[IAEP] Teacher in Uruguay enchanted to see his ideas integrated, into global Sugar update

Michael Stone michael at laptop.org
Fri Sep 19 20:14:43 EDT 2008

On Fri, Sep 19, 2008 at 02:58:41PM -0400, Greg Smith wrote:
>I want to make sure that all of our work is grounded in specific
>requests and user goals. That has to come first before we design code or
>GUIs. Part of my work is to explain what is most important to users so I
>apologize for falling behind on making that clear. As usual, engineering
>has gotten ahead of me. I did post a few ideas on the file moving area
>here: http://wiki.laptop.org/go/9.1.0#File_Management
>We urgently need to listen to the input we have so far. Everything
>we do must be tied to a high level goal and to specific input and users. 
>That is my most fundamental request!


Your fundamental request, interpreted literally, is in my opinion
_untenable_. Start from the mission statement:

   To create educational opportunities for the world's poorest children
   by providing each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected
   laptop with content and software designed for collaborative, joyful,
   self-empowered learning.

This mission statement clearly states that the goal is to provide
opportunity -- not to satisfy specific concrete user requests. 

You're absolutely correct to emphasize the importance of providing
opportunities that our users specifically ask for; however, I think you
are absolutely wrong to say that design, code, and so on _must_ wait for
such a request for several reasons:

   1) collecting the necessary feedback before writing the software is
      often harder than writing the software, then collecting the feedback.

      this is the principle of demo-based development.

   2) people, including people at OLPC, write software for more reasons
      than to be used. sometimes, we write it to learn, sometimes to
      prove that technique is possible, sometimes to correct a design
      flaw which is hindering other goals, sometimes because our
      aesthetic sense demands it, etc.

   3) recipients and hands-on providers of educational opportunity aren't
      the only people who have great ideas about where such opportunities
      lie. In particular, _experts_ such as those who contribute advice
      to OLPC, who volunteer for OLPC, and who work for OLPC all have as
      much license as end-users to act on their perceptions of which
      education opportunites are cost-effective to provide, thereby
      permitting us to teach users to recognize opportunities they didn't
      foresee receiving and to make meta-level improvements to the ways
      that people attempt to learn.

Do you personally (rather than in the role of product manager) stand by
your request in the face of these arguments? Am I wrong to interpret
your request literally?



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