[OLPC Brasil] Why call tools "activities"?

Albert Cahalan acahalan at gmail.com
Thu Apr 5 21:18:15 EDT 2007

Bert Freudenberg bert at freudenbergs.de writes:
> On Apr 6, 2007, at 1:46 , Josi Antonio wrote:

>> Two diferent things called by same word in same context.
>> Children already know this kind of tools (softwares) as
>> "programs" ("programas", in portuguese). Everybody calls
>> software "programa" (just hair-pointed managers calls
>> software "application"). There's no need to call programs
>> "activities", no matter how wonderful would be these programs.
> Words shape minds. Now "program" as in "instructions for a
> computer" actually is generic enough to do no harm. But "application
> program" (and that is what is usually meant if you just say
> "program") does harm in artificially forming the idea that you
> need separate programs for specific tasks. Yes this is how it is
> implemented in most systems today but that doesn't actually make
> it a good idea [*]. I'm not particularly fond of the word
> "activity" but it is way better than "application".

If this were to succeed and persist, "activity" would gain
exactly the same implications as "application program" has.
Language works that way. These implications aren't even bad.

Componentizing the world is a failed dream. It's hard enough
keeping an OS stable with the normal "RPM Hell" or "DLL Hell".
Unanticipated component interactions are a big source of
security holes. In any case, the use of standard terminology
does not prevent your pursuit of this dream. You can perfectly
well give the user 15 apps that consist of 8 shared components.
An "app" could even be a Python script that starts up a set of
components that are useful together.

> Just as an illustration about how bad this mind-shaping
> already is - when I showed a system to university-level
> students in which you can have a "program" draw outside
> its window they were flabbergasted. Each year again.

If that thought that was impossible, they were idiots.
If they thought that was ill-mannered and an example of
poor security in the modern GUI, they were correct.

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