[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Young people and computers

There's been some discussion elsewhere about how young people's experience of computers has changed over the years, and how this might interact with our success in recruiting young people into Debian. I would estimate that the conversation focused on 16-20 year-olds, as it started after someone pointed to the graph of developers' claimed ages at

A few points from that discussion (not trying to be an exhaustive summary):

- The conversation wondered how much the number of younger people coming to Debian might have reduced due to changes in wider computer use/culture. Certainly, programming languages used to be an advertised part of the system, where now they are typically an optional add-on, hidden, or effectively unavailable to the users of certain types of device.

- It was also pointed out that we have several groups of Debian contributors who came from successful local projects, e.g. university computer groups. It seems that many such university groups themselves recruit fewer new members than they used to, so the change may not only be that Debian gets fewer of the people trained in them. (One factor mentioned for their own recruitment trouble was that many students have less reason than a few years ago to spend time around computer labs.)

- Another factor that makes a difference to how young people spend their time on computers may be the availability of always-on internet access. I know that, once I had a computer at home, but before I had any kind of internet connection there, I started to do programming projects to fill in my school holidays; perhaps nowadays I would have spent the time chatting online, or using the computer to collaborate on something productive other than programming.

- A change mentioned that might be more positive is that it's now much easier to get programs distributed to people who will find them useful. While we might not like app stores etc. and the typical lack of source code, this still gives people a greater motivation to create software (including a greater chance that it will reach others who need something to solve the same problem) than existed for most amateur programmers before.

If you agree, as I would, that it's useful for Debian to recruit more young people -- they often have a lot of spare time, and a lot of enthusiasm, and good connections to influence and recruit others who might be interested in helping -- then what do you think Debian could do differently to encourage this? How much do you think is due to general factors like those above, and how much due to changes in Debian and in how it's perceived?


Reply to: