[Mailman-Users] This is unixstuff warning

J C Lawrence claw at kanga.nu
Thu Jun 14 18:51:47 CEST 2001

On Thu, 14 Jun 2001 07:55:22 -0700 
Chuq Von Rospach <chuqui at plaidworks.com> wrote:

> 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.

Yup.  I see it in myself and my willingness to launch into
explanations of solutions versus snap answers which point to only
the root of the problem and nothing else.

>> 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.


  1) If possible make the "Right Thing" the obvious default for
  users.  If not possible, make the "Right Thing" as close as you
  can to a "Duh!" thing (for them).

  2) If you don't need to think about what to do, you shouldn't have
  to do it -- the system should do it for you.  Humans are there
  because they are intelligent, not because they can emulate

> 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.

I'm especially bad in that regard, and I haven't helped the
situation WRT Mailman.

> 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. 

I'd translate the reaction, as:

  "Umm, oh yeah.  Well he's right you know, it kinda isn't a stupid
  luser problem, its uhh, that we didn't make the system help the
  user when we know we could have."

The tricky bit is ensuring that they (of COURSE this doesn't enclude
me) don't shuffle off embarrassed until the next time its easier to
blame someone else rather than looking closer to home.

  "Its all his fault officer!  He ran into my car!"

  "You were stopped in the middle of the intersection with your
  lights off in the middle of the night during a blackout right?"

  "Yeah, but he could have seen me if he'd looked!"

> 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 surprised.

Putting the self-destruct button in the middle of the steering wheel
of the car

> I think I've earned one (and I don't care if you agree,
> actually. grin).

If I've not been sufficiently clear to date:

  I/we'll miss you.  Go relax.  Enjoy.  Get some R&R.  Take a deep
  breath.  Please.  Then hurry back -- there's a war on ya' know.

> 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.

AOL has how many million susbcribers?

What MLM has a control and configuration interface that would appeal
to the average AOL user?

Would an MLM whose interface did appeal to the average AOL user be
necessarily inherently broken/torqued/crippled in some way?

In terms of geekdom there's more of Joe Redneck than there are of us.

> 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.

One of my semi-regular rants (well, to myself) for one of my hobby
lists that lies close to my heart is that the users obviously don't
understand what I'm trying to do with the list and are fighting me
and making it more difficult.  

  "Are they so stupid that they can't see what I'm doing here?"

The rest of the analysis of that statement and its implications is
all pretty obvious, AND rote, AND predictable, and yes, the obvious
conclusions are also true.  

Its not a thing that helps me sleep at night.

> And thus endeth the lecture...


J C Lawrence                                       claw at kanga.nu
---------(*)                          http://www.kanga.nu/~claw/
The pressure to survive and rhetoric may make strange bedfellows

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