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here comes the judge

All,

I'm here at the invite of ottermaton, who I bumped into while surfing the net looking for people who, like me, believe that, to over-simplify:

Linux documentation sux.

I'm looking for people who are interested in discussing why so much software sux, and why even in Linux, so much of it sux. We are the good guys!

I'm a philosophical type and it seems to me that the whole damned Linux community needs to stop and take a long hard look at who we are, what we want and how we should get there.

Do we know what we want? I'm not sure we do.

What are the basics of software design principals? Is there a standard reference?
There should be.

Why are there so many distros? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Might it not be better if we had a dozen near perfect distros than a thousand half-cooked ones?

What is the proper trade off between 'friendlyness' and 'power'? It seems to me that in their quest to be 'friendly' some distros (u no hu u r) seem to want to cut the nuts off anyone who wants to get a better understanding of their machine. OTOH other distros (I'm thinking Slackware) give you 'control' but seem to almost enjoy making things difficult.

Do we all have Balmer-on-the-brain syndrome without knowing it? Look at Gnome 3: so many dedicated and brilliant guys worked so hard to make something that -- it seems -- is widely viewed a awful. Is it awful? Are we just being slow to adapt? Could it be that the computer user world needs to be divided into two groups, the left-brain group and the right-brain group, and that each group needs it's own form of OS/software?

Enough ranting for now :-)

Comments

  • Lyxer01Lyxer01 Registered
    Ah welcome Ray!

    I gotta say you got some pretty good points about the Linux community there Ray. Normaly I don't really look at big controversial rants with a friendly eye (not saying I don't rant my self) But you do bring up great topics and things to talk about. And I think they would be great to have on the forum! As this is being friendly community, we more than welcome you to share your idealism and thoughts :)

    Now, I do agree with your argument on how people are bashing down Gnome 3. The people behind the project are working with out pay and doing it for the community, not Commercial. So it seems sort of wrong to bash on them just because they tried a different take on revamping the desktop. Plus it's completly free and open source, so why dont the people who are complaining try to fix the problems on gnome 3? instead of moan and be negative about it.

    i'm not a big fan of Gnome 3 my self, but i try to be respectful of those working on it.

    There's my rant for you :D

    Otherwise, Welcome to the Linux Distro Community Ray!!

    Warm regards, Lyxer01
  • ValtamValtam Registered
    A very warm welcome to the community Ray :) Enjoy your stay. I to believe there are too many distros out in the wild, would like to see a more communal approach to Linux distributions other than the current fragmented scene. The whole philosophy of this community is to bring people from all over linux, together. Spread the word, share the information, and lets bring it all together :)
  • Hi Ray! Thanks for stopping by, and welcome to LDC! I need to split for school shortly, but I think I have enough minutes to jot down a few thoughts.
    ray wrote:
    Linux documentation sux.

    Agreed. It's why I got involved with Bodhi and became the Doc Head (heh!) there. I'm no expert on doc writing, but for end-user docs I think I've been able to put together some things that are "good enough". Maybe others would disagree. Aside from the couple of guides I've written I also try to keep on top of the Bodhi Wiki by "cleaning up" the articles people place there. I run into trouble, though, when it's an article about, say, an ATI graphics card: I don't have any of those, so there's no way for me to tell if it's correct.

    Another area that I've often heard is lacking - and I have no ability in this regard - is developer docs. An example is EFL, which Enlightenment (which Bodhi uses) is built from. I've heard a number of comments that it's extremely hard to get started with EFL, not because there is anything wrong with the tool itself, just that there's no docs on how use it.

    I've wanted to give back to the Linux community for a while, and even joined the Ubuntu docs team for a spell, but never could find a niche there. The I fell in with Bodhi and found a need that I was capable of filling. It's hard to find those "holes" sometimes, but I think if we stay aware of them and fill them as we can it will go a long way in improving Linux docs in general.
    I'm looking for people who are interested in discussing why so much software sux, and why even in Linux, so much of it sux. We are the good guys!

    ...

    Do we know what we want? I'm not sure we do.

    What are the basics of software design principals? Is there a standard reference?
    There should be.

    No, there isn't, and I think that provides a partial answer to why the software (sometimes) sucks. I don't think it's necessarily true that much of it sucks, it's more that it appears to when run in a foreign environment, say running a GTK app in a KDE environment.

    To be sure, this has gotten much better over the years, but I don't think think it's so much that a piece of software sucks per se; it just gives that impression from being in the wrong environment.

