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Why OLPC Struggles Against Educators, Big Business

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the santa-is-not-a-capitalist dept.

Businesses 261

afabbro writes "The current issue of BusinessWeek has an expansive article of the history of OLPC and why it has, to date, been a flop. Among the reasons: no preparation for the educational systems expected to use it, uncertain pedagogical theories, poor business management, competition from Microsoft/Intel, and no input from education professionals in designing the software. As BusinessWeek quotes one educational expert, 'The hackers took over,' and the applications are too complex for children to use. To date, 370,000 laptops have been shipped — a far cry from the original 150 million planned to be shipped by end of 2008."

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do you really think this is important? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23783801)

tim russert is dead for god's sake! please, have a bit of humanity and take the time to recall his life and the gifts he gave us all with his insight into politics and broadcasting.

r.i.p. old boy.

Re:do you really think this is important? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23783855)

God, are we going to have to see a slew of these posts now? The world doesn't stop every time someone famous dies. Should we stop reporting news on other subjects to stop and mourn the passing of each famous person? How famous do you have to be? Is a child star from 1 episode of original star trek famous enough? How about an ensign? A local news reporter? Maybe an MTV VJ.

Oh, and the best part, I'm sure a news reporter would be one of the most disgusted if we stopped news reporting to focus on his passing.

anything influential will be influenced (1, Interesting)

CDMA_Demo (841347) | more than 6 years ago | (#23783873)

In the book "The IBM Way" i read something along the following lines: we must control change, or change will control us.

Don't get me wrong... (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23783879)

I think the intent of the OLPC is good, and there are tangential benefits to such a program, however I think this justifies all the people that in the beginning asked one simple question: Why?

If you have a better way to build a mousetrap, build it and see if people will buy it. Trying to tell them they need it before you build one is ... well, not how things work really.

Re:Don't get me wrong... (5, Insightful)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784339)

I think that OLPC has already been a technology success, and it will change the world, just not the way Negroponte envisioned. Microsoft, Dell, and Intel ignored the under $400 PC market for years. It doesn't make financial sense for them to take the last $70 each makes per machine and cut it to $15. The event of the $200 PC (like like the gOS PC [everex.com] would have been delayed for years if not for OLPC.

With charitable motives rather than financial, OLPC created the next generation machine for the next 2 billion users. The Aus EEE PC and competitors all copied the low BOM of the OLPC, and now target the billions of people world wide who can't afford a Wintel machine from Dell. It's the next big wave in computing, and OLPC led the way.

Re:Don't get me wrong... (4, Insightful)

goldspider (445116) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784609)

I think the intent of the OLPC is good...

Unfortunately, most discussions about charitable undertakings end there. Projects like OLPC make people FEEL like they are making a difference, regardless of whether or not any measurable long term benefit is actually being achieved.

Just look at the trillions of dollars that have been flushed down the proverbial toilets of many developing and third-world countries. Certainly the intent of such aid is noble, but what has it accomplished besides distracting us from the factors that prevent real change from happening?

I know that asking such questions often makes one a pariah in the eyes of narcissists more interested in self-gratification than actually helping people who need it. But when are people going to realize that sending money or goods to countries ruled by corrupt governments only benefits the corrupt governments?

Not a "better mousetrap" - there IS a strong why (4, Informative)

tucuxi (1146347) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784943)

The /why/ is curiosity. Kids have lots of it, but you tend to lose it over time as they get slapped in the hand and get told by adults to get serious. There's no telling to the number of great engineers (or doctors, or artists, or what-have-you) that we missed out due to stifled curiosity.

If you have a better way to build a mousetrap, build it and see if people will buy it. Trying to tell them they need it before you build one is ... well, not how things work really.

The OLPC offers unlimited tinkering and very deep and broad educational (education as in building mental models of things and learning to learn, not as in rote memorization) experience for kids, and can help them learn to read and write and communicate and explore the 'net. It is not "a better mousetrap" - there was no mousetrap before, unless you are referring to the school itself as the mousetrap. And OLPC does not intend to displace schools.

Ok, the business model may not be too sound (but the entry of the ClassMate and 3$ Microsoft software bundles can be seen as partial successes - if the goal is affordable computing to 3rd world kids, things look much brighter than a few years ago). Yes, Negroponte is not a finance magician, and I guess he has learnt the hard way that large corporations do not always place developing nations before shareholder value - that's what PR is for, anyway.

Re:Don't get me wrong... (2, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784977)

If you have a better way to build a mousetrap, build it and see if people will buy it. Trying to tell them they need it before you build one is ... well, not how things work really.
You've dismissed the entire advertising & marketing industries in two sentences.

There are plenty of business models built upon hyping a crappy 'mousetrap' and milking it for as much as you can. You've experienced this every time you've gone to a bad movie that had a well edited movie trailer & splashy ad campaign.

Re:Don't get me wrong... (1)

weg (196564) | more than 6 years ago | (#23785327)

Trying to tell them they need it before you build one is ... well, not how things work really.

That's exactly how things work in academia and research (i.e., apply for funding before you even start working).

OLPC (0)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#23783889)

OLPC is useless as a computer. I'm a geek, and one of my colleague's got one, and as far as I could tell, it was mostly useless.

