[OLPC Brasil] Why call tools "activities"?

Don Hopkins dhopkins at DonHopkins.com
Thu Apr 5 18:37:39 EDT 2007

Albert Cahalan wrote:
> Actually no. Teachers are comfortable with homonyms, at least if
> they are already in common use and there is little chance of conflict.
> The problem with "activity" is that you're introducing a completely
> new meaning for a word that is already used for something else in
> the same contexts.
In what way is "activity" any more confusing than any other homonym 
teachers have to deal with when talking about computers, like "desktop"?
> If a teacher asks "What activity do you want to do?", they sure
> don't specifically mean a computer program. An activity is
> something you do with playground equipment, with the cafeteria, etc.
Is the Brazilian word for "activity" even more specific than the English 
word "activity", only used for physical activities in the real world but 
never computers? My understanding of the English word doesn't 
necessarily exclude activities on the computer or have any physical 
connotations. But then again, I went to public schools.
>> Can you think of a better word than "activity", that has no
>> other meanings, yet will be universally understood?
> The requirement is not "no other meanings". The requirement is
> "no other meanings in the same context". (though "app" does
> indeed have no other meanings and is universally understood)
I don't think "no other meaning in the same context" is a requirement 
either. It would be nice, but all progress would stop if ambiguity were 
prohibited (or we'd all have to use 
longunambiguouscompoundwordslikethegermanlanguagedoes. I don't 
understand why "activity" is so confusing, unless there's a fundamental 
difference between the meaning of the word "activity" in English and 
Portuguese. Is that your point, or do you think "activity" is just as 
confusing in English?
> The standard words in English are "app" and "program". Pick one.
> Either will be far less confusing than "activity".
I think the whole point of using the word "activity" instead of 
"application" or "program" was to purposefully AVOID the unfortunate 
connotations of the well understood words for desktop applications and 
programs. One of the goals of Sugar is for monolithic "applications" to 
be broken down into reusable components, and integrated into task 
oriented "activities" (like eToys or HyperCard stacks), instead of 
requiring the user to switch between monolithic single-purpose 
applications, like editing an image in Photoshop, formatting text in 
Word, and composing images and text them into a web page in Front Page. 
Of course there is a text editor "activity" and a book reader 
"activity", but ideally those are reusable Python components that can be 
integrated together into other activities (eventually by the casual 
user, like eToys and HyperCard), instead of locking them up into 
separate "applications".

>> Activities are task oriented, instead of being tool or
>> application or document or window or desktop oriented.
>> I like the word "activity" better than "task", because
>> it sounds like an "activity" could be more entertaining
>> and amusing than a "task" which sounds more like hard work
>> or an unpleasant ordeal (like a "sysiphean task").
> None of those is suitable. It's "app" or "program" in English.
To my mind, "applications" are commercial products designed to be sold 
in cardboard boxes, to take up shelf space and attract the consumer's 
eye with flashy colors, to become obsolete and require upgrading every 
time a new version comes out, to slow down the boot process by several 
seconds by calling home and checking to see if the new version has come 
out yet, to run a background task that polls for a new version every 
five minutes, to run a license manager that cuts you of if you haven't 
payed your subscription, to be bloated with useless features demanded by 
marketing managers, only intended to be compared against the competition 
by grids of checkboxes in pandering computer magazines and sycophantic 
review web sites. I do not like to use the word "application" to 
describe activities for the OLPC, which demands a fresh way of thinking 
about the way people use software.


-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/devel/attachments/20070405/c9b878ff/attachment.html>

More information about the Devel mailing list