[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:
> 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
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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