The problem was, assuming the person didn't know anything about computers (reasonable given the target audience), there were no way to figure out how to get anything done. Not that I could figure out, and I'm a geek.

Maybe I'm not geeky enough after 25 years in the business.

Giving someone a complex piece of technology without instructions is stupid, and useless. I suspect that these will become fancy paperweights for teachers.

Re:OLPC (5, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 6 years ago | (#23783943)

Yes, the OLPC is useless as a computer for a geek. Fair enough, it wasn't designed to be a computer for a geek. It was designed to be a learning (not teaching, learning) tool for a child. That's a completely different thing. And oddly, I notice that all the reports of actual children being handed an OLPC without any instruction or guidance seem to end with the child being entirely comfortable with it, having no problem figuring it out, and generally out-running the adults when it comes to using the thing. They even pick up the networking parts of it naturally. Yes, children are in fact smarter than most adults like to believe.

Re:OLPC (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23784041)

Yep, the kids learn the OLPC just fine. The question remains whether the kids will learn anything else from it. In Negroponte's vision, his educational methodology seems to be "and then some magic happens".

Re:OLPC (5, Funny)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784101)

So that is what the ??? in the profit meme stands for!

1. Do something.
2. Do something else.
3. "and then some magic happens"
4. Profit!

Re:OLPC (1)

ELProphet (909179) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784623)

??? = Magic|More Magic

Hrm... that goes right with 42 = 6 * 9 for meme-ness.

Re:OLPC (1)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 6 years ago | (#23785225)

Everything should come with a Magic|More Magic switch.

Re:OLPC (1)

jc42 (318812) | more than 6 years ago | (#23785217)

1. Do something.
2. Do something else.
3. "and then some magic happens"
4. Profit!

Hey, that's just a slight rephrasing of Adam Smith's "invisible hand of the market" theory. We have a lot of people here for whom that is a primary religious belief. ;-)

Re:OLPC (4, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784885)

Except that the "and magic happens" is actually a fairly routine part of early education. Most kids like to learn, want to learn. It takes the education system several years of intense effort to beat this penchant for learning out of most kids. You may have to teach the kid how the card catalog in a library works, but once you do he'll cheerfully get together with a bunch of his friends and organize finding all they need to know for the essay assignments you give them. And probably more, I usually ended up with three or four essays for every assignment I'd been given. You may not even need to teach them how to use the card catalog, I figured out on my own not just the card catalog but how the Dewey numbers on the spines of the books worked (got a lot of teachers mad at me because I was supposed to go to the card catalog, and instead I'd head straight for the section of shelves I knew had the books on the subject I needed and I Wasn't Supposed To Do That and I should Stop That This Instant, Come Back Here And Start Again And Do It Right This Time).

Re:OLPC (4, Insightful)

TheMCP (121589) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784207)

I have a friend who is a serious geek, who was once behind some of the major open source projects many of us now use daily, who has an OLPC and loves it. It's not her primary computer, but she never intended it to be, and for the purposes she bought it for, she is very pleased with it.

I agree with you in observing that all the published commentary so far has indicated strongly that children seem very happy with and comfortable with the OLPCs, so the claim that they're too complex for children to use is highly questionable. I have a feeling that "they don't work because the team didn't take input from education professionals" actually translates to "education professionals are rejecting the OLPCs whether or not the computers and software are good because they didn't get to push the development team around."

Remember, contemporary education processes are all about complying with some ideology of how teaching should be done, not about actually successfully teaching kids.

Re:OLPC (0)

Bishop (4500) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784429)

I have a feeling that ... "education professionals are rejecting the OLPCs whether or not the computers and software are good because they didn't get to push the development team around."
How incredibly arrogant.

Re:OLPC (1)

VeNoM0619 (1058216) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784633)

Uhh? Thanks for the opinion, sports commentator Bishop, now for the traffic report?

Please point out what makes it arrogant, and back up your opinion with a little more than a statement if you're going to post. I actually agree with GP (to some extent) that educational professionals wanted to voice some opinion in the development that it was THEIR product in some way. You tend to back up a product at a company if you work on it in some way and make a contribution, it gives pride (otherwise you wouldn't touch it for a good reason and bash it). People are always proud of their work, even though they may have very negative feelings of who they work for.

Re:OLPC (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784679)

If you think RMS is a woman, you are really confused.

Re:OLPC (1)

Gewalt (1200451) | more than 6 years ago | (#23785069)

If you think the GP was talking about RMS, you are really confused.

Re:OLPC (1)

TheMCP (121589) | more than 6 years ago | (#23785079)

Thank you for the obvious statement of the day. I hadn't noticed that RMS isn't the only geek on earth. Thanks for pointing this out for me.

Re:OLPC (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784911)

It was designed to be a learning (not teaching, learning) tool for a child.
What is it that they learn? How to operate an OLPC?

I'm serious. I'm not sure what "learning" the OLPC is trying to get the kids to do?

Learning how something otherwise useless works, is ... almost useless.

Re:OLPC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23785051)

They can learn that not all learning has to be dull and boring. They can learn how to be more comfortable with technology and how to explore something that's put in front of them, unlike my parents who still can't figure out when to single and double click in Windows, let alone right and left click (and refuse to take any kind of course at the community college). They can learn how to care for a (possibly prized) possession.

