FEB
20
2003

Desktop Configurability: Is More Better?

One of the oft-recurring debates on KDE mailing lists is, how configurable should
the KDE desktop be? With recent indications that GNOME seems to be heading
in the "less is better" direction, independent KDE developer
Mosfet has written an editorial (related article)
urging why KDE should not follow suit. Anyone else have an opinion on this?
<grin>

Comments

Whenever something like this gets posted, everybody talks about what "average users" want, and how "average users" work. If you look at these statements, most of them are really condescending, implying that this mythical "average user" is a drooling moron. Come on, you guys! The average KDE user is not an idiot.

Even if it were true that the average user was such a computer illiterate, why on *Earth* would we want to target our awesome hot-rod desktop to such a demographic? Let's keep making a desktop that *we* like to use; otherwise, what's the point?

I am not at all opposed to making KDE more accessible to non-experts; I want aunt Tilly to use KDE as much as the next guy. However, I don't buy that aunt Tilly is the average user.

So, yes, maybe having an optional non-expert mode that hides complexity is a good idea, if less experienced users feel overwhelmed. Let's not lose what makes KDE great in the process, however.


By LMCBoy at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

There is a bigger problem, too, I think:

an average user doesn't exist.


By SadEagle at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

Read some usability reports like this one:

http://developer.gnome.org/projects/gup/ut1_report/customization_tasks.html

It's not that average users are stupid, it's just when you're confronted with something new it's very easy to fint it hard to do things.

Usability is about making something instantly usable for the majority, we're all experienced with KDE and consequently find it easy to use. Don't forget that.


By mxcl at Fri, 2003/02/21 - 6:00am

I was a hardcore GNOME user until the release of 2.0. What a disappointment! ALL of my favorite configuration options were gone. I would hate to see the same thing happen to KDE.

On another note; why the big fuss? GNOME is still a good desktop for people who like things simple, KDE is a great desktop for people who've been around the block a few times and know exactly what they want. Since you can still use GNOME apps within KDE and vice-versa, I don't see any reason why the two projects can't coexist, serving different kinds of users.


By Stunji at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

> GNOME is still a good desktop for people who like things simple,
> KDE is a great desktop for people who've been around the block
> a few times and know exactly what they want.

Quite the opposite. KDE is used chiefly by newbies and chosen by popular distributions because it appeals to newbies. It looks good (or flashy depending on your taste), it looks powerful (because of all the options it offers) and yet generally follows the conventions set by that other popular desktop OS.

Gnome is actually trying hard to create something that is usable, powerful and original. Few people understand that.


By Grumpy at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

KDE is working on being powerful and original and usable. Few trolls understand that.


By anon at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

Don't make it a KDE vs. Gnome issue. This is not what I meant.


By Grumpy at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

You don't even notice that he just reworded your last sentence...


By Datschge at Sat, 2003/02/22 - 6:00am

> KDE is used chiefly by newbies [...]

Yes, sure. That must be why Linus uses it. Let me cite:

"... while running my normal set of applications (X, KDE etc)." -- Linus TORVALDS

m. ;-)


By Melchior FRANZ at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

RedHat tried to make KDE like GNOME in RedHat 8.0. Total disaster.

Its STUPID to make both KDE and GNOME the same. Whats the POINT?


By ac at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

Correction. Redhat made KDE and GNOME look the same. If you really look at it, they actually made GNOME mroe like KDE. (The desktop switchers, the panel at the bottom. That is definitely a KDE arrangement)


By Maynard at Fri, 2003/02/21 - 6:00am

Correction. Desktop switchers and panel at the bottom are neither a KDE or Gnome arrangement., happily ! You arrange as you want...
What is better in KDE than Gnome is some parameters like "Maximise when double clicking in the title bar"... Here, for me, it makes a difference...
As for the Redhat desktop, I don't see where is a KDE arrangement without Konqueror, Kmail and some other things... Although you may arrange many things...


By Alain at Fri, 2003/02/21 - 6:00am

Correction. "Maximise when double clicking in the title bar" is very easy to _configure_ in Gnome 2.2

So both KDE and Gnome are good, joy! :)


By bleh at Fri, 2003/02/21 - 6:00am

During the recent Solutions Linux show, I heard no user complaining about over-configurability of KDE. I think most of them use Mandrake's default and are happy with it.

All in all, you don't change the configuration of your computer very often and if you have to spend a little time finding the right option it is a minor nuisance.

On the other hand, a lot of options are not documented. For example (I'm talking here about 3.0 but I think it has not changed in 3.1), if you look at the spellchecking configuration module, you can change your encoding but in the help page there is no explanation of what is encoding and how to make sense of acronyms like ISO-8859-1.

Maybe for 3.2, we could name a dictator to apply a simple rule : if your configuration option is not documented and explained in a language devoid of jargon, it will be obliterated...


By Charles de Miramon at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

Good rule. :)


By ac at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

The over-configurabiity problem stems from lack of adequate documentation. If the user reads JUST the name and figures she doesn't want to change it, no meaningful amount of options would be a problem. If she indeed wants to change it, a document reading requirement is not too much to ask. Ofcourse the document should exist and be understandable.

