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Re: Introducing DoudouLinux

On 07/27/2011 04:45 AM, Andreas Tille wrote:
> On Mon, Jul 25, 2011 at 10:39:24PM +0200, Jean-Michel Philippe wrote:
>> As I told to Paul in a private mail, DoudouLinux seems to have achieved  
>> many wishes of the Debian Jr. project. As we want to keep as closest as  
>> possible to Debian, it appears to me that our work will necessarily meet  
>> the job you are proposing to us to revive this project. We just need to  
>> change a bit our way to work. We also need to read the official  
>> documentation you pointed about pure blends to be sure to match the  
>> standards.
> As I said: Feel free to ask in case of any kind of question.

DoudouLinux is indeed a very interesting project with some overlap with
Debian Jr. I hope we can mutually benefit from interaction.

I notice that support for Squeeze is missing even though we're now five
months past the release date. I think one of the big benefits of working
with Debian directly would be to close this gap so that each new release
of Debian would immediately be usable both by adults and children on the
day it is announced to the world.

Philosophically, I think DoudouLinux may be mostly in agreement with my
vision for the Debian Jr. project, and if not in outright disagreement
on some of the other points, at least not so far off that I would
consider it a bad thing for DoudouLinux to participate in reviving the
project . For example, from

"It aims at making computer use as simple and pleasant as possible ..."

Not that I disagree with this, but "as simple as possible" was not one
of Debian Jr.'s original goals. The project simply grew out of as shared
interest amongst developers to meet what they perceived as the needs of
their own children, or children close to them. I hope what we
subsequently produced was valuable to others even without explicitly
seeking to meet their needs. What this meant in practical terms was that
we assumed skilled Debian users were always helping children to use
their systems, covering any gap that might exist between what a child
can understand and use on their own without frustration, and the reality
that Debian is a highly complex and versatile OS with lots of
"surprises" for adults and children alike (not all bad surprises,
though! :) We saw Debian use for the child as a journey that would grow
both child and helper alike in communicating with the rest of the free
software community and continuing to ensure the software met their needs.

That being said, I think I'm not alone among Debian developers in
wishing as many people as possible, both children and adults, be able to
use Debian for whatever purpose they want without Debian getting in the
way of what they want and need to do. If I see some software in Debian
that is needlessly complex and see a way to fix it, I file a bug. That
applies equally to software "for children" and software "for adults".
Nor do I think there needs to be a strict division between these two
categories. Why shouldn't adults enjoy simpler, less cluttered desktops
that put what they want to use most often in the forefront and tucks the
rest out of the way, but makes it easy for them to find again. And isn't
that what we want for children too? Yet somehow we seem to tolerate that
such horrendous interfaces that fail to accomplish this are "acceptable"
for adults.

So I would not fundamentally disagree that we should make Debian "as
simple and pleasant as possible [for children] to use", but would expand
that to say that it applies equally to adults, and insofar as we can
accomplish this for adults we'll accomplish it too for children at the
same time. This is why I was never terribly interested in custom,
made-for-kids desktops, though I certainly don't fault DoudouLinux for
having put energy into this or think it has no value. I wanted those
helping children to have a similar desktop to children, but observe
carefully what pleases children and what frustrates them to feed back
improvements into the *overall* improved quality and ease of use of
Debian, leveraging, if you will, the experiences with children into
improvements for the whole community. Maybe that was a too-idealistic
vision that can't ever be fully realized because on the whole, the
number of helpers that can successfully pull this off are too few, and
most children have to rely on much less capable helpers, but that is the
thought that compelled me to undertake this work. I felt that to try to
reduce it to the lowest common denominator: the unskilled novice parent
or teacher, we would end up with the blind leading the blind, which
would not benefit either the helper or the child. Not only that, but
we'd get away from what we knew best: as developers with children of our
own or children close to us, we knew ourselves, the children and systems
we looked after. That put us in the best position to solve problems
within this sphere.

All that being said, I have long ago given up the Debian Jr. for others
to take over, so it will be up to them to shape what sort of project it
will continue to be if they revive it. I do hope what I've said above
makes some sort of sense, though, and is useful to help continue to make
Debian better for children in the years to come.


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