[xmonad] Project to make tiling window managers more accessible to newcomers

Jan Vornberger Jan.Vornberger at Informatik.Uni-Oldenburg.DE
Thu Apr 9 13:52:30 EDT 2009


Great to see some discussion and many interesting points.

@Don: I will definitely try to contribute back changes and improvements,
if I can. Once I start implementing I will also make my repository
available for others to try out. Thx for offering assistance, I might
come back to that later. :-)

@Ismael: The idea of the project already existed for several weeks, but
it's indeed interesting timing seeing how your other suggestions play
into this as well. :-)

On Wed, Apr 08, 2009 at 06:06:05PM -0300, Norbert Zeh wrote:
> > > Traditional UI's aim to be intuitive to non-experts and, in doing so,
> > > completely forget to provide the functionality that is needed for
> > > efficient computer use once one is beyond the learning stage.
> > 
> > I have to disagree here. What we define as "intuition" is often just
> > some kind of "trained knowledge": People have to learn how to use the
> > first GUI, regardless of how it works. In the future they expect other
> > GUIs to work in the same way, and because they don't need to think
> > about it, they consider it to be "intuitive".
> > This is a rather complex topic and might better be branched of into
> > another thread.
> Interesting point.  In that case, however, it is even less valuable to
> stay close to the philosophy of traditional UI's.

I do agree with Christian, that there isn't really any 'real' intuition
when it comes to computers, but that it's mostly training that people got
from the first GUI that they used. But I disagree, that this is a reason
not to stay close to it. It doesn't really matter where that intuition
comes from, whether it's 'real' or 'trained' - you still want to tap
into it to keep the need for re-training minimal.

The way I think about it is this: Someone who is new to computers knows,
that he needs to get some training. Because he needs help and people to
ask, he will start using whatever system is used by most people (so he
can get the most help). He will therefore learn the ways of that
traditional/popular GUI. This is now, what he would call "intuitive".

It doesn't matter now if that training was for a 'bad system' to begin
with, he already invested the time. So he is not going to get training
for a different system, just so he can do essentially the same things in
a slightly better way. To consider re-training, there need to be HUGE

Apparently the benefits of tiling window managers are only big enough
for a certain percentage of people. For the majority of people - it
seems - it's just not worth the effort.

So it kinda gets down to the 'ratio' between 'need for (re-)training'
and 'benefits'. Tiling window managers are improving all the time and
raising the 'benefits' side. I - on the other hand - want to look into
drastically lowering the 'need for (re-)training' side, while hopefully
keeping enough of the 'benefits' side to still improve the ratio.
(Yes, this also means I'm willing to sacrifice functionality.)

Another interesting thing is this whole idea of a 'gateway drug' and a
help system to faciliate that. It will probably be more of a low
priority for me for now, because I'm not really sure it's effort well
spend. I'm more of a VIM guy, so I don't know much about the Emacs help
system. When I think about a system that tries to teach its users, I'm
thinking of Microsoft Word and Clippy and how that failed miserably.
I'm not sure if this is because it was just done in the wrong way or if
maybe this whole idea of 'help users to become power users' isn't really
what the majority of users are looking for.



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