Also, note "meaningful amount of options" phrase. I don't think it is a problem now, but too many options may be a problem in the future. One should be able to read all kde options in less than half an hour or so. Out of box infinite configurability shouldn't be a goal.


By goosnargh at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

> During the recent Solutions Linux show...

Right. Motivated Linux users, early adopters, hackers, CS students have not problems using KDE.

What about the rest?


By Grumpy at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

No, they are also senior citizens in France that use KDE. If they come to an IT show, it means that they are interested in computers and trying new things but they are certainly not Unix experts.


By Charles de Miramon at Fri, 2003/02/21 - 6:00am

Do we have to decide between a comfortable and easy-to-use interface
and lots of functions? I don't think so. For an absolute beginner
like my Mum it doesn't really matter how complicated i.e KControl is
or what menu options show up if you right click on the taskbar.
She does not click there. She does not start KControl. She does not
even know KControl exists. And if she knew it, she would not change
settings labeled "Advanced - Internal Server Settings - DHCP host" or
something like that. She is a novice, but she can *read*. It would
be confusing if all those options are forced on the user. But they aren't.
So: There might be a discussion about simplifying or restructuring some
dialog windows. There might be a discussion about preventing more advanced
preferences from being changed accidentally. Even additional help texts
in KControl could be possible. But a discussion about whether
all those functions should exist is rather ridiculous. KWord can do more
than KWrite. Do we have to reduce the functionality because KWord is
too complicated? No. And: Even novice users sometimes have fun finding out
or learning about some "hidden" function. My mum now changes the
background herself after I showed her KControl. And furthermore the ability
to customize can even help novice users: For example, I put
larger icons in the taskbar and put the taskbar to the top, because
my Mum (don't ask me why ;-) ) can see it better there. Well she starts her
computer, opens KWord, writes something, prints it, shuts KDE down. She
has learned it and she wouldn't even notice if some configuration option
is missing. A more advanced user might be interested in changing i.e.
the system sounds. But such a person knows probably that he has to "research"
a bit to find out how it works. If the function is not buggy, well documented,
and not too hidden - it is fair that he takes some minutes to find out
about all the options available concering that function. Perhaps she/he
discovers even some new aspect/option which he likes. And the professional
user - well we don't have to talk about that - he knows about all the
bells and whistles and will adjust everything to his liking.
So I think KDE's way up to now is also the way to go in the future:
Maximum functions - Maximum simplicity
This is no contradiction.
It's possible. It works. And it's even A Good Thing (TM) to do it.
Please keep innovations and customizability in KDE in the future.
Everyone probably uses only a small portion of it. But everyone in
a different way. And that's what it's all about, isn't it?
(Sorry folks for the long posting, but I just felt this has to be said...)


By Martin at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

BTW, I just discovered: KControl has a Search Tab. If you want
to change the background - search for "background" and there you are.
It's as easy as that. Haven't seen that before. Perhaps there should
be a user-friendly Welcome page with pictures and simple informations
instead of the system information when you start KControl. This can lead to
the most import options just like on a webpage. For example:

Welcome to KControl!

Have you ever got bored of your wallpaper? Just change it! Find out
how it works _here_ (Link)

(bla, bla)

Perhaps a tip of the day. Well you get the idea. And please don't
make an Expert and Normal mode. This only hides the fact that the
Expert mode has such a horrible UI that this is necessary. And this
is even bad for the "experts".


By Martin at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

To me the issue is the following .. If the options were arranged intelligently, there would be no need for a search option :)

My solution follows what some people have said already:

1. Configure all options for one particular item in one place.
2. Place most often changed options first, then more obscure options second etc.
3. Use clear English devoid of as much jargon as possible when labelling the options. To me, even -- Configure the Desktop sound 'dangerous'. Ofcourse, sometimes it is impossible to remove the jargon, but where possible, make it clearly understandable.

For the record, a centralised XML based config system + editor doesn't sound like a bad idea. I wish that could be implemented system wide throughout Linux.
No more cryptic learning of old style txt file formats in the /etc directory. That would be excellent.

Thank you.


By 3.1rOXtHEcASBAH at Mon, 2003/02/24 - 6:00am

I couldn't agree more on this topic with Mosfet.

What we need is good defaults. The below-average complete moron (yes, I do consider somebody who gets "confused" with the KDE-control center a moron. And below average, not average at all.) will just use the default anyway and will never even try to customize it anyway.

And as far as I can see, KDE already has good defaults. There might be some discussion about this or that detail, but in general it's not bad.

The whole "KDE/Linux needs to copy Windows" misses completely the point. Technically, KDE/Linux is already much better than Windows, even as a GUI. Where KDE/Linux sucks is marketing and running Win32 software.

We need computer maker preinstalling KDE/Linux, we need advertizing - and we need to support the huge Win32-software library.

If you really don't need what to do to attract more people, just integrate Wine into KDE. That will do 10 times more to KDE's usage than any dumbing down. (Actually, dumbing down would lead to losing many users, IMO)

A well integrated Wine - one which creates the entries in the start-menu correctly, one that works reasonably well, maybe even one that would use native KDE-widgets and even more importantly the tray - that would really do a lot for KDE/Linux' acceptance.


