[Olpc-open] Why is G1G1 program ending?

Jim Sayre jfsayre at vcn.bc.ca
Sat Dec 29 14:16:22 EST 2007

Thanks for the quick response.  Despite my comments about the 
non-educational advantages of readable displays and mesh networking, I 
totally agree that documentation for the G1G1 program has to make it 
very clear that it isn't a commercial marketing program.  In fact, the 
XO does seem to be a very cool gadget, but it's up to the users to 
figure it out (RTFM, for starters), and to help each other via user 
email lists, etc. like the linux and other open source software 
communities do.  The web site and documentation that comes with the XO 
just have to explain up front that due to the project's focus on its 
core mission, staff can't directly trouble-shoot fixable problems. 
Encourage donors to join a buddy system in their area.  People like to 
help others by sharing the skills they've discovered.  The biggest 
limitation right now is probably the lack of a critical mass of users 
who've had the XO long enough to able to help out.  That will be fixed 
by getting more donor units into circulation, not less.  If there were 
XO user groups in each major city, even many hardware issues could be 
fixed wthout taking up a lot of staff time.

I agree that arranging replacements for truly defective or damaged units 
is unavoidable, but with good qualify control and a reliable shipping 
method that shouldn't be a big deal.  In fact, it occurs to me that a 
commerial supplier like Dell might be persuaded to handle the shipping 
process at cost.  The XO is hardly competition for its products, and it 
would be a good will gesture that might well generate more business for 
them.  That way you'd just have to ship the units from the manufacturer 
to a Dell warehouse in each region.  You might even get them to donate 
some of the overhead cost in return for a thank-you acknowledgement with 
the packaging.   They do a good job getting their own products to people 
quickly, and they have staff in place to take care of returns 
efficiently.  Farm it out.

Clear documentation is going to be crucial whether G1G1 continues or 
not.  If intelligent and motivated donors can't figure the XO out, 
neither will many teachers, and they'll end up not using it.  The 
questions asked by donors will help to alert the project's help desk 
staff and volunteers to items that need to be explained better (or 
designed better), and thereby help the target educational users. 

I looked at the G1G1 portion of the website again, and it sounds as 
though it was never intended to be permanent.  The site says that it has 
been "extended" to Dec. 31, not that it has been decided to terminate it 
then.  It sounds like a rather too successful pilot project that 
prepared for the volume it generated.  But that's not a reason to give 
up on it - instead, redesign it and take full advantage the donations, 
enthusiasm, etc., that it will create.  OLPC isn't a commercial 
business, but that doesn't mean that no business principles are relevant 
to it.   OLPC has found an unexpectedly large niche with people who are 
able and willing to contribute in return for getting a unit of their 
own, and it would just be good sense to take advantage of it.


PS:  I just saw Steve's posting, and have to disagree.  Apple is already 
in the commercial market (to put it mildly), so an educational-only 
promotion makes sense, and they don't need to create a community of 
experienced Apple users to offer support to their primary overseas 
market.  It's just a totally different situation. 

PPS:  It doesn't appear that the "give many" program is being ended or 
cut back.  However, it doesn't allow anyone to actually see an XO 
laptop.  If a group is trying to get together enough contributions to 
donate 100 computers, it shouldn't cost them $300 each, or at least, 
there should be an explanation for the additional amount.  The numbers 
just seem to be round figures pulled out of a hat - $300 each for 100 or 
more, $250 each for 1000 or more, etc.  Those don't sound like realistic 
estimates of the actual cost of sending out computers in those numbers.

