I would rather be a celebrated human being than just a celebrated brain

Due to many things I have to take care of this week (not to mention papers and reports) I wasn’t able to follow what was happening in the last post. I believe that what should have been my expression, or if you prefer, my opinion towards a certain person’s talk regarding Linux turned out to be a sort of pseudo-battleground with, I highly suspect, a lot of bad feelings going around.

I decided that instead of replying to that post, I will write my reactions and clarifications here. But first, let me announce for a second (whoever reads this) that our group in Psych has just posted our sign-up sheet for our experiment. It will be held tomorrow (9/12/08) at room 309 of PHAN starting from 8:30 AM. Those interested can sign-up at the third floor of PHAN. The title of the experiments are “See the Difference” and “Feel the Difference.”

Back to reactions and clarifications.

First, I would like to say that I do not dispute Microsoft Windows usability. In fact, like I said in the previous post, I admire them as a research corporation: their research on the average computer user usage is something the open-source world can benefit from. I read somewhere that they will give you a free copy of their software just to go to your house for several days and watch you work with your computer.

Second, it is not my intention to demean Ms. Fudolig. I don’t care if she’s the most “celebrated brain in recent years” – as old_fogey_nerd repeatedly described her – or an imbecile. I concern myself with her talk, not the state of publicity of her nervous system. If anything I’ve written were vague enough to confuse people into perceiving that I demeaned her, then forgive my lack of prudence. However, I am inclined to point out that that is the reader’s problem, not mine, since it’s that person’s perception (hmmm, can you say the last phrase three times, fast?).

Third, I am a Windows baby for 8 out of 10 of my personal computing years. My first encounter with Linux and FOSS was through Eric Raymond’s essays. I received my first Linux when I signed a certain petition in the University Library and got a free Ubuntu. When Windows was corrupted, I installed Ubuntu on its place (version 5.04, I think). At that time I thought Linux was just another version of Windows, and hence, I tried installing Windows software in it. Of course it didn’t work. It was days before someone told me that it is not Windows.

Imagine if at that time I was present in the biggest, nationwide conference, and then someone in authority, though he gave a disclaimer, saying he wasn’t an expert, actually said that Linux is not usable because I can’t install in it the way I install Windows applications? Would I try Linux again?

Old_fogey_nerd, I think you understand what I meant. Surely the person talking in front is not convincing people to do something. However, being in market research, as you said, you know that one element of persuasion is the communicator. The same way that celebrities are not experts on the particular products they promote, one’s expertise is not the only necessary criteria for credibility of the communicator. Halo effect (generalizing other aspects of that person to the overall personality of that person)can also play a factor in giving one an aura of credibility. What may not work for her or him may also extend to me, the audience might be thinking. And so if the product is really usable, but the audience was already primed that it is not, even though it is already on the stage that it is, is the customer still right? Or do we have to inform the public?

There is that overrated phrase: The Customer is always Right. Sure. But I doubt the customer is still right when she’s insisting that she’s been duped by the store just because the wireless router she bought needs a power cable.

Someone said that it was an “opinion speech” – yes, but are opinions so sacred tha they can’t be argued against?

Windows is usable. It is user-friendly (I hate to use this term because they are context dependent, but for the sake of the argument, I shall give up this time). But it would be wrong to conclude that just because Linux does not do things the Windows way, it is not usable. Say I am very good at riding a motorcycle. But will I conclude that because driving a car is not the same as riding a motorcycle, the car is not usable? And if I am a car driver, is putting a driving wheel in place of the handle bars will make the motorcycle usable for me? If you did that then I will laugh at you.

Firefox became popular not because it tried to do things the IE way. It is popular because it is different. Linux can be another Firefox, but can it be when people insists it to do things the Windows way?

I believe it’s as simple as this: A car is not a motorcycle. A Nokia is not a Motorola. IE is not Firefox. And Linux is not Windows.

User-friendliness. This concept is highly context dependent. That is why there are a lot of Linux distributions. There are Linux for newbies, for developers, for geeks, for scientists, for artists, for gamers, for office work, etc. The Linux Community (old_fogey_nerd may not know this yet but yes Linux is not a product of a single corporation, but a collaboration of a worldwide community) recognizes that user-friendly is contextual, and because of that there are many similar applications, distributions, and desktop environments (or OS GUI’s for the uninitiated). You might be thinking chaos, but this is choice as its best.

Lastly, so that no one misinterprets the title (I still believe that many people are not that literal minded), it was intended as a sort of pun to old_fogey_nerd’s adjective. Can you say “celebrated mind” instead? Do not disconnect the brain from its owner’s humanity. Its just plain cruel.


~ by rosmant on September 11, 2008.

4 Responses to “I would rather be a celebrated human being than just a celebrated brain”

  1. If user-friendliness is primarily defined by familiarity, then Mac Os X shouldn’t be user-friendly to Windows users, either.

    It wasn’t to me when I first encountered it. Windows wouldn’t maximize. Minimized applications wouldn’t restore when I Cmd-Tabbed to them. Double-clicking the .dmg didn’t put me through a setup wizard, and I had no idea what to do with the white disk on the desktop. Closing windows didn’t quit applications. Cmd-X didn’t cut files for pasting later. Pressing Enter didn’t open files—it renamed them.

    Did I, at that point, declare OS X non-user-friendly because it didn’t operate like Windows? Did I attribute OS X’s lower marketshare to its user-unfriendliness?


    I thought it was annoying, but I knew it just took some getting used to. Same deal with Linux.

    Could Linux create more graphical frontends for certain relatively obscure administrative tasks? Sure. Should Linux be preinstalled on my computers? Definitely.

    Does that mean Linux is not easy to use? Not at all.

  2. I agree. =)

  3. Well written Rosmant. I most especially like the motorcycle and car example. It made me laugh 🙂

  4. Maybe they used the word “user-friendly” as their defense mechanism.
    Diverted a lot of people to a wrong concept which seemed right.

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