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Re: SEUL: draft survey: v.0.001, just some thoughts

On Tue, 30 Jun 1998, Roger Dingledine wrote:

> My original thought there was to put a set of questions at the top that
> would tell us which category this user was in. I guess I was hoping we'd
> have enough from each category that we would in effect be having many
> different surveys, with the same questions. (This means it's extremely
> important to come up with questions that work for each 'type' of user.)

It might be possible to write the beginning of the survey so that it saves
different types of users of reading some big parts of survey, which is
totally out point (for example too technical) to them? Or at least fix
him/herself to a 'type' of user. So that we can interpret, which issues
she/he negleted for which reason.

I agree that it is also 
very important to find the right kind of questions to make different
'type' of users... But how to do it? I was thinking that in the beginning
we perhaps need to ask some quite big number of people to describe
us typologies of users. Or can we invent them ourselves? This leads me to
the following:

What are the important issues to make differences
of different type of users? 

* Does it make an important difference if people use a computer at home or
at work?  

* Does it make an important difference, if people maintain/install the
computer and the OS themselves or not?

* What about making difference between people, who make/don't make 
decisions of purchasing the OS and/or the computer?

* What about the differences of purchasing power (richness)?

* Differences between the tasks the computer is used?

* Differences between computers available for the installation?
I mean that is important to invent good/practical dimensions to work with.
It probably *helps* nothing if we find out that there is difference
between sexes how much each gender does programming for their OSs? Does it
mean that we had to make the differences bigger or smaller?  

Besides asking what is important what is not, we might need to ask as well
what is possible and what is not? I think that there might be a quite big
number of would-be-users, who have limitations of machinery for example,
which puts limitations on the reality of an OS regardless how important
some functionalities are? 

The general aim is to make a better, cheaper and freeer OS for anyone?
That probably means very different things to different people: someone
wants an OS, which he/she can her/himself develop, someone an OS, which
doesn't need any fixing, just using?  

The mythical 'end-user' means a person, who just wants a free mac? When it
doesn't work he goes to a workshop to ask professionals to put it in order
like an 'enduser' of a car, which stopped? Is the most important
difference between the looked-for SEUL-user and an existing linux-user
that the latter 'develops' the OS while the former doesn't? Computers are
a means to the former and an end for the latter? 

Actually I think that the
meaning of the SEUL project is to find a way how an *enduser* can be a
developer without writing programs him/herself but by telling
programmers, which kind of programs are needed. Even that kind, which
don't exist yet. We need a development process from down to up (from users
point up to a programmer) contrary to the normal process from the
programmer to the user.  

I think that the big general problem of the technology of our age
is that its maintenance is too far or out of the reach of the user. When
machines don't work, the normal (end)user is helpless. Which type of on
the reach control is needed? I don't think that a typical SEUL-user needed
a possibility to write him/herself corrections to the scripts of the OS,
but... what? A reach to a programmer? Or only an OS, which almost never

> It's certainly an interesting idea to just pick one of those types of
> users, and ignore the rest. My concerns are:
> * Which one(s) do we pick, and which do we ignore?
> * Do we intend to cover the other ones later? How many chances do we
>   get for sending out surveys, before people quit answering them?

I don't think we could pick only some types of users. We just need to
reach new kind of users besides already existing type of linux users. 
It might help as well to find out the type of existing linux user and
compare that to 'the normal computer user'? That survey could be made by
using existing linux-discussion groups of the net?

Might be the most important task in the beginning to get people to start
answering... Or maybe even better asking questions, if this or that is
possible or existing. I think that the changes to send the surveys are the
more limited the less people have themselves possibilities to
change/develop the survey itself. 

> My ideal case would be a survey that covers everybody and gives us a
> lot of information about each type. But maybe we won't be able to get
> that, it's true.

> Ultimately, I'd like to get a quantitative survey. If that means getting
> a qualitative survey first so we know what we should be asking, that works
> too. I hope we can skip that step, though.

We might be able to skip that step by doing this what we are doing right
now. But do we have enough different types of people on this list now? We
maybe needed some professional end-user instructors to know what are the
general problems and expectations of people starting using computers? SEUL
doesn't need to be just a combination of best propertions of all OSs but
it could be based on that principle what people wanted to do with a

Anotherkind of issue I have in my mind is: is it better to make a
hypotethical SEUL-distribution ready, small, simple, true and
nevercrashing or like a draft of not-ready-yet plans how to fulfill all
the hopes of computing in the future (like linux-distributions tend to

> This (where to do it) is a very important issue that we need to solve. I
> had thought we
> could answer it once we had a draft done, but maybe the draft itself
> depends on where we intend to do the survey.

We could perhaps start by putting the first draft of the survey on the
www-pages of SEUL project, distribute information of its placement using
existing channels of linux-information (discussion groups of the net,
Linux journal, other computer journals (perhaps asking distribution
companies like debian, rh, suse, etc to include the information on their
ads in journals?) and what else?)   

> >Would it be practical to use some kind of snow-ball method to do the
> >survey? To find first some kind of people to answer the initial survey,
> >use their opinions to find more and different kind of people and develop
> >the survey itself? I mean not to fix the survey completely beforehand but
> >to find out a method how to develop the survey itself. We need a good
> >starting point and a method how to go on. In my opinion the first draft is
> >OK if we could add a method how to go on by developing the next stage of
> >the survey by using the results and asking the people carry on the
> >message.
> Can you expand on this further? What sort of 'method' did you have in mind?

We might just try to ask all the people who answered the survey to add
their own comments and questions they wanted to be asked in this survey.  
It might be a start if all of us on this list just tried to find, lets say
ten people each to check and aswer the survey in the beginning. Just try
to think about all really different type of people we know using

Would it be possible to send somehow a free existing linux-distribution to
everyone who completed the task... to send more programs to everyone who
sent her/his opinion on the distribution he got... 

Still I have in my mind an idea that somehow we needed to get people to
try themselves the OS as well besides telling us how they wanted it to

> I was hoping to use the snow-ball effect to get the survey to more people --
> that is, we give it to people on the net, and then ask them to give it to
> their friends, the people at their job, their family, etc. It would be a
> very difficult thing to actually get to work, but it's a thought. Besides
> sending smailmail surveys (which is expensive, and will mostly be ignored
> anyway), I can't think of any good ways to do this...

This was my idea as well. Why don't we just start?

> If we link to the survey from freshmeat, slashdot, lwn, etc, we can get
> several thousand people to look at it. If some of those people actually
> fill it out, and some of those get other people to fill it out, maybe
> we'll get somewhere.

We might try to invent something how to make it worth of spending their
time on it. At least we might do it that way that people learn something
new by completing the task?  

We might also seriously think about the geographical areas of the survey. 
Besides America and Europe, Asia is a really would-be-important area.
Especially India and China. In India we don't have even much
language-problems, the problem is the availability of connections... But I
have a dream: we could perhaps make the two most populous countries of the
world, China and India, lands of linux. They are free and open for it.   
> --Roger