Standing in the street trying to hear yourself think

Charlie Kravetz cjk at
Thu Jul 9 00:29:07 UTC 2009

On Thu, 09 Jul 2009 08:13:26 +0800
Onno Benschop <onno at> wrote:

> On 09/07/09 01:28, C de-Avillez wrote:
> > I can see something like this working -- as long as the requester
> > gets paired with one single person, in a PVT IRC session (or
> > something similar). If we just drop the requester into, say, the
> > #ubuntu channel, then we will not have accomplished anything.
> >   
> My experience in this scenario is that if you go down the path of
> individual pairing that paired support person becomes the single
> contact point for that user from then on. It happens today when a
> support request gets resolved the user comes back with "while you're
> here", or "can I ask you this in private", or "you helped me so much
> yesterday, can I ask you another question" or any number of
> variations on that.
> While in itself rewarding, I find myself avoiding the channel for the
> next week because I'm someone's "new best friend" - which is not
> constructive, nor is it productive.
> The fundamental issue I think that exists is that everyone's an
> expert. My 73 year old mother in law is running Hardy on her laptop.
> Yesterday she told me that there was a friend in the village where
> she lives who is a computer expert who will help fix her printer
> problem. I hope that she knows enough to know that formatting the
> hard drive and installing Windows is not helping, and I know that she
> doesn't know the administrator password, so "fixing" is strictly
> limited in scope, but I'm not looking forward to Sunday Lunch a month
> from now if you know what I mean. I'd love to come up with a support
> structure where her plan of attack is not: "Reboot the computer,
> phone Onno"
> The only way that I see out of that is to help users find out how to
> help themselves. Mostly this is a confidence thing. Generally I
> install Ubuntu in consultation with the user and explain to them that
> they have not been given administrator rights until such time as they
> understand what the implications are. I have several users who have
> progressed to that stage, but others who will never get there.
> In the mid-90's there was something called the International Computer
> Drivers Licence, which had the notion that you could certify user
> skills. Perhaps we could find ways of certifying or grading skill
> levels and distribute the support load closer to the end user, rather
> than centralise in one location.
> I've been toying with the idea of starting a road-show that teaches
> computer meta skills in small groups, face to face. The challenge for
> me is to figure out how to deliver that and how to pay for it.

I really like the idea of questions asked and answered leading to a
live person to help. Unfortunately, I see a roadblock for people such
as your mother, without admin privileges. Those people will not be
helped, because when told to add/remove anything, will be unable. They
could not even get a hardware list with sudo hwinfo or any other
command requiring the password they don't have. 

This will not help them, but could help many others out there. It will
also relieve much of the load on the mailing list and IRC, where
questions sometimes get lost in the mix. 

On the other hand, I don't believe one-on-one is right. There should
always be a pool of experts helping, and the person should know any one
could help them. That prevents the single expert is missing today, my
system *has* to wait until they are available.

Charlie Kravetz 
Linux Registered User Number 425914          []
Never let anyone steal your DREAM.           []

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