illusion (Re: tap-to-click feedback)

Tuukka Hastrup Tuukka.Hastrup at
Thu Apr 15 14:56:53 EDT 2010

Dear Edd,

Ed McNierney escribió:
 > Tuukaa -

Thanks for your prompt reply, although it doesn't address the points of 
our report. We'd appreciate another one that did. Meanwhile, your reply 
demonstrates more general problems in the OLPC project, which would be 
worth solving as well.

> I don't quite see how you can make statements like "the OLPC project
> is not in close contact with the field". How do you know that? We *do*
> get many reports from deployment teams that represent hundreds of
> thousands of children, and try to collect and communicate that feedback
> effectively. In fact, I'm going to meet with the head of one of them in
> 15 minutes.

To answer your first question, you can read and quote what we wrote:
 >> It's very easy to tell: the OLPC project is not in close contact 
with >> the field. In this thread, we can observe the illusion that the
 >> hundreds of thousands of children would report to you if there was
 >> something suboptimal with their laptops. And there have been multiple
 >> reports, and yet "there is no consensus".

Key word: illusion.

Further, the deployment teams *cannot* represent the children. They 
should strive to, but there is no substitute for going out on the field 
and seeing with your own trained eyes.

We also suggest you reconsider what level of indirection in an 
organizational hierarchy you call "close".

> There have actually been very few reports of problems with this
> touchpad behavior. We don't know why that is, and I don't think you do,
> either - although we can both speculate all day and fill the list
> archives. We do get plenty of reports of other problems, so I don't
> think there's a fundamental failure in our ability to get input from the
> field. We can always hope to do better, of course.

We can't be sure and we could discuss, but we start to get the feeling 
that we do have a better idea than you do, and yet you're not willing to 
present your side and discuss.

> Having a small number of users on the devel list report their own
> personal experiences and preferences just isn't helpful in determining
> what the best course would be. Offering a configuration option would be
> nice, although we would still need to know how to advise deployments on
> which default to choose.

If it wasn't clear, we weren't reporting our personal experiences or 

> The device in question is a standard Synaptics touchpad, which comes
> configured in tap-to-click mode by default. It's used in plenty of other
> laptop machines. Surely that's at least circumstantial evidence that
> this behavior isn't universally despised.

Used in laptops for use by unprivileged kids in developing countries, or 
in laptops irrelevant to this discussion?-)

> As for your assertion that the problems with the old-style touchpad
> are less important than this problem, there are those in the field who
> would most firmly disagree with you. That's one bit of evidence as to
> why I think a shouting match on the devel list is a rather unhelpful way
> to approach a solution.

We weren't shouting, were we? We were giving you a direct report from 
the field as a response to the call for "seeking consensus". Of course 
the list can only take it as one piece of evidence, but you act as if 
there still was no evidence. If you have some towards the opposite 
conclusion, please share.

> We have a globally-accessible, open, trouble-reporting database at
> - have you reported this problem? Has anyone else
> reported this problem? Searches for "tap-to-click" and "Synaptics"
> return a few tickets reporting various items, and one from Martin
> Langhoff (#9775) mentioning the ability to disable tap-to-click. But
> please don't claim we're not listening if you aren't willing to use the
> public trouble-reporting system we rely on.

"Globally-accessible". We might say "Internet-enabled". Do you 
appreciate the fact that Internet access is a scarcity in the developing 

We haven't engaged here before, and maybe we still shouldn't have. All 
your message is about how you shouldn't ask the children but they should 
report to you (as if!), yet when we take our time from helping the kids 
and their teachers and try to do our best in communicating their 
situation to improve it, even that's not enough to you. We suppose you'd 
rather this big issue was buried in Trac.

If you re-read our message, we mention some imperfections in how this 
issue has been handled from the beginning in the OLPC project. Please 
take them as a suggestion on how to improve your organisation for the 
future, as well as on what to do to fix the current issue. Yes, there's 
something *you* could do!

