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osOpinion: Towards the ANSI Standard User

Mar 30, 2000, 18:35 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Paul Johnson)

[ Thanks to Kelly McNeill for this link. ]

"This essay was prompted by my experiences trying to configure Linux. Until 1995 I was pretty knowledgable about Unix, but then my employer put a Windows box on my desk, and my knowledge decayed. Now I have finally got hold of Linux for my home PC, and its been a bit of a culture shock."

"The problem seems to be in the mindset. When I click on the "help" button on dialogs in GNOME or KDE I usually get something along the lines of "This dialog lets you set the Foo Switch and the Mumble Options". But the dialog box has already told me that. What I wanted was an explanation of what the Foo Switch and Mumble Options actually do, why I might want to set them, and possibly even some examples."

"To most people you use a computer like you use a television or microwave: you press the buttons and it reacts immediately. Their mental model of what is inside the machine is only one level deep. They understand the current state, and they look for ways of manipulating that state directly. Setting up a list of instructions which, when followed, will place the machine in the desired state requires an extra level in their conceptual model, and it is one that non-programmers are not used to working with."

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