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The Linux Attitude

I had the extreme pleasure of being called a F***ing Idiot by Linus the original creator of Linux. It's with such ferocity and conviction that he called me an idiot that has me concerned about a possible future and direction of Linux as a main-stream easy to use operating system.

The main concern is with user interface design, simplification, ease of use and usability. Rather then sway your opinion I'll let you read the thread on your own.

To frame the discussion this was about how the printing dialog in Gnome was perhaps over-simplified and didn't show all the capabilities of the printer.


I personally just encourage people to switch to KDE.

This "users are idiots, and are confused by functionality" mentality of Gnome is a disease. If you think your users are idiots, only idiots will use it. I don't use Gnome, because in striving to be simple, it has long since reached the point where it simply doesn't do what I need it to do.

Please, just tell people to use KDE.



Technical users often feel that a usable design can dumb down the interface.
If this is the case then it's a poor design. A good design will be easy for a beginner and will also provide the tools, advanced buttons, options, right click menus and settings to satisfy technical users.

The majority of end-users want a simple printer dialog. In fact most people will just hit the Print button without changing any settings. These users are not 'idiots' they just have better things to do then futz around with printer settings. On the flip side I'm sure there are many pre-press publishers who want to tweak and change every setting. The two design goals do not have to be at odds with one another. A good design will satisfy both.



That's not what I'm talking about at all.

When user interfaces means that something CANNOT BE DONE, it's not about "usable design" any more. At that point, it's about UNusable design.

Any Gnome people who argue that it's about "usability" have their heads up their asses so far that it's not funny. I've argued with them about this before, and I know others have too, and mostly given up.

"Usability" is an issue only if you can do something at all. But if you can't do the thing at all, it's pointless to talk about usability: the thing is BY DEFINITION not usable if it cannot be used for a specific task.

Then a person that claims that it's usable for something else is a F***ING IDIOT.

And in that F***ING IDIOT vein:

> The majority of end-users want a simple printer dialog.

This is a great example of being a F.I.

There is no such thing as a "majority of end users" in general. For example, maybe _I_ am in what you _claim_ to be a majority, in that I want a simple printer dialog - because I have a simple printer, and even simpler printer needs.

So a simple printer dialog doesn't bother me, and as such you can count me in your "majority".

But I can guarantee you one thing: the _vast_ majority of people are part of a specific minority when it comes to something. This is somethign that the F.I. "interface designers" in the Gnome sense seems to continually overlook.

For example, maybe I don't care about printers. But I _do_ care about my mouse. If I can't control the left/middle/right button actions, I get really upset. Again, the "majority" of people may not care, so by your majority argument, the mouse setup should be so simple that the majority of people can never get confused. But I _do_ care.

In other words: your "majority" argument is total and utter BULLSHIT. It can be true for any particular feature, but it's simply not true in general.

To put it in mathematical terms: "The Intersection of all Majorities is the empty set", or its corollary: "The Union of even the smallest minorities is the universal set".

It's a total logical fallacy to think that the intersection of two majorities would still be a majority. It is pretty damn rare, in fact, because these things are absolutely not correlated.

And the technical term for somebody who claims to do user interface design and not understand this fact is a "F***ING IDIOT".

And this has _nothing_ to do with "technical users". Even totally non-technical users care about something. In fact, it might be their printer, and having a way to set the paper type and resolution by hand.

Another way of saying this: we're _all_ "special" some way. We're damn quirky, even the nontechnical among us.

But hey, just continue to remove all that confusing functionality from Gnome. I don't care. I voted with my feet.


It's interesting that Linus goes off on a rant about the majority and minority since my example of a typical user and a pre-press publisher specifically talks to the minority/majority case. A good design will be optimized for one but should be usable by both. I'm not speaking to Gnome in particular just general design. (The entire ugly thread can be read here)

I'm curious to hear comments from other Linux contributors and users. Does Linus echo a general attitude in the community? If simplicity and ease of use come at the cost of removing certain features is this a worthy trade off or are interface designers "F.I."s for trying to simplify things?

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