Seriously, it has a camera built right in, my 7 year old can't get enough of her little digital camera, she loves that she can see the pics right after she takes them. She would likely love an OLPC just for that. So that pretty much squashes the idea that it's functionally useless.

Re:OLPC (2, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 6 years ago | (#23785063)

That's adult thinking. What the child's learning is problem-solving, co-operation and collaboration, and how to go about finding answers to questions when you have a question you need an answer for. The OLPC is a tool for doing those things. Hence why most of it's applications network automatically. It's got puzzle games which teach problem-solving. If you're working on a puzzle, all your friends on the network can automatically see (just like they were looking over your shoulder) and you can talk with them to discuss how to solve it, get ideas, everyone can try ideas and everyone can see how they work. And pretty quick they get to "Joban three villages over's really good at these kinds of problems. Let's get him to look at this and show us what we're doing wrong.". Which winds up working a lot better than having an authority figure stand there and lecture at you.

Re:OLPC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23784011)

And now we see where Windows excelled and why linux has had such trouble catching on.

As stupid as it seems when someone who's never used a computer sits down and sees "start" they at least have some idea where to click first.

Granted I think OSX is way way way more user friendly, but its probably unreasonable to give kids 1100+ macbooks :).

At least with windows pcs you get a universal system that is relatively friendly to new users and can be made for only a couple hundred bucks - Asus and all its ilk.

Re:OLPC (1)

nawcom (941663) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784839)

As stupid as it seems when someone who's never used a computer sits down and sees "start" they at least have some idea where to click first.
Now the real question... is how will they figure out how to shut the thing down. Assuming it hasn't locked up yet, due to memory access issues or incompatibility with windows generic all-in-one chipset drivers...hmmm. I dunno, heh I've always found it humourous that you have to click start to stop in windows.

And now we see where Windows excelled and why linux has had such trouble catching on.

I guess I'm curious why you say linux is having trouble catching on. Users usually don't have to fuck with linux - but they do use the window manager and/or desktop environment via X11. I don't see you playing around with the NT kernel.

At least with windows pcs you get a universal system that is relatively friendly to new users and can be made for only a couple hundred bucks - Asus and all its ilk.
The real question I propose to you, AC, is to answer what is on the Windows shell environment that desktop environments & WMs KDE,GNOME, etc don't have that seems to win over the users? The answer is in the abundant sales of linux minibooks - in otherwords - nothing. (Also, the start menu icon in vista doesn't say "start" anymore).

I think the reason you see windows as easier and more friendly has to do with the same reasons why children have no problem catching on to OLPCs interface, and why adults who have never touched a personal computer in their lives have no issues either. The same reason why the archaic computer scientists were afraid to move a mouse around with their hands, they simply weren't open to a new computing environment, yet ones with a fresh open mindset were. Next time you use another OS, use it with an open mind. Then you might see some of the negatives I an many other people see in Windows.

Re:OLPC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23784663)

you are not geeky enough yes.

Many Causes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23783899)

The absence of teledildonics and social groping capabilities doomed this project from the beginning.

What good is a mesh networking system if it can't transmit the teledildonics data that is so necessary in our every day lives?

Re:Many Causes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23784597)

Electronic porn?

distribution (4, Insightful)

trybywrench (584843) | more than 6 years ago | (#23783931)

As soon as i read that article a while back about the guy who complained there wasn't a decent distribution system in place I knew it was doomed.

Hackers like to think they can do everyone's job better even if it way out of their scope. I guess that's the difference between hackers and engineers, engineers understand that it takes managers, PHB's, marketing, sales, and production staff to make it work. Hackers think it just takes code.

Re:distribution (4, Funny)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784233)

Hackers like to think they can do everyone's job better even if it way out of their scope.


That's because in theory, we can. :P

Re:distribution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23784481)

No, not even in theory. In particular, a hacker that is incompetent at engineering is mostly useless even for serious software projects.

One that is not organized, is useless for any management functions.

And the list goes on. Note that even if you are NOT useless for something, that's a far cry from being GOOD at that something.

Re:distribution (1)

trybywrench (584843) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784579)

Hackers like to think they can do everyone's job better even if it way out of their scope.
That's because in theory, we can. :P
typical ego, not unlike what OLPC is suffering through

When you have a hammer... (1)

burnitdown (1076427) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784243)

Everything looks like a nail. This is the programmer disease: they're so used to configuring stuff on their boxes, they don't realize (a) their programs must connect to reality at some point and (b) not everyone wants to spend hours every day playing computer. Solipsists.

Re:distribution (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23784293)

As soon as i read that article a while back about the guy who complained there wasn't a decent distribution system in place I knew it was doomed[...]Hackers think it just takes code.
Not to push the point, but the guy you are talking about is Ivan Krstic, one of the OLPC hackers, and he was complaining about the failure of the project's administration to put a distribution system in place. Which shows the hackers wanted the project to succeed as much as anyone and were under no illusions that code would fix everything. Blaming the hackers for a lack of a distribution system is silly.

*everyone* thinks they can everything... (3, Insightful)

mkcmkc (197982) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784467)

Hackers like to think they can do everyone's job better even if it way out of their scope. I guess that's the difference between hackers and engineers, engineers understand that it takes managers, PHB's, marketing, sales, and production staff to make it work. Hackers think it just takes code.