    I could be totally off base there though. ;)
    Why are there so many distros? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Might it not be better if we had a dozen near perfect distros than a thousand half-cooked ones?

    Yes. But I know I would not be happy if there were less than a dozen - at a minimum - to choose from. One of the things that keeps me on Linux is knowing that if I don't like the direction one project is going, I can just switch to another.
    What is the proper trade off between 'friendlyness' and 'power'? It seems to me that in their quest to be 'friendly' some distros (u no hu u r) seem to want to cut the nuts off anyone who wants to get a better understanding of their machine. OTOH other distros (I'm thinking Slackware) give you 'control' but seem to almost enjoy making things difficult.

    I wrote a whole article about the too friendly distro's on my site. Maybe you've already seen it. I'll let that article do my speaking on that topic:

    _____[fill in the blank]: "Want me to wipe for you too?"
    Do we all have Balmer-on-the-brain syndrome without knowing it? Look at Gnome 3: so many dedicated and brilliant guys worked so hard to make something that -- it seems -- is widely viewed a awful. Is it awful? Are we just being slow to adapt? Could it be that the computer user world needs to be divided into two groups, the left-brain group and the right-brain group, and that each group needs it's own form of OS/software?

    Not sure what you mean by Ballmer on the brain...

    Letf-brain/right-brain OSs ... hmm. I never thought of that before, but my first impression is that, yea, it's a good idea. Will have to ponder it more though.

    Time waits for no man, off to school.

    cheers
    mark
  • rayray Registered
    Lyxer01 wrote:
    Ah welcome Ray!

    A VERY CORDIAL WELCOME!

    Now, I do agree with your argument on how people are bashing down Gnome 3. The people behind the project are working with out pay and doing it for the community, not Commercial. So it seems sort of wrong to bash on them just because they tried a different take on revamping the desktop. Plus it's completly free and open source, so why dont the people who are complaining try to fix the problems on gnome 3? instead of moan and be negative about it.

    ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS I'D LIKE TO ESTABLISH IS THAT CRITISISM ISN'T ALWAYS CONDEMNATION. I'M NOT DUMPING ON THOSE GUYS, HECK WHERE WOULD WE BE WITHOUT THEM? NOPE, WHAT I'M WANTING TO DO IS TO LOOK DEEP INTO THE HIDDEN ASSUMPTIONS THAT GO INTO SOFTWARE DESIGN AND TO SEE HOW AND WHERE THOSE ASSUMPTIONS CAN LEAD US ASTRAY. THERE SEEMS TO BE A DISCONNECT SOMEWHERE BETWEEN WHAT WE WANT AND WHAT WE THINK WE WANT AND WHAT SOFTWARE DESIGNERS THINK WE WANT. LET'S FIGURE IT OUT.

    Not sure what you mean by Ballmer on the brain...

    Letf-brain/right-brain OSs ... hmm. I never thought of that before, but my first impression is that, yea, it's a good idea. Will have to ponder it more though.

    Time waits for no man, off to school.

    cheers
    mark

    I'm talkin' about Steve Balmer (Ballmer?) the Prince of Darkness at M$.And now ... as a first step, we bring you Ray's Axiom: <drum roll>

    Experts cannot write decent documentation.

    Why is that, you ask? Because most of what we know about something, we know unconsciously, IOW we know things without knowing that we know them which makes us forget that other people do NOT know them. Experts know so much about their subject unconsciously that their documents are useless except to other experts and, strangely enough, even if they try hard they will have one heck of a time trying to explain things on a simpler level.

    First corollary to Ray's Axiom:

    Only a beginner can write a document that is useful to other beginners.

    Say I have some software. One of my most valuable assets is the raw beginner. He fires up my stuff. I need to be hovering over his shoulder *as* he tries to get it working. Him and I need to write out the beginners manual *before* he becomes familiar with the prog. Once he is familiar, it's too late, he's forgotten how it **doesn't** work.And now <drum roll>

    Mark's Axiom .....Hey Mark, I've lost the URL to your site, I'd like to read more of your articles.

    Yeah, we don't want too few distros either, do we? IMHO all these guys need to get talking to each other so that rather than have a thousand distros with a huge overlap in philosophy, they could coordinate and target their products such that there would be less 'breadth' of choice but more 'depth' i.e. less overlap and more 'focus':

    #1: the 'first step from Windows' distro. Designed for beginners (Ubuntuish)
    #2: the purists distro. Difficult but with full user control (Slackwareish)
    #3: the minimalists distro (Puppyish)
    #4: the 'left brain' distro
    #5 the 'right brain' distro.
    etc.

