User Control in Linux
There’s a great article that touches on something I mentioned in my previous Linux post. While I usually perceive a benefit from being able to endlessly tweak Linux, sometimes I don’t and very few other people ever will. Kathy Sierra makes the best graphs and graphics for her article, and one that applies here is the “Is your product worth the users effort?”. The perceived payoff for Linux is still fairly low, and the learning curve very high. While the perceived payoff for upgrading to Windows Vista might also be low, at least the perceived learning curve and pain is also low.
Some free Linux distribution really needs to address the “canyon of pain” that users have to cross to make the switch. As much as advanced users often hate things like wizards, something like this could really help out a lot of new Linux users. Or even something as silly as the welcome to Windows movie that comes with new Dells. I can’t wait to get these things turned off considering I’ve bought and built dozens to hundreds of computers in my work, but when I hand over those new computers to users who aren’t computer savvy, the first thing they really want is desktop icons linking to tutorials. For most users just learning how to check their email would be kicking ass on a new operating system, forget about piping commands or using awk.
I know something I’d love to see is a bunch of peepcode style screen casts that come preloaded. I’ve been loving these things lately for learning some Rails stuff even though I already most of the stuff in them. I wish I had known about them before to save myself hours of combing through blog articles and api documentation to get the basic concepts. The articles and API documentation are great for reference once I understand basically what I’m doing, but man are they a slow way to feel like you’re ready to kick ass. And that’s exactly where new windows users are. There’s plenty of articles and forums out there, but they take a long time to wade through. Even some great concise places like ubuntuguide are great for getting software installed, but past that you’re pretty much on your own.
In summary, all the control users have in Linux is great in the long run, but there needs to be a way to easily just get new users started that doesn’t leave them feeling overwhelmed and lost.