By Roland at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

I think the best idea I've seen posted on this thus far is for a check-box or option somewhere to allow for either advanced or basic configuration options. The problem I have with having things such as 'Advanced' option tabs is that it makes it more work for those who actually want to configure. Instead of having all of the options in front of you, your forced to change a few options, the switch tabs to switch more. With the checkbox option, you have the option of having everything in front of you or not. One quick setting, and you're set whether you want the advanced configuration or not.

That's all I have to say.


By Jesusfish at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

Try implementing that! Nightmare.

How do you combine two sepearate tabs into one and still make it all legible! You could stack everything vertically but that's just the same as tabbing it.


By mxcl at Fri, 2003/02/21 - 6:00am

I also like that KDE offers that many configuration options. However, I'm not completely happy with how things are organized right now. (although KDE 3.1 has made a step in the right direction.) What about the following principles for dialog design:

- All configuration options relating to a particular subject should be accessible in one place. (I don't like to look in different places to find e.g. a particular network setting.)

- The most common configuration options should go first. Less frequently used settings go on an "Advanced..." window / tab.

- Avoid overloaded pages / menus. If dialogs / menus are too crowded it's very time-consuming to find the option one is interested in. Rather, I'd like to see the options organized in a hierarchical manner (sub-menus, tabbed dialogs).

Especially the "Look'n Feel" options are quite confusing as they are now (themes, styles, window decorations, icon themes...). I'd like a theme manager that offers a few basic themes (e.g. Liquid, Keramik...) that include ALL look'n feel settings. Customizing the individual design elements should be possible through theme manager sub-items or tabbed configuration pages.


By Lars Kastrup at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

The only thing better than configurability is more configurability.

The first thing I do when I use KDE on a new account is go into kcontrol and start changing things like crazy. I love KDE to death, in large part because it lets me set up my desktop exactly how I like it (well, almost; I have to hack the source a bit). I like having a Motif like window manager with a close button on the left, and minimize and maximize on the right. I like my "save" dialog to have the buttons _I_ want in the speedbar.

If need be, kcontrol can have a "dumb user" and a "smart user" option. I know that no one agrees on what is essential, but I figure if someone has enough gumption to change an option, they shouldn't be so stupid that they can't ignore stuff that doesn't apply to them. I don't use, say, the address book, but that doesn't mean I get confused when I see that it's an option in the control center.


By KDE User at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

amen to that...


By ne... at Fri, 2003/02/21 - 6:00am

You have to allow configurability in a desktop that is designed for slow computers, fast computers, Linux, Solaris, HP-UX, AIX, Tru64, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and more. The desktop, in our sense of the word, also happens to include a plethora of applications. These need configuration options too. In Windows, you have your configuration options in each application, custom designed. And quite honestly, windows is not all that easy to configure. it's just that everyone uses it so everyone knows where to go.

On MacOS X, I must say, I wish there were more configuration options. However it does have a comparable number to KDE.

As American contact for KDE, I have only received email from people saying "please keep KDE very configurable; I don't like what the new Gnome setup does to configurability".

I think the important thing to do here is put the main and common configuration options "up front", in the first tab or near the centre or top of the configuration module. Hunting for options is bad, but making few options available so that the hunting is easier is the wrong approach. For instance, have a look at what some people consider the "mess" of the KDE cryptography control module. How many times have you ever had to go beyond the first tab, or even the first few settings? I'm guessing that most people never go past that first tab at all. However, I do often get requests for even more configuration options! The ones that are there now do get used, and it would be horrible to have to deprive people of that functionality.

One thing I am definitely not against is having option levels - Basic, Advanced, whatever. I think this could be easily automated in KControl so that modules or tabs would only show up if the proper configurability level is set. That being said, I don't see it necessary and have no intentions of implementing this personally. :)


By George Staikos at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

Mosfet is dead wrong on this one.

> As a matter of fact, many people are now setting up KDE for things like their families
> and rarely do they complain about things like too many configuration options.

Would we hear their complaints? Provided that they could articulate their confusion with the interface, to whom would they report it? To KDE hackers who would explain to them that they are not trying hard enough and that they do not understand the "power" of KDE? Preposterous!

> The only people who like less configuration options are those who believe their
> way of doing thing is "the right way". Everyone else is, well, screwed.

No. They are those who see people using computers everyday, who see people blaming themselves for mistakes they haven't made but that some sloppy or uneducated designer/programmer has made. They are those who see people overwhelmed by complicated computer lingo and an impossibly large set of options to understand. They are those who see people giving up on their task because arrogant computer jerks have decided that if they could understand something one way everybody else should too.

Cleaning up the ui to reduce the number of options offered up-front doesn't mean that every one else is "screwed." It means that the motivated few, the hackers and the wannabes, can figure out for themselves how to tweak KDE to look or act exactly the way the want. Regular users can move on and actually use KDE.

> KDE does not make such presumptions.

KDE makes plenty of presumptions. Not the least of which is that it should offer a graphical interface to almost every single configurable bit in its system.

> KDE is about making the Linux desktop operate how *you* want it to work,
> not how anyone else feels you should work.

This doesn't make any sense at all. KDE is designed by people who make conscious decisions about what should or should not be part of KDE or what is or isn't worth being implemented. So it is about how someone else feels you should work. The huge problem here is that most of these decisions and most of the assumptions around those decisions are taken by people who are not educated enough on the subject of usability (but who are willing to learn) or by people, like Mosfet, who refuse to believe that the vast majority of computer users cannot deal with the level of complexity he is able to deal with. That's good for Mosfet but bad for KDE!