I have news: Everyone thinks they can do it all.

Since you mention engineers, I'll start with them. I've seen a lot of code written by engineers, and it's been uniformly horrid. Many schools still teach FORTRAN as their first/main language. Good god.

I see a lot of code written by scientists. Not one would think of letting an untrained programmer run their wet lab assays, but they think nothing of having graduate biologists write their programs. Guess what, it's even worse than engineer code!

In an ideal world, we'd all farm out the stuff we're not good at to people trained to do it. I'm not holding my breath...

Re:*everyone* thinks they can everything... (1)

trybywrench (584843) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784559)

In an ideal world, we'd all farm out the stuff we're not good at to people trained to do it. I'm not holding my breath...
I agree to an extent but no profession is an island. You're going to have to involve people who are specialized in what you aren't to make a project happen. I think anyone be it engineer, businessman, marketer, or sales rep or whoever that is really good at what they do understands that.

Re:distribution (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784585)

engineers understand that it takes managers, PHB's, marketing, sales, and production staff to make it work
Can you just build those things out of stuff you keep in your workshop?

F.O.X. News: Fear, Oppression, Xenophobia +1, True (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23783935)

If I was dictator of the U.S., Fox News would be my first
choice for Gitmo incarceration.

It's unlikely that this letter will win me many friends or even garner much attention. However, writing it is the only way I know to tell you a little bit about Fox News and its imprudent obiter dicta. The nitty-gritty of what I'm about to write is this: If we foreground the cognitive and emotional palette of Fox News's delusional editorials rather than their pathology we can enter vitally into its world. Why do we want to do that? Because Fox News's indifference only adds to the problem. But what, you may ask, does any of that have to do with the theme of this letter, viz., that its disquisitions are indistinguishable from the ones it condemns? I hardly know. But I will stake the immortality of my soul that Fox News's commentaries are like an enormous denominationalism-spewing machine. We must begin dismantling that structure. We must put a monkey wrench in its gears. And we must take steps toward creating an inclusive society free of attitudinal barriers because I like to speak of Fox News as "footling". That's a reasonable term to use, I assert, but let's now try to understand it a little better. For starters, everybody is probably familiar with the cliche that its avowal that it knows 100% of everything 100% of the time is all cant and hogwash. Well, there's a lot of truth in that cliche.

If you think about it you'll see that Fox News's adversarial litanies are merely a distraction. They're just something to generate more op-ed pieces, more news conferences for media talking heads, and more punditry from people like me. Meanwhile, Fox News's underlings are continuing their quiet work of advancing Fox News's real goal, which is to invent a new moral system that legitimizes its desire to send children to die as martyrs for causes that it is unwilling to die for itself. We have a choice. Either we let ourselves be led like lambs to the slaughter by Fox News and its shills or we weaken the critical links in Fox News's nexus of intransigent Dadaism. While I don't expect you to have much trouble making up your mind you should nevertheless consider that Fox News will probably never understand why it scares me so much. And it sincerely does scare me: Its remonstrations are scary, its inclinations are scary, and most of all, it twists every argument into some sort of "struggle" between two parties. Fox News unvaryingly constitutes the underdog party, which is what it claims gives it the right to promote the counter-productive op-ed pieces of repulsive purveyors of malice and hatred.

Fox News recently went through an extremism phase in which it tried repeatedly to bring discord, confusion, and frustration into our personal and public lives. In fact, I'm not convinced that this phase of its has entirely passed. My evidence is that to believe that without Fox News's superior guidance, we will go nowhere is to deceive ourselves.

Fox News would not hesitate to talk about you and me in terms that are not fit to be repeated if it felt it could benefit from doing so. Fox News wants you to believe that it acts in the name of equality and social justice. You should be wary of such claims. Be aware! Be skeptical! Think! Do not be diverted, deceived, or mesmerized by Fox News's homicidal solutions.

Fox News's planning to exploit issues such as the global economic crisis and the increase in world terrorism in order to instigate planet-wide chaos. Planet-wide chaos is its gateway to global tyranny, which will in turn enable it to create massive civil unrest. Fox News always demands instant gratification. That's all that is of concern to it; nothing else matters -- except maybe to render unspeakable and unthinkable whole categories of beliefs about power. I tell you this because Fox News can't fool me. I've met putrid knuckle-draggers before, so I know that Fox News maintains a "Big Brother" dossier of information about everyone it distrusts, to use as a potential weapon. Is your name listed in that dossier? This isn't such an easy question to answer, but let me take a stab at it: Fox News's faculty for deception is so far above anyone else's, it really must be considered different in kind as well as in degree.

Regardless of what Fox News seems to contend, its public virtue is dwarfed by its private vice. In the strictest sense, if we don't advocate social change through dialogue, passive resistance, and nonviolence then Fox News will demonstrate an outright hostility to law enforcement. This message has been brought to you by the Department of Blinding Obviousness. What might not be so obvious, however, is that Fox News loves getting up in front of people and telling them that national-security interests can and should be sidestepped whenever its institutional interests are at stake. It then boasts about how it'll create a new cottage industry around its reckless form of fanaticism eventually. It's all part of the media spectacle that is Fox News. Of course, it soaks it up and wallows in it like a pig in mud. Speaking of pigs and mud, Fox News should not infiltrate and then dominate and control the mass media. Not now, not ever.

