[Mailman-Users] This is unixstuff warning

Chuq Von Rospach chuqui at plaidworks.com
Thu Jun 14 16:55:22 CEST 2001

On Thursday, June 14, 2001, at 12:44 AM, J C Lawrence wrote:

> Maintaining
> good will and earnestness in the face of continual unresponsive
> blunt assault tends to be dehumanising.

You even see it on this list, both at the people who come here to ask 
questions, and among the regular residents.

>  I don't know that there are any elegant answers
> when you spend human capital that way,

I'll tell you what two of the answers are:

1) really damn good documentation. Write the best docs you possibly can, 
then go make them better. Good user interfaces, clear explanation, solid 
navigation, and serious ease of use. Make the system so easy it's hard 
to get lost or confused -- and then document everything for those that 
get lost and confused anyway.

2) automate as much as you can for the admins. The more grunt work the 
admin has to do, the less likely it'll get done, and the more likely the 
admin will be grumpy about doing his work. Admins ought to be there to 
handle the out-of-bounds cases, errors and emergencies. The easier you 
make a system for the admin, the better for everyone.

Unfortunately, hacking code is fun-work. Writing docs, user testing, 
interviewing typical users, more user testing, navigation design, good 
UIs -- that stuff is all work-work, and it tends to be left until late 
in the process, if ever. Barry's one guy who can only get so much done, 
and only has one set of skills, too -- and access to only one set of 
users for feedback. There really needs to be a mailman documentation 
sub-project, where people focus on writing end-user docs, beating the 
crap out of the public and admin web pages to make them squeaky clean 
and navigable, and building a full suite of administrator documentation.

And I note for the record that my suggestion that everyone stop blaming 
mailman's problems on stupid users and instead go fix mailman fell on 
deaf ears -- but it seems to have shut down the thread at the same time. 
Because it's easy/fun to blame users and call them stupid, but fixing 
mailman is hard work. And it seems most people here are interested in 
taking the easy road, and not deal with the real problem. I'm not 

After 20 years of trying to teach users about the internet, running 
internet systems for others, and trying to fix geek toys so that real, 
normal humans could actually use the stuff, I'm taking a break. I think 
I've earned one (and I don't care if you agree, actually. grin). But the 
first trick to building really good systems is to stop building things 
geeks like, and blaming non-geeks when they don't show interest in 
becoming a geek so they can use it. Until people figure that out and are 
willing to do the (hard) work of figuring out what REAL people need 
instead of what you want to give them, this chasm will still exist. It's 
an attitude thing more than anyhting else -- and the "my users are 
stupid" schitck is key to its existance.

These users aren't stupid. Your software is. You can blame the user, or 
you can fix the software. Blaming the user is the easy way, and a cop 
out. Most folks don't have the guts to do the right thing, because they 
have to admit to themselves they don't have all the answers and that 
their stuff isn't perfect. And they aren't willing to commit to doing 
the hard part of the job, which is the LAST 20% of a project, not the 
fun parts.

And, of course, if you do the hard work, you run the risk of getting 
tired and needing a break... It's easier to slack off and blame others 
for not being good enough to understand what you've done.

And thus endeth the lecture...

Chuq Von Rospach, Internet Gnome <http://www.chuqui.com>
[<chuqui at plaidworks.com> = <me at chuqui.com> = <chuq at apple.com>]
Yes, yes, I've finally finished my home page. Lucky you.

I tried to get a life once, but they were out of stock.

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