If we want KDE to succeed, we must stop thinking like macho computer hackers or immature wannabes. Mosfet's editorial is an unfortunate example of the kind of attitude that's dragging KDE down on the usability front. Making KDE simpler to use is nothing to be afraid of. It's a good thing and big egos shouldn't stand in the way of it. Embrace simplicity!


By Grumpy at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

Normally, I don't respond to trolls, but anyway:

"Would we hear their complaints? Provided that they could articulate their confusion with the interface, to whom would they report it? To KDE hackers who would explain to them that they are not trying hard enough and that they do not understand the "power" of KDE? Preposterous!"

If you would actually use KDE you would have noticed that EVERY KDE appliaction has a bugreport option in the help menu. So we would see those complaints.

The only ones complaining are KDE-bashers, not real users.

"Cleaning up the ui to reduce the number of options offered up-front doesn't mean that every one else is "screwed." It means that the motivated few, the hackers and the wannabes, can figure out for themselves how to tweak KDE to look or act exactly the way the want. Regular users can move on and actually use KDE."

What pile of nonsense.

I'm a programmer. But I sure as hell don't want to dig into configfiles for every feature I want (removed). How would you even know that you can remove/add a feature if there is no option for it?

"KDE makes plenty of presumptions. Not the least of which is that it should offer a graphical interface to almost every single configurable bit in its system."

Wow, the KDE/Linux-bashers normally complain (wrongly) that there isn't a GUI for every config option, now the bashers complain that there is.

No way KDE-developers do it will be the right way. The bashers/trolls will NEVER stop bashing. The best thing to do is to ignore them.

"KDE is designed by people who make conscious decisions about what should or should not be part of KDE or what is or isn't worth being implemented. So it is about how someone else feels you should work."

Wrong, because there are so many people working on KDE, almost every even semi-popular feature gets implemented. (And that's a good thing)

"The huge problem here is that most of these decisions and most of the assumptions around those decisions are taken by people who are not educated enough on the subject of usability (but who are willing to learn) "

So summarized, we shall put "Grumpy" in charge of all the design decisions. Or who else? Then we have one perfect default. To make sure nobody ever changes the default, we remove all configuration options, then everybody will be happy.

If you never want to change anything, why not just remove kcontrol at all?

"If we want KDE to succeed, we must stop thinking like macho computer hackers or immature wannabes."

In terms of making a damn fine desktop, KDE has already succeeded.

In terms of market penetration, most people use whatever is preloaded on their computers. End of story.

"Making KDE simpler to use is nothing to be afraid of."

Removing configuration functionality isn't making KDE simpler to use. To the contrary: All are forced to use the supposed-one-size-fits-all defaults.

Again: If the default is so great, why are you complaining? If the default is so great there is no need to every fire up kcontrol and change anything, so any bloat wouldn't matter at all.


By Roland at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

> If you would actually use KDE you would have noticed that EVERY KDE appliaction
> has a bugreport option in the help menu. So we would see those complaints.

I do use KDE and I'm sad to see that, because I believe KDE could be better or different, you assume that I'm trolling.

I write what I write because I do care about KDE.

Now, do you seriously believe that regular KDE users, non techies, your grandma, people who might use KDE in an office environment and not know what it is, who writes it, etc..., do you seriously believe that these people will file bug reports?

> almost every even semi-popular feature gets implemented

But popular doesn't mean usable.

> In terms of making a damn fine desktop, KDE has already succeeded.

Sure. KDE is a damn fine desktop now. But can it grow and be comfortably used by non-techies? That's the question.


By Grumpy at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

"I do use KDE and I'm sad to see that, because I believe KDE could be better or different, you assume that I'm trolling."

A few comments above you say that GNOME is so great. So what do you use? Don't say both, because that's a) nonsense and b) contradicting with your opinion that one-size-fits-all.

"Now, do you seriously believe that regular KDE users, non techies, your grandma, people who might use KDE in an office environment and not know what it is, who writes it, etc..., do you seriously believe that these people will file bug reports?"

Yes. Depends on how pressing the problem is and how motivated the reporter is. But skill-level is not the obscacle, anybody can write a bugreport in KDE if he wants to. Of course many people are simply not interested or think their bugreports won't get noticed, but that's not KDE's fault.

"But popular doesn't mean usable."

Well, that's your problem.

Despite requesting KDE-designers to "get off their high horse" and dumb down everything, you are really the most arrogant person I've met for quite some time.

First, you say that all normal users are dumb. Too dumb to get around in kcontrol, too dumb to file a bug. (Do you really need this kind of arrogance to feel smart? Maybe, just maybe average intelligent people are a little bit smarter than you want to believe.)

Then you say that "popular doesn't mean usable" really meaning that only what YOU THINK is "usable". Well, I tell you something: POPULAR *IS* USABLE. If it weren't usable it weren't popular. Quite as simple as that. Pretty arrogant to say it isn't useless just because you don't want it.

If somebody wants some feature, don't take it away from him. What is your problem with that principle?