Now, I am all for freedom of speech, but before Fox News initiated an animalism flap to help promote its snippy, simple-minded blanket statements, people everywhere were expected to communicate and teach. Nowadays, it's the rare person indeed who realizes that Fox News claims that this is the best of all possible worlds and that it is the best of all possible organizations. Well, I beg to differ. Whenever anyone states the obvious -- that Fox News's bruta fulmina reek of so much barbarism that the smell makes me nauseated -- discussion naturally progresses towards the question, "What is this homophobic fascination Fox News has with communism?" You know the answer, don't you? You probably also know that we must lay out some ideas and interpretations that hold the potential for insight. As mentioned above, however, that is not enough. It is necessary to do more. It is necessary to make an impartial and well-informed evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of Fox News's animadversions.

The Mad Hatter and the March Hare from "Alice in Wonderland" behave more rationally than Fox News and its ethically bankrupt, stultiloquent loyalists. Ergo, Fox News has a blatant disregard for society's basic laws. I won't dwell on that except to direct your attention to the snivelling manner in which it has been trying to retard the free and natural economic development of various countries' indigenous population. I normally prefer to listen than to speak. I would, however, like to remind Fox News that it is always trying to change the way we work. This annoys me because Fox News's previous changes have always been for the worse. I'm positive that its new changes will be even more childish because we should dispense justice. (Goodness knows, our elected officials aren't going to.)

There is a simple answer to the question of what to do about Fox News's witticisms. The difficult part is in implementing the answer. The answer is that we must navigate a safe path between the Scylla of Fox News's lubricious utterances and the Charybdis of fetishism. Fox News doesn't want us to know about its plans to pit people against each other. Otherwise, we might do something about that. I do not wish to evaluate cynicism here, though I claim that you should be sure to let me know your ideas about how to deal with Fox News. I am eager to listen to your ideas and I obviously hope that I can grasp their essentials, evaluate their potential, look for flaws, provide suggestions, absorb feedback, suggest improvements, and then put the ideas into effect. Only then can we wage war on scapegoatism.

Like a lion after tasting the blood of human victims, Fox News will abandon the idea of universal principles and focus illegitimately on the particular. We must understand that I will not bow to coercion, intimidation, or the threat of violence. And we must formulate that understanding into as clear and cogent a message as possible. Fox News claims to be fighting for equality. What it's really fighting for, however, is equality in degradation, by which I mean that it is axiomatic that unlike Fox News, I believe in individual responsibility, the rule of law, and fair play. So don't feed me any phony baloney about how its way of life is correct and everyone else's isn't. That's just not true. Fox News is utterly mistaken if it believes that it knows the "right" way to read Plato, Maimonides, and Machiavelli. Now that you've read this letter, let me challenge you, the reader, not just to help me make Fox News's moonstruck, belligerent pronouncements understood, resisted, and made the object of deserved contempt by young and old alike, but also to educate others about what I've written.

Cordially,
Filipino Monkey

Re:F.O.X. News: Fear, Oppression, Xenophobia +1, T (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23784133)

You know, it's not often that a trollbot gets things more-or-less right ... this is a big day for AI.

No different from business (4, Interesting)

rah1420 (234198) | more than 6 years ago | (#23783941)

If you let the IT folk articulate the business process, you're going to get the same exact thing. That's why we have business analysts whose job it is, ostensibly, to figure out what the business people want and translate it into a swiss army knife that's going to be wildly popular and successful.

To not involve educators in the requirements building phase of this was doomed to the same failure. The problem is that it is visible to more people, sad to say.

Re:No different from business (1, Insightful)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784265)

To not involve educators in the requirements building phase of this was doomed to the same failure. The problem is that it is visible to more people, sad to say.
I think, it was important not to involve AMERICAN educators. Thankfully even poorest countries don't have a massive trainwreck of educational system and cultural environment that American schoolchildren are subjected to, so if the alternative was not to have any experts on education or involve American ones, the former was the right choice. The last thing mankind needs is this disease spreading.

Re:No different from business (2, Insightful)

c_forq (924234) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784753)

I don't know how you got modded up. Sure, America has a whole lot of crappy public school educators, but we also have some of the best minds in the world at our universities and colleges and some amazing private and boarding schools. Please mods, stop modding up national elitism (different from patriotism and cultural elitism - not that those are better), it is just another form of trolling.

educators yes, educational theorists NO (5, Insightful)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784387)

Speaking as one whose taught for years, your comment is insightful:

To not involve educators in the requirements building phase of this was doomed to the same failure

Part of the problem may have been that the folks running the show often were "educators" (professors and such), but not of their target audience. Teaching at the K-12 level is not at all the same as teaching undergraduates and graduates at MIT. They certainly should have brought in experienced actual teachers from the K-12 (or K-6) level they wanted to reach.

But this comment from the summary is appallingly clueless or mendacious:

Among the reasons [for failure]:...uncertain pedagogical theories...and no input from education professionals in designing the software.

