Debian-kids goals (draft)
I'd like to get a mailing list for the nascent debian-kids group and some
web space up as soon as possible, so please read & comment on the
following, as this document will be the basis of the welcome message to
the group and will appear on the web site to help members inside and
outside the group to determine what we're here for and where we're headed.
These are the goals of debian-kids, as I interpret them from the points
that have been raised so far from the recent discussion on debian-devel.
Some of these were my original suggested goals while others were suggested
by the comments of those who contributed to the discussion. All of them
are my own subjective and personal view of what has been discussed, so if
I'm missing or misrepresenting some points, please provide constructive
Please try to keep your comments focused on the goals themselves and not
on implementations to meet these goals. I have furnished some possible
implementations, but these are not to be taken as definitive, and serve
merely to illustrate and clarify the goals.
I think it is as important to state what our goals are *not* as it is
what they are. So be thinking along these lines as well.
Making Debian desirable to kids
The primary goal of the debian-kids project is to make Debian an OS our
kids *want* to run. This involves some sensitivity to the needs of kids
as expressed by the children themselves. As parents, developers, and sys
admins, we need to keep our ears and eyes open and discover what it is
that makes computers desirable to kids. Without this focus, we can easily
get sidetracked trying to achieve abstract goals like "user friendliness",
"simplicity", "low maintenance", or "robustness" that, while they are
certainly laudable goals for Debian as a whole, are too broad for
addressing the specific needs and wants of kids.
Working with other kid-oriented free software projects
Other projects already exist (e.g. SEUL/edu, Kids Games, and
LinuxForKids) that have goals which overlap and dovetail with our own.
Rather than duplicate their effort, we need to work with these groups to
ensure that Debian makes the best use of their work, and makes
contributions back to those efforts of our own. Debian-kids should stay
focused on (but not limited to) Debian-specific goals. Individuals from
Debian-kids are encouraged to join these other groups as time and interest
[ Note, links for the above sites are:
Naturally, children have different needs and wants from adults in the
applications they chose to run. Some of these will be games, while others
will be word processors, text editors, "paint" programs, and the like.
The goal is to identify applications within Debian that are suitable for
kids and add to that number by packaging ones not yet in Debian. A
possible implementation goal would be to provide "task-" packages to make
installing groups of "kid friendly" applications easier for the parent/sys
admin. run. A subgoal is to take existing packages that might be suitable
for kids with a bit of extra work and help "polish" them to make them
"kid friendly", which could be as simple as filling in holes in the
documentation, or adding entries to the menu system for easy access.
Kidproofing and account management
The idea here is not to necessarily to implement tough security measures.
That is beyond our mandate. The goal is simply to provide
parent/administrators with documentation and tools for setting up their
systems so that their naturally curious child users will not "break" their
accounts, soak up all system resources, or otherwise do things that
require constant sys admin intervention. This is a more of a concern for
child users than adults, as they tend to explore and deliberately push the
system to the limits just to see what happens. The messes that result can
be at once both amusing and frustrating. This goal is about keeping your
sanity (and sense of humor) as a kids' sys admin.
Learning to use the computer
The "Kidproofing" goal needs to be balanced with the goal of *allowing*
kids to try things (and yes, break things) and find solutions to their
problems. Learning to use the keyboard, GUI, shell, and computer
languages are all things that parents and children alike need some tips to
help get them headed in the right direction.
Discover and implement both GUI and text-based interfaces that work well
for and are attractive to children. The idea is not to re-invent the user
interface, but to add value to existing tools and packages (window
managers, menu system and so forth) by providing some convenient
pre-selected configurations that we find work best for kids.
Give parents the tools to help their kids learn about computers and to put
reasonable limits on their access, guiding them towards independent use of
the computer as they mature. For example, many parents will be concerned
about regulating Internet use to protect their children until they reach a
suitable age to deal with mature content. The important thing to remember
is that the parents will chose what they think is best for their kids.
The debian-kids group does not make this judgement, but is there to help
provide the tools and documentation to help the parents with these
While our first goal as parents will probably be to set up the kids with
accounts on our own systems and populate it with applications that they
enjoy, there comes a time when we contemplate getting them their own
system. The most ambitious realization of this goal might be a Debian
software equivalent of the "toy" computers currently on the market:
brightly colored, decal-covered systems pre-loaded with kids software. It
is important to keep in perspective that this would still be a Debian
system, not some fork from the Debian distribution. It is a perfectly
achievable goal through the Debian package management system (via "task-"
pacakages, for example) and should not require a fork in development to
produce a special Debian "kids' edition".
There are lots of excellent applications out there for kids that we wish
would be ported to Linux. We can help move the process along by first,
demonstrating that Debian is a viable platform for kids by the work of
this project, and second, by our individual and collective efforts to
petition software vendors and authors to make ports of their products
for Linux. If they can be convinced to open source their software at
the same time, so much the better.
Marketing & PR
[ Note, this wasn't brought up in discussion, but it occurs to me now
that this shortly become an issue that needs some attending to. ]
Once we have something to show for this project, and indeed even in the
formative stages of this project we are being watched by the eyes of the
world (I have already received one private email from a member of the
press). We will necessarily want to work with debian-press to get the
word out and to help give Debian and this project the kind of exposure we
want. I know many of us as developers are oblivious to such concerns, or
even loath to be involved with such things, but if we don't keep this goal
in mind from the outset, we're giving up this role to others who may not
understand or accurately represent what we're about.
nSLUG http://www.nslug.ns.ca firstname.lastname@example.org
Debian http://www.debian.org email@example.com
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