"Sure. KDE is a damn fine desktop now. But can it grow and be comfortably used by non-techies? That's the question."

It can. Right now. And it is.

"non-techies" already can handle the mess of unorganized directory with randomly (read ordered by alphabet, not function) thrown in help-tools in MS Windows. Anybody who can handle that has no problems with coping with an tree-like organized and centralized tool like kcontrol.

"non-techies" ignored MacOS and used DOS for over 10 years. "non-techies" would still use DOS with all the IRQ-conflicts, config.sys and autoexec.bat problems and memory restrictions if it were preinstalled on their computer and would be the only way to run the newest games.

I have helped quite a lot of people use KDE and Linux and there were only 2 real problems: Missing software ("but I want to run xy") and hardware problems. Desktop "usability" was *NEVER* a problem. Never. You heard me? Never. Quite to the opposite. A couple were quite impressed that they could move windows with Alt-LMB and resize with Alt-RMB.

With hardware problems becoming quite rare, only missing seamless and actually working Win32 support is slowing mass-adoption of Linux. Still, in 2003 Linux will make huge inroads as many organizations and governments are adopting it.


By Roland at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

> First, you say that all normal users are dumb.

I never said that nor do I think it. I know however that people are often afraid of using their computer, afraid of making mistakes, worried about looking stupid and that they will blame themselves easily for things which aren't their fault.

> POPULAR *IS* USABLE. If it weren't usable it weren't popular.

You got it backwards. Usable is popular, yes. But what is popular with the development crowd is not necessarily usable. That's what I meant. Read back the thread.

> [I]n 2003 Linux will make huge inroads as many organizations and governments
> are adopting it.

All very true. And again, don't think that because I'm criticizing some aspects of KDE I don't like it or don't like Linux. Quite the opposite. Now, think about what you just said. All these people, in private organizations in governments... is KDE really developed with them in mind? I believe that it isn't and I believe that Mosfet's editorial is the perfect illustration as to why.

As you pointed out, non-techies have been using non-usable technology for years. But is that your excuse for KDE's potential usability shortcomings? That we're just as bad as the other guys? You can't be serious!

Roland, calm down. I'm not anti-KDE, I'm not anti-Linux. But it incenses me to see people like Mosfet defending in two mediocre, undocumented and unresearched editorials these backwards positions when some people are trying, the hard way, to make KDE more usable.


By Grumpy at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

> I never said that nor do I think it. I know however that people are often afraid of using their computer, afraid of making mistakes, worried about looking stupid and that they will blame themselves easily for things which aren't their fault.

Ok, then they need to be helped. Removing access to useful preferences for KDE users does not help them. Your solution does nYou got it backwards.

> Usable is popular, yes. But what is popular with the development crowd is not necessarily usable. That's what I meant. Read back the thread.
ot fit the problem.

If people are using KDE it is because they *choose* to do so. Similarly, if they are using a preference it is because they *choose* to do so. If the option/preference is popular that is a de facto reason to keep it. Why would you not keep it? So you can actively and willfully piss off your current users?

> All very true. And again, don't think that because I'm criticizing some aspects of KDE I don't like it or don't like Linux. Quite the opposite. Now, think about what you just said. All these people, in private organizations in governments... is KDE really developed with them in mind? I believe that it isn't and I believe that Mosfet's editorial is the perfect illustration as to why.

Governments and organizations can lock down the desktop all they want with the kiosk mode. KDE has a working solution and it does not entail stripping KDE of all the powerful/usefull features like they did with GNOME.

> As you pointed out, non-techies have been using non-usable technology for years. But is that your excuse for KDE's potential usability shortcomings? That we're just as bad as the other guys? You can't be serious!

What usability shortcomings? Point to a specific. You keep beating the same drum and it does not hold any water! KDE is very usable and ... that is why it is the leading desktop enviroment for Free Systems.

Both of Mosfet's articles have laid bare the ridiculous idea that you should remove popular working preferences which pisses off your current user base just so you can satisfy the self-appointed usability experts and some hypothetical 'future/average' user.


By ac at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

> I never said that nor do I think it. I know however that people are often afraid of using their computer, afraid of making mistakes, worried about looking stupid and that they will blame themselves easily for things which aren't their fault.

Ok, then they need to be helped. Removing access to useful preferences for KDE users does not help them. Your solution does nYou got it backwards.

> Usable is popular, yes. But what is popular with the development crowd is not necessarily usable. That's what I meant. Read back the thread.
ot fit the problem.

If people are using KDE it is because they *choose* to do so. Similarly, if they are using a preference it is because they *choose* to do so. If the option/preference is popular that is a de facto reason to keep it. Why would you not keep it? So you can actively and willfully piss off your current users?

> All very true. And again, don't think that because I'm criticizing some aspects of KDE I don't like it or don't like Linux. Quite the opposite. Now, think about what you just said. All these people, in private organizations in governments... is KDE really developed with them in mind? I believe that it isn't and I believe that Mosfet's editorial is the perfect illustration as to why.

Governments and organizations can lock down the desktop all they want with the kiosk mode. KDE has a working solution and it does not entail stripping KDE of all the powerful/usefull features like they did with GNOME.

> As you pointed out, non-techies have been using non-usable technology for years. But is that your excuse for KDE's potential usability shortcomings? That we're just as bad as the other guys? You can't be serious!