Anyone who has actually taught knows that "pedagogical theories" and "education professionals" (e.g. those who graduate with PhDs in education, as opposed to PhDs in the subject they teach) are worse than useless, that such things are responsible for half the time-wasting if not counter-productive garbage that clogs the educational system, total sidewalk-supervising theoretician castles-in-the-air bullshit.

Indeed, I bet the OLPC people had some nifty "pedagogical theories" -- you might say the whole concept of the OLPC is a major pedagogical theory itself ("give them computers and they will learn!"). The problems the OLPC people are having ironically self-illustrate the uselessness of "pedagogical theories" constructed in the absence of pedagogical experience.

Re:educators yes, educational theorists NO (5, Insightful)

jc42 (318812) | more than 6 years ago | (#23785093)

I bet the OLPC people had some nifty "pedagogical theories" -- you might say the whole concept of the OLPC is a major pedagogical theory itself ("give them computers and they will learn!").

I'd agree with most of your comment except for the above parenthesized pseudo-quote.

The OLPC crowd has made it clear from the start that their intent was never to provide kids with a computer. Their intent was to provide access to information. The computer was included simply because to most of the target population, the only possible access to good information requires a computer and a wireless network. We have centuries of experience saying that the traditional books just weren't making it; kids in underdeveloped areas typically don't have access to those in any meaningful sense. But the Internet can be made available at a cost that's orders of magnitude lower than building a local library in the local language and populating it with good books against the opposition of local rulers. So they were aiming at leveraging the Internet, via a wireless-only small computer, to give the kids access to real information.

But you'll find all over in comments from the OLPC folks that the computer itself was never the primary goal. It's just a tool. The goal is access to information, something that the commercial and political systems show very little interest in providing. We might also note that the listed problems can mostly be summarized as the results of commercial and political opposition to providing their kids with such information.

It's not terribly surprising that, with such a goal, the OLPC project might have a certain skepticism about involving education professionals except as occasional consultants. A personal anecdote: As a high-school in the 9th grade, I decided that math was interesting, so I started asking the math teachers if I could borrow their books. I'd read one, return it a few weeks or a month later, and ask for another. After a few months, I'd read all the texts for the school's courses, so I started asking if I could borrow their college texts. Each teacher flatly refused to let me read them. I "wasn't ready" for college stuff. I had some friends at a nearby college, so I started borrowing from them. This got my teachers very upset.

Since then, I've mentioned this experience to a number of teachers, and every one of them has agreed that I "wasn't ready" for the advanced stuff. This was clearly nonsense, since I could understand the college texts. The theory that I developed, which I've seen a lot of support for since, is that the teachers were simply threatened by the loss of control from my going behind their backs and getting more information from other sources. This is a common problem with "educators" everywhere. They control what the kids are supposed to be learning, and they tend to clamp down on kids who try to avoid the controls and advance too quickly or into areas that the teachers don't understand.

This was well before there was such a thing as personal computers, so it has nothing to do with computers. They might not say it too openly, but part of what the OLPC project has been aiming at is breaking the stranglehold of the local authorities, and give kids access to much better information than they've ever had. I'm not at all surprised that this should get "pushback" from the local authorities as well as the commercial world.

And anyone who has ever seen any ads should understand that the commercial world is not interested in education. It is interested in persuasion, something very different. So we should especially expect pushback from commercial sources.

(And my Firefox 3's spellchecker didn't like "pushback"; it suggested "pushcart" as the right spelling. ;-)

Because it is a stupid idea? (2, Insightful)

ednopantz (467288) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784001)

Just a suggestion, but maybe using 3rd world children to carry out jihad against the technology industry isn't a great plan.
 

Re:Because it is a stupid idea? (0, Troll)

trybywrench (584843) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784363)

Just a suggestion, but maybe using 3rd world children to carry out jihad against the technology industry isn't a great plan.
this.

I've long thought that was the original goal, "How many kids can we get to use Linux" instead of "How many kids can we help learn". Ugh i need to quit reading this story.. it angers the blood.

Re:Because it is a stupid idea? (2, Interesting)

xtracto (837672) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784465)

'The hackers took over,' ... at the risk of being flamed, I believe this is pretty much what happens with lots of open source projects.

People start their projects, invite some expert in relevant fields to participate but when any of these experts tells them that they are doing X or Y thing wrong, they get all proud and stubborn and ignore the advise.

What does this experts do? they just leave (as people has been leaving the OLPC project)...

Re: How many kids can we get to use Linux (1)

tucuxi (1146347) | more than 6 years ago | (#23785099)

The kids don't give a damn what the OS is. Hell, if you had never used a computer before, would you know anything about an 'OS' and its religious wars?

True, some people would like to promote OSS with the OLPC. It turns out that OSS is very customizable and has no licensing costs. So it is not such a dumb thing to do; and it got MS to contribute its apps at huge discounts just to not lose on the PR bandwagon. What's not to like? Affordable computer education for kids?

As long as the technology works and there is no recorded RMS greeting during startup... go Linux!

So you happily run Vista on your OLPC? (1)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 6 years ago | (#23785257)

> I've long thought that was the original goal, "How many kids can we get to use Linux"

Frankly, I don't understand how you think having MS under the hood of the OLPC would help it be a better educational computer. If you had used one for even 2 minutes you would understand that the end user has no direct interaction with the underlying operating system at all, he is supposed to use the Sugar interface and the applications installed in it by default.

