Standing in the street trying to hear yourself think

Andrew Sayers andrew-ubuntu-devel at
Wed Jul 8 09:46:20 UTC 2009

I think the model we're heading towards with the signpost is that the 
wiki page contains questions that have been asked before, while IRC and 
the wiki discussion page are for new questions.

If it works, I think #ubuntu might want to look at the signpost model. 
Being able to click "I have a problem with my hardware -> video card -> 
NVidia card -> unsupported NVidia card" would satisfy a bunch of users 
without needing direct support, and would make it easier to direct 
people towards the "level 2 tech support" channels.

Done right, a signpost-like model could also ensure that level 2 support 
requests are well formulated.  Leaf nodes for unknown problems might 
look like this:


=== Modern NVidia card with no known issues ===

Your problem is not covered by this guide. Go to #ubuntu-video and say 
"I have a problem with my modern NVidia card (TYPE).  This card has no 
known issues.  My problem is: PROBLEM".  Make sure to replace "TYPE" and 
"PROBLEM" with the type of card you have and the problem you're having 
with it.


About people asking already-answered questions - As I half-suggested in 
another post, I think the second-order problem here is that many 
approaches make it easier to post than to search.  I would recommend 
forums drowning in deja vu to try putting roadblocks between the user 
and the "send message" button.  Preferably, these roadblocks should be 
in the form of search buttons :)

I also think there's a third-order problem here: developers don't have 
to-the-eyeball strategies for delivering their content.  Expecting users 
to trawl through old posts seems intuitively reasonable, but the 
evidence is that it doesn't work that way.

Here's a nice demonstration that convinced me of the need for software 
to deliver information right into the user's eyeball.  It doesn't work 
unless you actually do it, so please have a go - I promise it's not a trick.


For this demonstration, you'll need a thumb and a digital watch.

Hold your thumb at arm's length and stare at your thumbnail for a 
moment.  Then place your watch over your thumb, such that the "seconds" 
counter is over your thumbnail.  With your thumb still at arm's length, 
stare at your thumbnail and count the seconds going by.  You should be 
able to count the seconds easily.

Now place your watch to the left of your thumb, such that the "seconds" 
counter is jammed against the side of your thumbnail.  With your thumb 
at arm's length, stare at your thumb and try to count the seconds go by. 
  You might be able to detect when there's a change, but will be 
completely unable to read the numbers.

90% of the rod and cone cells in your entire eye are pointed at an area 
about the size of your thumbnail.  So information just one thumbwidth 
away from the point you're focussing on is almost impossible to take in.


To solve the third-order problem, I recommend putting the above 
demonstration in front of developers' eyeballs :)

	- Andrew

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