Communicating freely

Archive for the ‘testing’ Category

Child labour

Sunday, July 9th, 2006

Ah, child labour.  That forgotten resource; small, easily intimidated and full of energy.  I’ve been doing my bit for European economic competitiveness, and I have enticed innocent children to become test subjects for a usability study.  The little mites have been deceptively handed a Ubuntu laptop and left alone.  The purpose of this study?  To find out if Dapper Drake can be used by real (small) people.

I am astounded by the results of my research.  They are better than my fan-boy GNU/Linux DNA dared to expect.  

I powered up a laptop for Test Subject #1 (TB#1 hereafter) and waited for his initial reaction.  Blankness.  He didn’t know when Ubuntu had finished loading and was ready for use due to the unfamiliar desktop.  I showed TB#1 the desktop menu and left him play.  After half an hour I returned and asked “how’s it going?”

TB#1 kept his chubby eyes glued to the screen.  “It’s OK.  I’m just finding it hard to beat the computer.” I was curious.  What was TB#1 trying to beat the computer at?  What had TB#1 done to my nice default install of Ubuntu?  I leaned over and looked at the screen.  TB#1 was playing four-in-a-row.

“The computer moves so fast.  Sometimes it moves too fast for me and I don’t have time to think,” said TB#1.  I nodded my head.  The test subject had discovered software of direct interest to his age-group.  His youthful mind was being trashed by the game but that’s the price you pay for science.

I left the room.  TB#1 was using my old laptop.  It was not a valuable resource so I confidently wandered away.  Three hours later I wandered back.  TB#1 was gone, the laptop was powered down and plugged out.  Hm.  I started it.  Clean mount.  No problems.  On the desktop was one new folder (default name) and one new file (default name).  TB#1 had obviously been experimenting with the abilities of the computer.  Excellent.

The next day TB#1 was back.  He hovered around until I innocently suggested he might like to play with the laptop.  He pretended to consider this suggestion and agreed.  Shortly thereafter TB#1 was sitting in a sofa doing whatever nine year old humans do.  I left him again for two hours.  When I returned TB#1 was gone and the laptop was again neatly powered off.

There are some variables to take into account with my testing.  TB#1 had a protector.  Some kind of mother figure.  However, the mother figure has no idea about computers.  The last time she was sighted with a computer she was waving a mouse in the air and saying it didn’t seem to be working.  Therefore her impact on the actual results of TB#1’s actions were minimal.

The second variable is that TB#1 has used an old computer.  He has a Windows 95 machine at home (I kid you not).  Therefore TB#1 has some awareness of the desktop paradigm.  

Conclusion?  Kids can use Ubuntu Dapper Drake.  TB#1 has no objection except that four-in-a-row is too difficult.  What a result.  Well done Mark Shuttleworth and associates.