> 	- Ed

Tuukka and Kaisa

> On Apr 15, 2010, at 1:24 PM, Tuukka Hastrup wrote:
>> Hi everyone,
>> Ed McNierney escribió:
>>> No, you're quite right - it's hard.  And it's hard to tell whether most
>>> users are silent because they're happy with it, or they're silent
>>> because they don't even realize that they have a choice.
>> It's very easy to tell: the OLPC project is not in close contact with the field. In this thread, we can observe the illusion that the hundreds of thousands of children would report to you if there was something suboptimal with their laptops. And there have been multiple reports, and yet "there is no consensus".
>> 0. Of course the kids don't realise that they have a choice.
>> 1. They can't write (a letter).
>> 1. They don't have Internet.
>> 2. They don't speak English and the web sites are in English.
>> 3. Even western kids don't know their feedback counts or how to send it.
>> 4. Same applies to teachers and most other people on the field.
>> We'd really like to see a *memo* about the *decision* that was made to change the default functioning of the touchpad to tap-to-click! Someone recognized the change in time, someone didn't assign enough importance to it to fix it in time. Others haven't documented this problem so that it could be evaluated, reassessed, and fixed at some point. Now, "there is no consensus" even, although the issue is obvious.
>> We didn't know about this before we assisted in a training week for the teachers in Satipo, where we saw that some machines had the new-style touchpads and the teachers were having problems with those. Despite all our explanations, many weren't able to learn to avoid the unintended clicks during the 40 hours of training. This means a lot of the only training they got was wasted.
>> To us it seems obvious that tap-to-click is a bad idea on the XO: It's a complication. It's not very useful to anyone (as you can always click the button instead...). It's very harmful to some (as it makes the functioning of the mouse unpredictable). Did you first make sure that all mouse clicks in all software and all web sites are well-visualised and undo-able ?-) In these third-world conditions, reliability is far more important than small performance tweaks.
>> We all know there's big problems with the old-style touchpads as well, but they are *less* important on the field. Why? Because the child with sweaty hands (try to avoid that here in the tropics!) can keep trying to point the mouse at the correct location until successful, *then* click the *button* and be done. With tap-to-click they aren't able to do this,  and there's no solution for them, is there? Without an Internet connection and the knowledge on how and whom to contact, there's no-one listening to them.
>> Greetings from Pucallpa,
>> Tuukka and Kaisa
>>> - Ed
>>> On Apr 15, 2010, at 11:42 AM, Sebastian Silva wrote:
>>>> Hi Ed,
>>>> Our friends and volunteers Tuukka and Kaisa are currently in Pucallpa working
>>>> with the teachers and kids. They probably havent seen this thread but this issue
>>>> has popped up often here too and I wonder what you might think constitutes
>>>> "consensus from deployments".
>>>> Also, the larger issue of how to get the "silent majority" to speak up is something
>>>> we are constantly working hard from the field to improve. Its hard, any suggestions
>>>> on where exactly to aggregate info from the field, in a way that is not merely
>>>> anecdotal, is welcome.
>>>> Sebastian
>>>> 2010/4/15 Ed McNierney <ed at <mailto:ed at>>
>>>>    Paul -
>>>>    This issue has bubbled up from time to time over the last 18
>>>>    months or so (judging from my email archives).  It is not at all
>>>>    clear to me that there is indeed a "consensus from deployments";
>>>>    some like it, some don't.  We tend to (unsurprisingly) hear little
>>>>    or nothing from the people who think it's working just fine, and
>>>>    it is very easy for a local group in which a few folks think the
>>>>    behavior is wrong to quickly collectively conclude that it's
>>>>    wrong.  We've deployed hundreds of thousands of machines since
>>>>    this change, and I don't think we've seen hundreds of thousands of
>>>>    complaints.
>>>>    I don't have a strong opinion and I don't know the answer, but we
>>>>    should be very careful about ignoring the silent majority, if
>>>>    there is one.
>>>>           - Ed
>>>>    On Apr 15, 2010, at 11:18 AM, Paul Fox wrote:
>>>>    > daniel wrote:
>>>>    >> On 15 April 2010 11:40, Martin Langhoff
>>>>    <martin.langhoff at <mailto:martin.langhoff at>> wrote:
>>>>    >>> On Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 11:34 AM, Sebastian Silva
>>>>    >>> <sebastian at <mailto:sebastian at>>
>>>>    wrote:
>>>>    >>>> BTW how do you disable it?
>>>>    >>>
>>>>    >>> Yeah -- can we disable it easily on F11 builds?
>>>>    >>
>>>>    >> (speaking only for XO) No. We would have to change mouse driver
>>>>    which
>>>>    >> introduces a handful of regressions, will need some real effort to
>>>>    >> resolve. See the discussions earlier in the thread.
>>>>    >>
>>>>    >> The most realistic quick-fix option I can think of is adding a
>>>>    small
>>>>    >> hack into the psmouse driver in the OLPC kernel, which sends the
>>>>    >> single command needed to disable tap-to-click. Last time I
>>>>    looked at
>>>>    >> this code I remember thinking that this would be quite easy,
>>>>    since the
>>>>    >> more-powerful synaptics driver doesn't actually change the mode
>>>>    of the
>>>>    >> mouse, it just takes advantage of a whole load of non-standard
>>>>    >> commands.
>>>>    >
>>>>    > that's a good idea.
>>>>    >
>>>>    > if such a thing were to be introduced, and if it could be made
>>>>    > run-time or boot-time controllable, i take it the consensus from
>>>>    > deployments is that tap-to-click is more confusing than helpful,
>>>>    > and it should be disabled by default.  correct?
>>>>    >
>>>>    > (i know that i myself find it annoying.  the XO is annoying
>>>>    > enough to type on, without having my windows flip out from under
>>>>    > me because i have careless thumbs.)
>>>>    >
>>>>    > paul
>>>>    > =---------------------
>>>>    > paul fox, pgf at <mailto:pgf at>
>>>>    > _______________________________________________
>>>>    > Devel mailing list
>>>>    > Devel at <mailto:Devel at>
>>>>    >
>>>>    _______________________________________________
>>>>    Devel mailing list
>>>>    Devel at <mailto:Devel at>
>>>> -- 
>>>> Sebastian Silva

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