaps she wanted
other things, such as the ability to do nice background and coloured text or

The point was that because Sandy didn't have *technical* requirements, she
"didn't care" about those details, and wouldn't easily dive into the idea of
using LaTeX for her document. It simply doesn't satisfy her (most likely
subconcious) soft needs, such as interface discoverability and so on. She
probably doesn't want to read manuals as a prerequesite to getting her task
done. The other subject had specific technical interests, and was far more
willing to learn a complicated, largely non-discoverable system to get the
results he wanted.

So, I'm not sure your disagreement with "[my] objective distinction between
how and what" is really warranted. I don't think that's what I'm explaining
here at all. It's about approach, technical needs, soft needs, and level of
care-factor. I guess that's why I'm surprised at your aggressive pursuit of
this point - these aren't really abstract concepts.

Just about all of us here have a much deeper technical interest in the
software we use. For instance, I spent some time looking into ext3 htree
indexing and how mutt loads maildirs the other day to see if it would speed
up my mail experience. Some time back, I switched from mbox to maildir (and
back again a couple of times). That kind of behaviour is uncommon and deeply

When it comes to software we design for "real people", all of that kind of
crap has to be sorted out *beforehand*, which means that we have to make
lots of very tough decisions to get it right. Avoiding policy often has
technical merit, but not in these cases. Exposing all of that crap to real
users is lazy and immature.

That doesn't mean, as Aaron has implied, that I think everyone here should
renounce their barbaric traditional *nix and Free Software ways, and walk
the road of enlightenment. That's quite obviously stupid, and I'm sure as
hell not prepared to switch from mutt to Evolution yet. Aaron is missing the
fact that we are keenly aware of our audience... But I hope that our basic
work on the Desktop can draw traditional Free Software users who have better
things to do, much like OS X has (only with FREEDOM in mind).

Pfft. I've written too much. No one really reads long emails anyway. Just
quote some soundbite that sounds funny and flame me or something. ;-)

- Jeff

linux.conf.au 2004: Adelaide, Australia         http://lca2004.linux.org.au/
  I wonder how many bugs have gone unfixed due to misspellings of "FIXME".

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