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Re: SEUL: Users
> Alright, I'll bite. I saw this post a week or so ago that listed
> a fairly long list of different types of users. The post was so
> long that I couldn't read it all in one sitting. Further, I felt
> that the long list of users provided to fine a subdivision to
> server to clarify our thinking on the SEUL project. I also felt
> that some of the definitions were somewhat flippant and trite.
According to my `Webster', "flippant and trite" seems to mean
something like `not serious'. I am sorry if my posting looked that way,
I did my best (that was my best :-().
> Currently, LINUX users fall into two broad categories: Hackers
> and SysAdmins. I categorize as a Hacker anyone who is primarily
> interested in their computer for its own sake. Anyone who uses
> LINUX because they enjoy fiddling around with the internals of
> their machine and its OS. SysAdmins are anyone who uses LINUX
> because they require the UNIX features for some task. SysAdmins
> may well be Hackers as well, but they differ from Hackers in
> that they use their computers as tools rather than as toys.
Perhaps some of the programmers could also be included among
current Linux users.
> Both of these types of users are distinctive in several ways:
> 1) they are technically adept. They are able to deal with complex
> installation and adminitrative tasks. 2) they are motivated.
> Whether because of an inner desire for knowledge or an outer
> desire for profit they have the impetus to test their own
> boundries and take risks.
> The end user is quite a different animal. End users are not usually
> interested in a computer for its own sake. They have a task to do.
> Whether for work or for play it is the task that is paramount. The
> computer is incidental. End users are also rarely technically adept.
> They have little patience for complex proceedures, especially when
> those proceedure do not have a direct bearing on the task they want
> to perform.
> There, I wrote it and it was still long. I have, however, reduced
> the target user to a single definition. This is what we should be
> keeping in mind while we discuss what tools to use or make for the
> SEUL distribution. We must keep in mind that most of us do not fall
> into the category "end user" and that we must work even harder in
> order to indentify with our target audience.
The current users of Linux are of the `technical type' while the prospective
new ones are of a `nontechnical type'.
My problem with this classification is that `the non-technical' are
actually a very large and _very_ heterogenous population,
with _very_ varied needs. Considering these as two classes
would be like considering `ForestGreen' and `non-ForestGreen'
as `the two classes of colours'.
Personally, I am frequently confronted with introducing Linux
to Windows users or people who never used a computer before
or people who even used Linux before but are non-technical
have difficulties with it.
I am really amased at the variety of the reactions people have
about `the computer', `Linux', and what they expect from these things.
Most of these reactions could probably be explained based on
the psychological type and enculturation background of the
person involved. I am unable to substantiate such an explanation,
so I can only use the way in which I hear people describing
themselves in relation to `the computer' and the needs they feel
with regard to `the computer'.
Trying to adress the common denominator of the needs of all these people,
which probably means `simple document preparation' and simple, non-specific
communications, means to provide a kind of MS-Windows. Far better
technically, but the nontechnical people don't know and don't care about
Such a system solves only a small fraction of what, say, a medical
researcher, an electronic engineer, or a high-school computer teacher, or
a high-school student or a small bussiness bussinessman actually needs
from his computer(s).
In Linux, as well as in Windows, these people are left to assemble some
specific environment from pieces hard to put together, and unstable
as a whole. This is a pain on both platforms.
But, in the Windows world there is nothing to do about it: the pieces
are the property of various vendors and usually have proprietary,
undocumented file formats (I _really_ hate that; it is _my_ data they
encode in a non-accessible way); if they may interact this is only `manually
This is where I think THE DISTINCTIVE ADVANTAGE of Linux is (apart from the
obvious technical superiority and the freedom). In Linux it would be possible
for a community of developers and users to put together a `medical
researcher suite' of Linux software which provides solutions to common needs
of the medical research community (beyond text processing),
a `highschool child education suite', a `computer novice suite'
and so on.
More directly: if most of my colleagues would be offered a choice between
`the Windows typewritter everybody has' and `something technically
advanced and free called Linux, which doesn't actually do what Windows
does but something a bit different' they would choose the first, despite
But if they would be offered a choice between say `The GNU/Linux Cardiology
Suite, a complete, free, environment for the cardiology investigator
with: medical statistics, presentation graphics, ECG processing, patient
information database, myocardial electrical simulator and, of course,
text processing, mail and web) and `the Windows everybody has--if
you pay the licences' the choice would be for the GNU/Linux thing
(it actually is, I am doing this at my hospital, relying on the
The same might be true with `the highschool student GNU/Linux suite',
`the small bussines GNU/Linux suite' and so on (maybe even
`the 10--15 years child GNU/Linux suite' or the `home GNU/Linux suite').
Perhaps I don't succeed in focusing the idea, but `a direct installation
and configuration' is the opposite of `a solution for everybody'. It is
both direct and highly usefull for somebody if it is specific to his
It is also much easier to tell `what packages and what installation
steps and _what_documentation_' should be in a suite addressed to
the highschool student than `what ...' in a suite addressed to
the highschool student _or_ the electronic designer _or_
the bussinessman _or_ the doctor _or_ anybody else.
And these are the reasons why I see the need and opportunity
to make more than one distribution (say...configuration), and thus the
necessary preliminary step to identify potential user classes,
characterize them, and settle for a subset of them to address first.
Thanks for reading all this,
Simple End User Linux Mailing list
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