What usability shortcomings? Point to a specific. You keep beating the same drum and it does not hold any water! KDE is very usable and ... that is why it is the leading desktop enviroment for Free Systems.

Both of Mosfet's articles have laid bare the ridiculous idea that you should remove popular working preferences which pisses off your current user base just so you can satisfy the self-appointed usability experts and some hypothetical 'future/average' user.


By ac at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

> I know however that people are often afraid of using their computer, afraid of making mistakes, worried about looking stupid and that they will blame themselves easily for things which aren't their fault.

You're never going to solve that problem. Quite simply, a general purpose computer is a complicated piece of kit. You can put as many pretty buttons and flashy lights on it as you like, it's still going to be complicated. I know how to start my car, all I do is turn the key. Doesn't mean I have any understanding of what goes on beneath the bonnet. Making it even easier to start my car won't solve that problem. You can certainly make things appear simple on the surface, but that won't magically make a computer easier to understand. It just means the complicated parts are hidden.


By Psiren at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

> You can certainly make things appear simple on the surface, but that won't
> magically make a computer easier to understand. It just means the complicated
> parts are hidden.

You're absolutely right. And what Mosfet is advocating, directly or indirectly, is that the complicated parts should remain visible because HE can deal with it. Of course he doesn't say that explicitely but that is what this kind of discourse amounts too. Your example is well chosen. People have worked at making your car easy to start because they knew it was better for them and their user. It's a state of mind, it's knowledge, and it's hard work. And Mosfet's editorial goes against all of this which I find very very unfortunate.


By Grumpy at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

I understand where you're coming from, but I think the complicated bits should remain available for those who want them. An advanced tab or whatever is fine, but don't remove them altogether. I bet a home mechanic would be pretty annoyed if he wasn't able to tinker with the insides of his car because someone else figured he wouldn't want to, so they put the bits inside an inaccessible box.


By Psiren at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

> but I think the complicated bits should remain available for those who want them.

Absolutely. I never meant to imply that they should be unavailable.


By Grumpy at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

> Absolutely. I never meant to imply that they should be unavailable.

A couple of messages above you say that KDE *wrongly* assumes that everything should be configurable per GUI and that the hackers and wannabes shall find out themselves how to change the configuration. (= edit config files themselves)


By Roland at Fri, 2003/02/21 - 6:00am

You got it backwards. Usable is popular, yes. But what is popular with the development crowd is not necessarily usable. That's what I meant. Read back the thread.

And it's still nonsense. "Usable" is a prerequesite for being "popular".

As you pointed out, non-techies have been using non-usable technology for years. But is that your excuse for KDE's potential usability shortcomings? That we're just as bad as the other guys? You can't be serious!

No of course not.

The point was (which you seem to ignore) that for MASS ADOPTION, M-A-R-K-E-T-I-N-G (as in preinstalled) and software compatibility (as in Win32 compatibility) is much more effective than usability.

KDE can be the best desktop usability-wise (and in my opinion it *is*. Yes I did try MacOSX, too.) and still not dominate the market.

Your whole point is built on "if we don't change KDE ... KDE won't be mass-accepted" - which is just plain wrong. KDE doesn't need to change at all. We need to give organizations time to get used to it, need more marketing, more apps, more drivers for Linux.

P.S.: Why does a GNOME user like you even care? If there is only "one true way" and GNOME offers that, why do you bother us KDE-users?


By Roland at Fri, 2003/02/21 - 6:00am

> Why does a GNOME user like you even care?

As I indicated earlier, I use KDE exclusively. This is not a Gnome vs. KDE post, despite what you may think. Such personal invectives only make you sound desperate which does not help your argumentation.

I've said what I had to say. We could go on forever like that. You seem to be stuck on this idea that my goal here is to put KDE and KDE developers down when it isn't. Nothing I can write could convince you that I am in fact well intentioned, so why bother? How can we have a constructive conversation in these conditions?

I'll just leave you with this and won't reply to anything anymore. You and I can deal with KDE the way it is now because we are motivated users. But I know from experience that to the overwhelming majority of computer users (not current KDE users!), the combination KDE+Linux/Unix is not usable enough _yet_. I know this for a fact because it is my job to know so.

KDE's reach is growing everyday, which is great. But it also means that the proportion of motivated users to non-motivated users will change and that soon people like you and me could be the minority. What happens then?

This, btw, is what happened with Windows. It was designed by techies who had little regards for their users. 20 years later, Microsoft is still paying the price for its shortsightedness and playing catch with usability.

Now please don't tell me that you're going to call me a Windows troll. ;-)


By Grumpy at Fri, 2003/02/21 - 6:00am

Are you trolling or really that dense?

> > As a matter of fact, many people are now setting up KDE for things like their families
> > and rarely do they complain about things like too many configuration options.

> Would we hear their complaints? Provided that they could articulate their confusion with the interface, to whom would they report it? To KDE hackers...

Is this question rhetorical? I guess I'm a KDE hacker as I lead a project. I set up friends and relatives. I help them. They like it. They rarely mess with configuration but it's really no more confusing than windoze in my experience. Especially since KDE does not attempt to obscure what it's doing. You want to talk left out in the cold? Give a computer newbie a copy of W2K and let them configure a fixed IP.