Nicole Lee wrote:
> the G1G1 program is a huge strain on the people directly involved in 
> the project, though. there are a lot of benefits, such as the number 
> of enthusiastic people brought into the project, eager to get cracking 
> and help out. on the other hand, we're scrambling to keep donors 
> happy, answer customer support questions, deal with possible returns, 
> etc. even passing a lot of this to the volunteer community, there are 
> still things that must be handled within the organization, especially 
> if this is a commercial or semi-commercial enterprise. many view 
> themselves not as donors, but as customers, and expect a high level of 
> service, documentation, support, and so on for something that is very 
> much a work-in-progress. this means that somebody working on it has to 
> stop whatever they're building to work on documentation, 
> communication, answering angry emails...
> having the documentation and directions and support staff is a great 
> thing, and is really something that i've wanted for a while, but if we 
> continue G1G1 the number of issues will continue to increase, just 
> from the sheer volume of people with XOs, and at a certain point i 
> believe it will begin to really have a negative impact on the 
> productivity of the community. running a G1G1 type program full time 
> would be great publicity, support, make people who want to be able to 
> get laptops happy, but it would also greatly increase the number of 
> people who don't understand that OLPC is not in the business of 
> selling cool gadgets to [comparably] wealthy adults, and these people 
> demand service at a level that involves abandoning the educational 
> goals of the project in favor of a better business model. OLPC is not 
> here to be a corporation, and placing too much emphasis on G1G1 and 
> similar programs is a risky move, because it puts OLPC down the path 
> towards competitive business.
> is turning over developers to customer service and marketing really 
> what's best for this project?
> can the project succeed without consumer support?
> -nikki
> On Dec 29, 2007 2:42 AM, Jim Sayre < jfsayre at vcn.bc.ca 
> <mailto:jfsayre at vcn.bc.ca>> wrote:
>     I think the key is for project management to remember that the OLPC
>     project is a revolutionary idea to shift from paper-based learning to
>     digital learning, with the XO is just one very early tool that will
>     begin that process.  It's ability to replace a conventional laptop is
>     besides the point, since it has a completely different core purpose.
>     Having said that, though, the project is missing a huge potential
>     benefit by cancelling G1G1, rather than remarketing it as a way for
>     people in developed countries to contribute to the project's core
>     purposes.  While using the internet is just one (and not the most
>     important) educational activity students will use the XO for, it
>     can add
>     a great deal of value to the tool, and at the same time help to solve
>     (rather than create) problems.
>     An earlier thread suggested pairing students in G1G1 families with
>     students in the recipient countries.  There's no reason why such
>     pairing
>     requires both students to have XO computers, but it would be a nice
>     touch, and would help the donor student understand what the recipient
>     could and could not do.  But a major benefit of such pairing would
>     be to
>     develop a large community of knowledgeable volunteers to serve as
>     helpers for the recipient students.  I've seen a couple of comments
>     along those lines, and I agree with them.  I'm on the Board of a
>     non-profit community network with over 10,000 users and only one
>     employed tech person; we manage almost everything through volunteers.
>     The OLPC project is a far more attractive and manageable way to
>     contribute some time than to coach users with a variety of old and
>     maybe
>     defective equipment through a variety of connection problems.
>     Similarly, our volunteers manage most of our membership and donation
>     activities.  A great deal of the volunteering is done online, and I
>     can't see any reason why the OLPC project, with the level of
>     commitment
>     it already has (and more on way with each new G1G1 unit that gets
>     into
>     circulation) can't do the same.  Volunteers could keep track of the
>     payments, maintain a database or donors who would be offered
>     chances to
>     volunteer, ensure that delivery problems are explained and resolved,
>     pair interested students, find suitable volunteer jobs for donors
>     willing to contribute, and so on.  The amazing levels of coordination
>     achieved by the open source software community proves that none of
>     those
>     things are impossible.
