[IAEP] [Sugar-devel] [SoaS] The Future of Sugar on a Stick

Benjamin M. Schwartz bmschwar at fas.harvard.edu
Fri Sep 18 00:43:57 EDT 2009

Mel Chua wrote:
> Friendly.
> Is there a one-stop shop I can go to where my problems will be fixed
> immediately?


> Consistent.
> And the support experience needs to be consistent. As explained above,
> teachers need to know that no matter what their problem is, if they
> spend 2 minutes reporting it at this location, it will be fixed N days
> later. And as soon as they've spent 2 minutes reporting it, they need
> immediate feedback and reassurance that yes, it's going to be fixed N
> days later; you were heard.

These two things sound pretty much the same to me.  They also sound
absolutely impossible, taken strictly.  Taking a more relaxed
interpretation, you seem to be describing, in effect, a full-time
professional support staff.

In the first world, such staff are not uncommon.  The public high school I
attended maintains both an in-house sysadmin team and a standing contract
with Sony for advanced admin work on the special Sony-built multimedia
clusters.  If a school can afford that, then it's great, and that school
could probably also afford a similar support contract for a Sugar
deployment.  No one is advertising such contracts at the moment, but there
seem to be several companies keeping an eye on that market.

In OLPC-land, there are many such professionals.  For example, there is a
full-time repair shop in Birmingham, AL devoted to fixing up children's
broken XOs.

We can try to encourage these sorts of services to spring up around SoaS
as well, but it's important to remember that the students for whom we are
most concerned do not live in school districts that can afford
professional services.

I don't think we will ever arrive at a situation where teachers in poor
schools can expect any real assistance with Sugar, or any other computer
system.  Therefore, I think the most important thing we can do, on this
front, is to devise deployment mechanisms that will degrade gracefully
when operated by inexpert users in challenging environments.  SoaS
attempts this, with easy re-imaging of nonfunctioning sticks and no
reliance on school infrastructure.  There is certainly much more left to do.

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