    When you go to pick a distro, you know what you are getting and *why* you want that one not some other.
  • rayray Registered
    Where did they go? Have I scared them off?
  • Possibly. I've actually been afraid to stick my foot into this one lol. I'm too noobish to be battling it out.
  • Possibly. I've actually been afraid to stick my foot into this one lol. I'm too noobish to be battling it out.

    Actually, not true at all. In fact ...
    One of my most valuable assets is the raw beginner.
    (from Ray's post above)

    Where do you think Linux docs can be improved?

    cheers
    mark
    ray wrote:
    Where did they go? Have I scared them off?

    Nope. I've just been busy, and taking a little time to organize my thoughts before committing them to bits. ;)
    I'm talkin' about Steve Balmer (Ballmer?) the Prince of Darkness at M$.

    I know who you mean, just not why you're referring to him. It's probably not that important in the context of this discussion though.
    Experts cannot write decent documentation.
    ...
    Only a beginner can write a document that is useful to other beginners.

    While I generally agree with this, there are certainly exceptions. I consider myself a "power user" (but not an expert, and - without patting myself on the back too much - I think I've created some fairly decent docs for beginners.

    I think an important thing to remember when writing docs is to target the "lowest common denominator" - ie, the n00b. That is not to say, however, that every single step needs to be explained in excruciating detail - in fact, doing so would drive away your "power users" - but I think you should include links or references to where that "basic" knowledge can be found. That way you can keep a "tight" document but still have all the info available for even the most inexperienced user.
    Hey Mark, I've lost the URL to your site, I'd like to read more of your articles.

    http://linuxisit.com. I used to write fairly regularly there, but have fallen out of the habit in recent months. Mainly, there just hasn't been a topic that "bothered" me enough to write about it.
    Yeah, we don't want too few distros either, do we? IMHO all these guys need to get talking to each other so that rather than have a thousand distros with a huge overlap in philosophy, they could coordinate and target their products such that there would be less 'breadth' of choice but more 'depth' i.e. less overlap and more 'focus':

    This is hard, though, as a disagreement over a single item can cause a split when otherwise philosophies align.

    Good example: since forever I've been pestering Jeff (the lead dev) to use Debian as a base for Bodhi. I like Debian's commitment to Free Software, and think Ubuntu is kind of "flaky". Jeff, OTOH, thinks Ubuntu is innovative and Debian too brittle in their philosophy. Otherwise we (pretty much) agree on the direction that distro should take. For an end user, what would really be the difference between Debian and Ubuntu as a base? Very little I suspect. But that difference of opinion could be enough to cause a fracture.
    #1: the 'first step from Windows' distro. Designed for beginners (Ubuntuish)
    #2: the purists distro. Difficult but with full user control (Slackwareish)
    #3: the minimalists distro (Puppyish)
    #4: the 'left brain' distro
    #5 the 'right brain' distro.
    etc.

    Hey!!!! What about Bodhi for #3!?!? ;)

    Right brain is "artsy", right? Hasn't that always been considered the domain of Apple. Maybe not so much these days. What would be the artsy equivalent in Linux land?

    For left brain (logic, yes?), I'm thinking Debian or Arch.

    cheers
    mark
  • rayray Registered
    hi mark,

    Just left something at your 'wipe' article.

    As to beginners vs. experts writing docs. of course you are correct, it is possible for an expert to write decently but only the beginner can judge if the doc is helpful or not. IMHO the best docs will be written by pairs of guys -- an expert and a newbie working together -- the expert knows the subject and the newbie knows what gave him trouble, i.e. what needed to be explained. A decent doc is a a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

    Hey you just mentioned something that I had on my mind. I use LMDE because it's basically 'just' Debian but with a few things added and tweeked. I agree with you that Bohdi would be better if built directly off Debian rather than Debian>Ubuntu>Bohdi. Why be tied to Ubuntu when that is just a (rather flaky) derivative of Debian anyway? Sure they inovate, and you can always borrow stuff but their whole philosophy seems to me (at first sight) to be the opposite of Bohdi, so why stand on them? Debian is a platform that you can depend on, no? With LMDE I like the fact that I can use the main Debian repositories without problems and can read any Debian document and know it is right for me. Let's keep as close to Mother as possible so that we reduce distro fragmentation as much as possible.

    How does that sound?Bodhi!

    I can't spell. My best friend is named Olav or Olaf. He is my best friend and I can't remember how to spell his name :(
  • robgravesrobgraves DonatorDonator
    Donator
    Welcome ray!!! :cool:
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