The User Perspective

I was a computer and GNU/Linux newbie once. Alas, it was such a relatively long time ago that I don’t remember the associated feeling anymore. Of course, I do see the difference between a user-friendly desktop environment or GNU/Linux distribution and one that is geared towards experienced users or even veterans. Especially, when I’m dead tired after a 12-hour working day! That was one of the reasons I embraced the GNOME3 experience as part of my Fedora 23 and openSUSE Leap/Tumbleweed escapade. Gladly, habits die hard and I’m back with the lean and simple Manjaro Linux.

While helping out some fledgeling GNU/Linux users, I noticed that there is a drastic correlation between the number of competent computer users and the user-friendliness of a GNU/Linux distribution. No rocket science here. The real catch is that in a user-friendly GNU/Linux distribution much more manpower is needed to maintain the expected array of functionalities. However, there are less technically-inclined users to provide the requisite manpower. Tricky business, right? People come to take, because a distribution advertizes itself as there for the taking. Also, it’s much easier to take than to give.

I can empathize with newbie computer and GNU/Linux users, though I don’t always understand them. To me helping someone and giving advice is a two-sided coin. It’s not only about them receiving the answer, but also about them digesting it. To my complete dismay, the latter is often lacking and I am left with a response which will never be understood by my recipient. One of the rules governing our beautiful universe is that there are no simple answers. They can be simplified or generalized, sure. Who do they do justice, though?

I think this is not a problem of modern computing, but of modern society. Taking is easy and talking is cheap. People should learn and we GNU/Linux users should teach them that in order to take, one should also give something in return. That’s the only way intellectual barter can work.

2 thoughts on “The User Perspective

  1. i dont really disagree with any of this, but i think what youre describing makes a lot more sense on another level entirely.

    to refactor the entire thing, make it about education, design, and expectations. the design occasionally includes decisions that dont make a lot of sense, and many “fixes” make even less sense when theyre more about expectations than design. on top of this, education has failed over time and expectations start to be built around “well, i didnt get an education so i would just like to use what i know.”

    i dont think arbitrary changes to the gnu/linux ecosystem are going to help (if they might, i hope i dont have to endure too many.) but thats because i went to the trouble of learning a perfectly good way already. i dont feel a need to learn again using a bad design.

    people that come over from other systems probably feel the same way, and things are finally (to my dismay) being made to cater to them. this doesnt address the problem a lot more than your post does, because honestly we are just getting started. but i sympathize, in a way. and its a huge mess, in my opinion.

    the easiest solution in the long run is to make certain there are real choices. but the main choice that people build in is “take it or leave it,” even when theyve removed one choice to put in another! like i said, its a mess. and its hurting the one feature that gnu/linux should be best known for: reliability. weve stopped shooting ourselves in one foot, reloaded, and moved on to the other. i hope we can make it right, and still have a leg to stand on.


    • I think it’s a very thoughtful comment, thank you :). I also think that at the moment GNU/Linux suffers more from a dwindling choice of everything (DEs, tools, etc.) for the sake of catering to a possible influx of new Windows and Mac OS X users. Sadly, these new users will not be able to support the ecosystem, because they simply don’t know how. So the rift between Us and Them increases and we have to double our legwork to remain comfortable. However, as I said, this seems to be a broader problem not only limited to GNU/Linux :).

      Liked by 1 person

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