There are plenty of reasons why Linux was a better choice than an MS operating system, but I don't see how "educational indoctrination in Linux use" could be one, since using Sugar has little relation to using Linux with a more common desktop environment like KDE or Gnome. (Note well: I am not claiming that there are absolutely no reasons why using an underlying MS operating system might be better than using Linux. I'm sure if I tried hard enough I could come up with a few of those, also.)

They had a good mission (4, Interesting)

WaHooCrazy7 (1220464) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784021)

OLPC had a good mission when they wanted everything on the system to be fully open source, with simple point and click applications and the ability to view the source of any application. However then they got into talks with microsoft, and started to include some very complicated applications with their product, and their mission kind of went down the crapper

Re:They had a good mission (1)

KGIII (973947) | more than 6 years ago | (#23785061)

I dare say that they were already screwed prior to the talks with Microsoft. I don't think that can really be attributed to things that took place before the agreement was even made public.

I was trying, but I couldn't find anything (5, Funny)

bl8n8r (649187) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784029)

His teacher had told the class to search the Internet for information
      on the environment, but the boy was stumped. "I was trying, but I couldn't
      find anything,"

What the boy didn't know, was the rest of his classmates *did* find something and
the classroom immediately erupted in a resounding "RTFM!" in response, showing
proof that children in developing nations can at least find Slashdot.

It was predictable (-1)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784051)

It was predictable enough, and many of us did point out the terribly obvious flaw in the OLPC plan -- that people experiencing shortages in food, potable water, basic shelter, education facilities, farmable land, etc, etc, need those survival basics covered far more than they need a laptop. I still don't really see how this was not obvious to Negroponte et al.

Re:It was predictable (0)

trybywrench (584843) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784187)

It was predictable enough, and many of us did point out the terribly obvious flaw in the OLPC plan -- that people experiencing shortages in food, potable water, basic shelter, education facilities, farmable land, etc, etc, need those survival basics covered far more than they need a laptop. I still don't really see how this was not obvious to Negroponte et al.
not only that but the massive anti-Microsoft backlash was further evidence. I started with Windows and it in now way locked me in or prevented me from learning. If all the fire and brimstone the zealots were spewing were true I'd have never heard or been able to exerience their Linux/OSS utopia. Yet somehow, I've managed to get into Linux and eventually a job administering only Linux servers and running Linux/OSS at home as well. wow.

all that is really besides the point because what percentage of children want to be programmers? 1% or 2%? You can be a perfectly educated teacher or biologist or farmer or whatever using Windows. There's so much educational material available on the Internet that has absolutely nothing to with what operating system or software development philosophy you use. Wikipedia works the same in Windows or Linux. The whole "omgz no microsoft" fiasco was a major major turn off for me. Just more OSS zealots preaching their same sermon at the expense of everyone.

Re:It was predictable (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784359)

Well said! OSS zealotry is one of the most retarded trends I've ever seen in the geek community, and hurts us all greatly.

Re:It was predictable (1)

willyhill (965620) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784577)

The root cause of that is those people's fixation with destroying Microsoft, which is not about to happen any time soon.

If instead they spent their time and energy promoting what is good about their software (and not treat it as a pseudo-religion to which everyone must convert or die), things would be very different.

MOD PARENT DOWN! (4, Insightful)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784225)

At least don't keep modding this tired, old and long debunked meme up. OLPC is NOT aimed at places with current food/water/shelter shortages. It is aimed at developing countries, not undeveloped countries. Think of many south American countries as perfect targets. They have solved the basic problems of food, water, shelter and education. This project will move education on to the next level.

How can people, especially on slashdot (where this has been thrashed out countless times before), keep remaining so wilfully ignorant of the goals of this project?

Re:MOD PARENT DOWN! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23784315)

They have solved the basic problems of food, water, shelter and education. This project will move education on to the next level.


So THAT'S why so many South American countries have large populations that live in tin-roofed shanties and go to schools, if at all, in one-room dirt-floor buildings. It's because they have the food/population/education problem solved.

Re:MOD PARENT DOWN! (1)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784319)

and I'm sure you RTFA before you posted this, since clearly the kids in the Andes, without running water, eating guinea pigs, are just one OLPC away to move from underdeveloped to developing...

Re:MOD PARENT DOWN! (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784427)

Regardless, that was never the original aim of the project. Therefore is was not "obvious" that it was a bad idea from the beginning because that was not the aim. The fact that starving kids can't eat an OLPC has no bearing on the utility of the project for what it was aimed at: improving the education of kids in developing countries.

Re:It was predictable (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23784309)

Will someone please mod this goddamn troll down to -1? They're *NOT* going "Sorry child, I know you're shivering and parched for food, have a laptop to quiet the rumbling in your belly" and this troll knows it.

Re:It was predictable (3, Informative)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784431)

From the first paragraph in TFA (which you clearly didn't bother to read):

One by one, the children ran into the school yard, lining up in a grassy field next to a low-slung building of classrooms topped by a rusty steel roof. Most of these children in Luquia, a tiny, impoverished town 13,200 feet above sea level in the Peruvian Andes, wore ragged navy-blue uniforms, and many had not bathed in days. Their small adobe homes have dirt floors, no running water, and no bathrooms. They share sleeping space with dozens of squeaking guinea pigs, which scamper underfoot before becoming the family's rare meal of meat.