>     In addition to the one to one relationships that would be created,
>     each
>     donor family is a potential evangelist for the project.  The
>     elementary
>     school which my daughter attended beginning about 10 years ago had
>     only
>     a stand-alone computer lab with maybe 20 Macs.  Classes would rotate
>     into the room once a week for an hour or so of computer learning,
>     which
>     was by design and necessity an entirely separate subject from the
>     rest
>     of the schooling.   During all those years, I had to pay up to
>     $100 per
>     year in "supply fees" because our school board, despite all its tax
>     support, couldn't make ends meet otherwise.  The parent
>     association came
>     up with the funds for the computer lab, and even much of the
>     playground
>     equipment.  If someone had shown the parents that for $150 each
>     (in the
>     first year) the school could provide every child with their own
>     computer, making digital learning an integral part of the whole
>     educational process, I think they'd have overwhelmingly supported it.
>     Of course, in those days laptops were more like $2000, so it wouldn't
>     have been practical, but now it is.  And the benefits of creating such
>     educational clusters of OLPC users throughout the developed world are
>     enormous - to foster volunteers, donations, political support, and (by
>     the way) better educated kids.
>     G1G1 is a win win idea if there ever was one.  I don't see why
>     manufacturing should be an issue.  If the capacity is there to fill a
>     country's order, it can be used to built a reasonable number of units
>     for donor families.  The donation portion of the cost would presumably
>     be held until there's enough to fund (or supplement) an order for 3rd
>     world use.  In the meantime, the pairing would be with recipient kids
>     who already have the XO; I agree that trying to identify the
>     individual
>     child whose computer was donated by the family would make it very hard
>     to manage, and while some charities find that sort of thing good for
>     advertising, I don't think it's necessary.  This isn't a project to
>     adopt a child, it's to foster a better means of education.
>     Jim
>     PS:  While educational uses should be by far the main focus,
>     aspects of
>     the XO have great potential benefits for other purposes.  Have you
>     ever
>     tried to use a conventional laptop in your car on a sunny day.  If the
>     screen technology really allows for use in bright sunlight, it
>     would be
>     a better tool for many travelling users (and even those who just
>     want to
>     do email on their patio in the summer).
>     Probably the most innovative feature is the built-in mesh networking.
>     Companies have to hire consultants to set up  internal networks, and
>     maintaining them is a constant expense.  Our community network is
>     beginning to experiment with mesh as a means of allowing residents
>     in a
>     housing complex (low-income public housing in particular) to share
>     just
>     a few broadband internet connections, and in the process enable all of
>     the kids to have the benefits of home computing.  But just buying an
>     add-on mesh device and configuring it will cost a substantial chunk of
>     the XO's price tag, and it has mesh built-in and pre-configured as
>     part
>     of the OS.  Now that's a option that not even top end computers
>     currently offer.  The military has some projects to use mesh on the
>     battlefield, but no one else is doing it on a large scale for useful
>     purposes.  The XO could be a technology leader in this area, and if
>     classes in developed countries begin to adopt it, and realize its
>     benefits, so will the parents.  Think of the good publicity that would
>     generate for the project.
>     Steve Holton wrote:
>     > I must *strongly* recommend *against* ending the G1G1 program. Or at
>     > least replace it with some mechanism for maintaining white market
>     > availability of growth systems and spares.
>     >
>     > The availability of hardware is the one of the last chokepoints
>     which
>     > would allow an adversary to kill-off the OLPC mission and North
>     > American success. (The other is mission creep: changing the OLPC
>     > mission from one of developing an educational platform into one of
>     > competing in the North American laptop computer market.) And the
>     > adversaries know this.
>     >
>     > The market price point is proven.
>     > The community is proven.
>     > The infrastructure problems (a huge hurdle) for distribution
>     channel,
>     > customer service, support, etc. have been largely worked through.
>     > (quite to my own disbelief)
>     >
