[mythtv-users] "get the sources and fix it yourself"

Ryan Steffes rbsteffes at gmail.com
Fri Sep 28 15:25:56 UTC 2007

On 9/28/07, Scott Sharkey <ssharkey at linuxunlimited.com> wrote:

> My point was that we, as we bring newbies into our community, should be
> setting their expectations properly.  It should probably be part of the
> "welcome message" they are sent when they sign up for the list.  And
> anyone who introduces a new member to our community ought to be telling
> them a variation of ESR's advice, and we ought to make that a priority.
> ---snip ---
> It's a two way street, and as the "experienced users" we should be
> patient, and tolerant.  But we should also be educating them on proper
> behaviour in a open source community.
> And as for user interfaces, and making things accessible to newbies... I
> 100% agree.  Too often open source has a huge disadvantage because we
> design interfaces to accommodate every single crazy option possible,
> which makes our interfaces overwhelming and confusing.  We really need
> to start designing a "simple" interface that does most of what a newbie
> needs, and an "advanced" interface for the experienced guys.  No
> argument there.
> -Scott

While I agree with how you began, that it is very important to both be
patient/tolerant and also to encourage the proper behavior, the last
paragraph I disagree with strongly.

While I can't strictly go into it, suffice it to say that I work in
software design with a product intended to be used both by experts and
by people with only basic training in the subject.  It is, in my
experience, an extremely bad idea to have multiple interfaces or to
try and hide options from those who don't understand them.  Instead,
what I've found works best is to display all options in a clear way,
but clearly label defaults and in doing so, train the user that NOT
changing anything is an acceptable and encouraged decision.

It is my opinion that mythtv actually does an excellent job, for the
most part, of documenting defaults and assumptions.  The user should
be trained through the help and documentation available to figure out
whether or not they ARE an edge case, by realizing how many of the
default options do or do not apply to them.  That gives the user a
chance to ignore the things they don't understand while having "safe"
options preselected for them, but also gives them avenues to learn by
telling them which options they could be researching, if they want to.

The overwhelming nature of interfaces only surfaces when they force
you to configure things without defaults.  If you expect someone to
actually learn something, you should make an effort to present them
with ALL options, but not require them to actually understand and
change any more than absolutely necessary.

With linux, the problem is often that 99% of the options are there,
but there's that extra critical 1% buried away in some file that you
have no way of knowing the existence of (of which you have no way of
knowing the existence?)  OR you are presented with a ton of options
that don't also contain reasonable defaults.

My one personal pet peeve right now, having had to reconfigure my
tuner cards several times playing with QAM and OTA, is that many of
the options in mythtv-setup are likely there for a reason, but it is
directly obvious why you should have to close everything down and run
a seperate program for a certain set of backend configurations, when
it seems as though the frontend should be able to instruct the backend
to change configuration and reload itself directly.  I'm not yet
willing to fix it myself, however :)


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