> > The only people who like less configuration options are those who believe their
> > way of doing thing is "the right way". Everyone else is, well, screwed.

> No. They are those who see people using computers everyday, who see people blaming themselves for mistakes they haven't made but that some sloppy or uneducated designer/programmer has made. They are those who see people overwhelmed by complicated computer lingo and an impossibly large set of options to understand. They are those who see people giving up on their task because arrogant computer jerks have decided that if they could understand something one way everybody else should too.

I could not come up with a better example of a twisted and spiteful hatred from one who receives free software to the anonymous developers... however I'm not anonymous as anyone who's ever emailed me for help can attest. Grumpy is. I see one candidate for a "KDE for dummies" book.

As a basic rule people may come to a computer not understanding they have to make a connection to the internet to get email. A friend of mine had that confusion. You either learn or you don't get your email. Likewise if a setting is important to you then you can resource many web sites, email lists or newsgroups if need be. If it is important you will do it and if not you won't much care. In any event you have a greater likelihood of success in a dialog than an rc file.

> > KDE does not make such presumptions.

> KDE makes plenty of presumptions. Not the least of which is that it should offer a graphical interface to almost every single configurable bit in its system.

And the really big question that any idiot should see clearly is this. Is it going to be easier to configure that if we leave everything in files that must be manually edited then putting it in configuration dialogs? If this is presumption it is certainly in the favor of users. The greatest presumption is always the one that restricts your freedom!

> KDE is designed by people who make conscious decisions about what should or should not be part of KDE or what is or isn't worth being implemented. So it is about how someone else feels you should work.

This is quite a leap. Making a decision to make a program more user configurable is deciding to exercise less, not more control over how you work. This is a quantum leap of moronic dimensions.

> If we want KDE to succeed, we must stop thinking like macho computer hackers or immature wannabes.

I have to assume that's the royal we... or you have a mouse in your pocket. First KDE is a very big success already. Second, I contribute a substantial amount of time and money toward making Quanta succeed and it's getting a lot of attention. Third, you have no identity. Who are you? What is your interest and what are you actually doing besides whining? If there is any area I feel I need to exercise restratint it is when I'm lifing the heavy load and listening to the guy on the side of the road doing nothing except pontificating on how I should be handling my load. This anonymous poster's contribution is to antagonize developers with inaccurate generalizations and broad sweeping prejudice. I see nothing factual or practical here.

> Making KDE simpler to use is nothing to be afraid of. It's a good thing and big egos shouldn't stand in the way of it. Embrace simplicity!

Again, using Quanta as an example, we have worked to make it efficient and productive to use as well as to make it maximally flexible to adapt to your work styles. We have worked to make it work with multiple DTDs and user defined DTDs. We have focused on making it a tool professional would use while being accessable for newbies. The fact is everything streaming down the net or coming from the W3C is *not* simple. You want brain dead you can hack up your HTML with M$ Flunk Page.

The success of KDE it tied to configurablity to the degree that it supports the professionals who need the services to compute as they want to. If 5 minutes of looking though every option to set it and use it for a few years is a bad trade off get an admin to set you up with kiosk mode. We can make it so simple you can't even find your configuration. That's 'cause it's flexible.

Also, one reason I chose to develop on KDE aside from the excellent architicture is that fact that everyone I met in the developer community was a gentleman and the lists clearly indicated there was not an issue with ego. The very fact that there is no titular hed of KDE speaks to this as well as anything. It's easy to spew garbage but you should be accountable for your words if you expect credibility.

Linux and KDE are about freedom. If your vision is about a singular mediocrity I'm not developing for it. Besides it will always be too simple or complex or long or short or something for critics. I listen to my users. They tell me we're doing good by them.


By Eric Laffoon at Fri, 2003/02/21 - 6:00am

WOW. I cannot fathom where on earth you managed to dredge up so much emotion. Hes talking about good design, not who your mother sleeps with... *take* *deep* *breath*.

Somehow you have deftly managed to turn a debate about Usability into a matter of the deepest importance to Freedom Of Choice (tm). Please Im very interested in why both yourself and Roland ( and mosfet ) have taken this so personally? You state that you are open to listening to users and implementing their preference requests, but when Grumpy speak his mind, he is only a whiner from the sideline? Why do you feel antagonized? I didnt read Grumpys statements as antagonistic, at worst they are misguided but constructive. What do you have to lose if some options get set to sane defaults, and their config tools move from what should be a end-user GUI ( Kcontrol ) to a sys admin GUI ( gconf / kioskmode / ... )? If you want to *only* cater to "W3C professionals" then why are you arguing with him about end-user preferences?