>     > The next chokepoint would be to drain the market of hardware
>     through:
>     > - natural attrition of hardware failures.
>     > - tying-up the manufacturing facilities by offering lucrative
>     > contracts to Quanta to build something else.
>     > - market removal (buying-up systems offered on eBay, offering a
>     > trade-in allowance, etc).
>     >
>     > As long as OLPC can maintain the availability of spare parts and new
>     > systems for growth, both the XONA (XO North America, using the
>     XO as a
>     > laptop computer) and the XOEE (XO Educational Endeavor) will grow.
>     >
>     > This could be accomplished:
>     > - short term:  make a committment to the availability of new systems
>     > and spares (price point is unimportant, enthusiasts being what they
>     > are) through an 'Official OLPC program'.
>     > - long term: multi-source hardware availability.
>     >
>     > On Dec 28, 2007 1:29 PM, Seth Woodworth <seth at isforinsects.com
>     <mailto:seth at isforinsects.com>
>     > <mailto:seth at isforinsects.com <mailto:seth at isforinsects.com>>>
>     wrote:
>     >
>     >     I *think* that it is ending for the following reasons:
>     >
>     >     1.) Quanta can only make so many machines per month, and
>     there is
>     >     a backlog of orders for target nations.
>     >
>     >
>     > Agreed, but the competition knows that.
>     > Constricted manufacturing channels are only a factor if a
>     component is
>     > single source, and then only when hard deadlines (like 'ship before
>     > the holidays') are in play. OLPC supporters will gladly wait 2
>     months
>     > to get systems if they understand the wait up front.  (Many already
>     > have...)
>     >
>     >
>     >     2.) It is a a *lot* harder to ship 10,000 laptops to 10,000
>     people
>     >     than 10,000 to one country.  Selling laptops retail isn't the
>     >     business that OLPC really needs to be in.
>     >
>     >
>     > Agreed 100%.  That was a tactical mistake on the part of OLPC.  If
>     > they had marketed XO's strictly as an educational tool, (they
>     actually
>     > did a pretty good job) it would have gone a long way toward
>     answering
>     > the inevitable questions like "how do I install Flash, why can't I
>     > connect to every imaginable wireless access point, etc.) The
>     community
>     > would have found answers to those anyway (as proven) and OLPC
>     wouldn't
>     > have been on the hook to do so.
>     >
>     > However, the hard part of building the infrastructure to ship 1
>     system
>     > to 1,000,000 different people has largely been built. Sunk cost at
>     > this point.
>     >
>     >     3.) They need to stop G1G1 in the US and Canada so they can
>     start
>     >     to scale up for Europe and Asia G1G1 sales.
>     >
>     >
>     > Europe and Asia deserve a chance to G1G1, too. (A mistake, IMHO, to
>     > try to exclude them from G1G1, but there may have been logistical
>     > considerations I don't understand) But if making them available in
>     > Europe comes at the cost of availability in North America, I'm going
>     > to be arranging to purchase my spares through GreyMarketEurope.
>     >
>     >     Good question, and not an intuitive answer.  This belongs on
>     the
>     >     wiki somewhere.
>     >
>     >     Seth
>     >
>     >
>     >     On Dec 28, 2007 8:00 AM, Josh Cogliati
>     <jjcogliati-olpc at yahoo.com <mailto:jjcogliati-olpc at yahoo.com>
>     >     <mailto:jjcogliati-olpc at yahoo.com
>     <mailto:jjcogliati-olpc at yahoo.com>>> wrote:
>     >
>     >         Why is the give one get one program ending?  The
>     >         program has brought millions of dollars of donations
>     >         to OLPC.  As well it provides a good way to get
>     >         hardware if you are undecided on developing for the
>     >         machine.  Plus it provides a price ceiling on ebay
>     >         sales.  So, why is the program ending?
>     >
>     >         Josh Cogliati
>     >
>     >
>     >         _______________________________________________
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>     <mailto:Olpc-open at lists.laptop.org>>
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>     >
>     >
>     >
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>     >
>     >
>     >
>     >
>     > --
>     > Steve Holton
>     > sph0lt0n at gmail.com <mailto:sph0lt0n at gmail.com> <mailto:
>     sph0lt0n at gmail.com <mailto:sph0lt0n at gmail.com>>
>     >
>     >
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>     --
>     Jim Sayre
>     jfsayre at vcn.bc.ca <mailto:jfsayre at vcn.bc.ca>
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Jim Sayre
jfsayre at vcn.bc.ca

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