notes from the field - Mongolia

Mikus Grinbergs mikus at
Mon Oct 6 16:17:18 EDT 2008

Disclaimer:  these are my personal opinions

A feeling I have had all along is that it is not easy for a user to 
develop a sense of "how to use my machine effectively".  For 
instance, the wiki seems to have so much information that the 
visitor can get overwhelmed.

I've tried to help by putting some pieces of advice into the Sugar 
FLOSSmanual - but I'm not sure of how to "open the eyes" of new 
users to the possibilities of "what I could use this tool for".

> 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.

A severely underappreciated capability is Journal 'Search'.  At 
least with 8.2, the user can add information to the Journal entries 
to help find them later:

  -  First off, every Activity has a 'Name Field' in its top menu. 
When running any Activity, the user should enter there a short 
"Title" to identify the resulting Journal entry from all others.

  -  Then, upon leaving that Activity, the user should "reflect" on 
what was done, and "update" the corresponding Journal entry to make 
it easier to find later.  This is particularly desirable if the 
"Title" is not meaningful enough by itself for later locating what 
the user is looking for:

     -  the 'Entry Name' can be edited (if not adequately identified
        earlier) to distinguish this Journal entry.

     -  the 'Description Field' in the 'Detail View' for the entry
        can be used for a concise description of what was done, to
        later remind the user of "what this entry is about".

     -  the 'Tag Field' in the 'Detail View' for the entry can be
        used to enter multiple "Subject Headings" to help find this
        entry later.  For example, if the entry is about
        Triceratops, enter 'Dinosaurs' as a "more general subject"
        to find this Journal entry by.

The 'Search Box' in the Journal top menu will "match" the keywords 
the user enters there against the content of these three fields.  By 
learning what to enter into these fields, the user can find in the 
Journal what he is looking for.

> Can't save files - this should probably be the first item on my list.

Here we come against "initial expectations".

The whole concept of Sugar is that the user doesn't need to 
explicitly "save files".  They are automatically kept in the Sugar 
datastore, and are accessed through the Journal interface.  [In 
other words:  Don't use the traditional hierarchy of directories to 
locate the saved file -- instead do "characterize" the object with a 
description, and use an "intelligent search" to locate it.]

If the complaint is that users "can't retrieve" files using 
traditional cyberspace procedures - then learning how to make use of 
the 'Search Box' in Journal should help.  [Admittedly, expanded 
support for "metadata searching" by the Journal interface has been 
deferred to a future implementation.]


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