My bachelors is in psychology and my masters work is in Human-Computer Interaction, and I hate to break it to you sir, but Havoc is Right (tm) and mosfet is Wrong (tm). I am not talking about imposing *MY* ideas on others, I am talking about decades of ongoing research into how randomly chose people TRY to use computers, and designing interfaces around them. These STUDIES show that excessive ( note that is an subjective word ) options confuse users, not because they are stupid but because they arent as literate as you or I. Their minds havent built sufficient abtraction to template their tasks against. This has nothing to do with inteligence, and everytthing to do with the way humans think and learn. Please read a book on HCI before you flame opinions you dont understand. While you may have put your friends and family in front a KDE ( and indeed so have I ), and they can click on the konqueror icon, DOESNT mean they know how to use the desktop. Try one of the experiments I do all the time: take a Statistcially Signifigant Random Sample of people ( not including friends and family pls ), record their ( computer ) background information, and have them do a series of real world, humanistic tasks, such as: change the time, download and display/edit a file, email that same file to Bob, ( change a static IP ), etc. This is REAL WORK people must do every day, and based on your post above, the results shoudl astound you. People are very complex, and although they are not stupid, nor unwilling to learn, they will undoubtedly have problems with KDE -- they have problems with Windows so they should!

To tell the truth, I hope KDE stays highly configurable, this is an excellent opportunity for KDE and GNOME to differentiate themselves, keep the genetic stock different, and we can wait and see which ideas bubble to the fore.

Cheers,
Ryan


By Ryan at Sat, 2003/02/22 - 6:00am

You've really hit the nail on the head there. The computer industry has done a great job of raising users to be fearful and to accept thier difficulties when using a computer as being thier own dumb fault. Time for everyone to grow up.

--
Simon


By Simon Edwards at Fri, 2003/02/21 - 6:00am

Less is Better, only if you have poorly chosen your defaults.

If the average user needs to make more than a few changes to be productive, the defaults have been poorly chosen. That may be the case for Gnome. I know that Gnome never comes close to working for me right out of the box.

But, I believe that in general, the defaults have been well chosen in KDE.


By Gary Krueger at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

Well, what's about the average default? When I got to KDE the first time I heard about the focus follows mouse once before and that's available in KDE - one of the reasons why I got it in the first time. And I was a novice.
Heck, leave it as it is, I *LOVE* this many features and if you really think teh average dumb user can't handle it then better make a SimpleKConfig but please leave every simple Options.

Beside, I think the current hirarchic structure is pretty fast to understand, apart from that there are different items for the widgets, icons and alltogether, couldn't you make it in to a subtree?

Kind regards,
Micha


By micha at Fri, 2003/02/21 - 6:00am

Since many people asked for me to write a more direct rebuttal to Havoc's "free software UI" paper I've written another commentary that specifically addresses this. Havoc's paper is generally considered to be the one that started the "less-is-more" debate, and my response goes more in depth about where I feel he is right and where I think he's wrong. It gives a lot more detail on my position.

You can check it out here:

free-software-rebuttal.html


By Mosfet at Thu, 2003/02/20 - 6:00am

Mosfet, thanks for posting this. I've heard for some time good things about Havoc, his work ethic and approach. However when I saw in his position at RH he reported the single click as a bug I wondered how "even handed" he was. Clearly your analysis here of his document is even handed if not generous showing he has some good points. However some of the points that he makes are truly obtuse.

- Stating things he doesn't think can be done or done well which are being done well in KDE leaves a dark question.
- Sacking the default window manager becuase it has too many configurations... I think this point must have gone by many Gnomers complaining.
- Citing programs non-GUI console configuration an argument against GUI configuration requires a double take to see if he's joking. This is *THE* argument for GUI configuration as opposed to remembering a zillion keyboard commands.
- Falling just short of contempt for users, suggesting they should not be given what they want to get their work done but what he decides to give them.

My take after looking through this is that it's really frightening to think that freedom could so easily slip from free software. Thank God for choice and KDE! I'm beginning to suspect where some of the contempt users have for developers came from now when I read "shut up, we know best" thinking like this. I have seen comments that Gnome has sold out on talk backs and thought that they were the usual case of people talking out of their hat. After looking at some of his quotes here one wonders if he really doesn't know a GUI from a command line or is towing the line from a company saying "make it simpler or else".

I think there is a common thread here. Several years back when Gnome picked up all the corporate support many of their advocates were calling for the single desktop and saying it had been decided. I've been philosophically opposed to this even though I've never much cared for Gnome. Choice is good. Now the call is for the dumber desktop and shut up becasue "we know best". The thread is... suspect anyone who is against your freedoms.

I think I can sum up the philosophical difference. Havoc seems to think freedom is too messy and smart people can sort out what you need. KDE seems to prove that freedom can be organized but is first and foremost cherished by the smart people who are our users.

I haven't followed Gnome much. I've had other things to do. I have to say that for their loyal user base to wait over a year to cheer for anti aliased fonts and other things we've enjoyed all that time only to be poked in the eye with removed versatitlity is a sad thing.

OT I once went to work for a company that had created so many successful people they bought the company from the founders... then they started teaching what they thought *should have been taught* to be successful instead of what they in fact *did* to be successful. In a few years the company that survived the better part of a century was dead.

Mosfet is right... you make people happy by making them happy. Period! Users are NOT stupid!


By Eric Laffoon at Fri, 2003/02/21 - 6:00am

http://developer.kde.org/documentation/design/ui/summary.html

Avoid rampant customisation.
Customisation has the effect of delegating part of the interface design to the user. They may or may not be qualified to do this. Users are not usability experts; we are. If a user can, by a few judicious choices, really improve the interface, we probably have done a poor job. Most users, if given a reasonable interface, just want to get their jobs done.


By Soup at Sat, 2003/02/22 - 6:00am

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