notes from the field - Mongolia

Erik Garrison erik at
Mon Oct 6 12:33:49 EDT 2008

On Mon, Oct 06, 2008 at 11:20:04AM -0400, elana langer wrote:
> Hey Tech Community-
> I just wanted to give y'all some feedback from my experience in
> Mongolia. Feel free to contact me with any questions. Please excuse my
> lay language - it's how i roll.
> 1) Computers are slow - So I was in a Ger in the west part of Mongolia
> and I thought I would show the computer to the family that was hosting
> me. The husband, wife and 8 year old child huddled around the computer
> and pressed the on button. Instead of being delighted by the computer
> they waited, and waited for the computer to load. I asked them in
> broken monoglian to be patient but once the computer loaded they
> wanted to open an application and again more waiting. The 8 year old
> lost interest as did the mom and only the man of the house stuck
> around to try things.
> This is not a unique experience. This is a culture that lives close to
> the land. Action- reaction. No one is used to "waiting" for an
> computer to load or a bagel to toast for that matter. (of course
> cooking takes time but they can watch as it changes form not just an
> unmoving screen)
> In the city the experience is worse. Kids used to PCs quickly grow
> impatient and leave the XO to find other faster computers.

I think this is very interesting, as I have often heard nearly the
opposite argument--- that because the XO is often a child's first
computer their standards for its responsiveness will be as low as we'd
like them to be.

What we have forgotten is that slow technology is, to the uninitiated,
indistinguishable from broken technology.

How are we going to rectify the general slowness of our user interface?
It may not be enough to work on the performance problem from within the
existing framework.  How will we know if this is the case?

> 2) Can't save files - this should probably be the first item on my
> list. It drives teachers and students crazy. They make something in an
> application, take some pictures or write something and then have to go
> through a really tough process to find it and save it on an external
> drive.
My impression is that the journal design stems from a belief that we
have an opportunity to completely redesign human-computer interaction in
terms of data storage.  Unfortunately this is simply not the case.
Teachers have experience with existing systems.  If they have any
computing experience (and let us hope they do if they are using
computers in the classroom!), they have worked with a hierarchical data
management system which required them to give fully qualified names to
their work.  In breaking with this paradigm we rob them of this valuable
expertise and frustrate their work with our system.

> 3) Basically - The journal is really hard for people/ kids to use over
> a longer period of time. Kids and teachers can't find things that they
> did unless it was done within the last 30 minutes.

This effect, brought about by the user interface of the journal, is
exactly the opposite of its most fundamental design principle: don't
lose user data.

In my mind the fundamental problem is that users aren't required to
fully qualify names for their work.  Doing so seems to lie outside of
one of the core points of Sugar's design ("There are no files, folders,
or applications." --  Is it
conceivable that we could change this feature of the system in future
releases to clarify data management on Sugar-running XOs?

> 4) Mesh problems - my sense is that you are all pretty aware of those issues.

I think we should start looking into software-level mesh protocols using
the libertas thin firmware.  This is not a solution to this problem, but
it will at least move us to a place where we can have collaborative work
on the base layer of our mesh networking stack.

> There are a bunch of bugs that I reported through reuben which include
> the problems with applications once they have been translated into
> cyrillic. These are some of the main foundational issues that folks
> are having. Let me know if you have questions.
> elana

Thank you very much for your feedback and hard work!


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