Sounds to me like you shouldn't call me a troll, troll.

Re:It was predictable (2, Interesting)

vux984 (928602) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784417)

It was predictable enough, and many of us did point out the terribly obvious flaw in the OLPC plan -- that people experiencing shortages in food, potable water, basic shelter, education facilities, farmable land, etc, etc, need those survival basics covered far more than they need a laptop. I still don't really see how this was not obvious to Negroponte et al.

Well, you see, there is this gigantic group of people who aren't experiencing shortages in food, potable water, basic shelter, etc etc etc. People who've got the survival basics covered, yet are still extremely poor. They are the target market for this laptop.

This isn't for that tragic starving child with no clothes no food no medicine and flies all over his body that you see on those interminably long "Christian Children's Fund" commercials. This is for his distant neighbor 6000 miles away who lives in a home, on a farm, enjoying a meagre lifestyle, while the children work on the farm, or the local mine, or pick fruit, or help chop down the nearby rainforest for additional income. This is for them.

There are lots of countries who have met the basic requirements for survival, but who lack the infrastructure and wealth we enjoy in 1st world countries. This is for them.

Re:It was predictable (1)

cool_arrow (881921) | more than 6 years ago | (#23785019)

I agree. I think I will start OWSPC - One Wooden Spade Per Child. It's a project that I will start in a poor country to provide wooden spades to rich kids in industrialized nations.

Re:It was predictable (1)

tucuxi (1146347) | more than 6 years ago | (#23785231)

I am very interested in your obvious approach to solve shortages in food, potable water, basic shelter, education facilities and farmable land. Especially if it can solve everything at once, instead of focusing on small, well-defined problems.

Negroponte is not superman - but he has a valid point: kids /are/ the future. And to make the future better, you have to invest in education. If you can get kids to learn autonomously and to use computers - well, you're on your way to helping fix all that long list of shortages when the kids grow up.

Who says it's a failure? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23784067)

Who says it's a failure? Just because there aren't more people willing to donate a rather expensive bit of hardware during rough economic times doesn't mean the design is bad. There will be one geeky kid in each group who will figure it out and show the rest. As for input from education professionals, I can't imagine a more counterproductive thing to do.
This article seems short of facts and long on assumptions.

Re:Who says it's a failure? (4, Insightful)

glop (181086) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784447)

I personally have an EEEPC and Asus explicitly credited the OLPC for the idea to make it.
This seems like a great success to me:
  1) identify a need that the market is not addressing (cheap, simple, robust, networked machine)
  2) make one in a non-profit for 3rd world children
  3) convince all the industry that they need to emulate and best it
  4) let everybody enjoy the resulting products

I really am thankful to the OLPC project for that.

I also read cool things about the OLPC's music and sound tools in Linux Journal. It will probably be part of Fedora or Ubuntu I install on my EEE when I hand it down to my son.

He will probably enjoy it a lot and that will be another OLPC success (albeit a modest one).

You won't see me count the OLPC project as a failure any time soon. They really helped change the world.

'The hackers took over' (4, Insightful)

thermian (1267986) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784103)

Oh dear, it seems what we have here is yet another slide towards the desire to forget computings hacker origins.

I was at a Microsoft presentation once where the speaker said Microsoft were not interested in hiring 'hackers', they wanted serious programmers. The concept didn't impress me then, and it doesn't now.

Doing away with hackers will have the effect of homogenising the industry. Guess what tho, not every country thinks this way, some developing nations will look at the stagnant 'hacker free' computing industry and destroy it in a matter of years by producing more innovative products.

I mean innovative in the real sense, not in the bland 'keynote speech soundbite' sense.

Re:'The hackers took over' (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23784181)

You are all full of crap.

I know that there are people that want these because they do not have the money that you clearly have. These were for a very good purpose, and I can't even believe that you bring up hacking with these.

Shovel your crap, but these will not be in it.

Re:'The hackers took over' (-1, Offtopic)

thermian (1267986) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784625)

Ok, I think I need to give your troll a bit of a review. Consider this an intervention.

Ok, lets take the first sentence.

You are all full of crap.

Now this is a great example of an opening statement in a troll post, well done.
I can't suggest many improvements, although you might want to consider putting it all in capitals, or adding some exclamation marks next time.

Now for your second statement

I know that there are people that want these because they do not have the money that you clearly have.

Ok, you let yourself down here a little, since there is no clue as to my fiscal state in my post. Here's a hint, try to stay on topic with your troll for at least a couple of sentences, you probably lost a lot of your potential audience at this point.

Ok, now for your third statement

These were for a very good purpose, and I can't even believe that you bring up hacking with these.

Ok, back on topic, well done on that, but you have let yourself down somewhat by revealing a lack of understanding of the various uses for the term 'hacker'.
I recommend a little time on Wikipedia looking up the term. That should help you avoid this problem in the future, and may provide you with sufficient information for a really great put down next time.

And finally..

Shovel your crap, but these will not be in it.

Ok, your ending is reasonable, you start with an insult, that's a nice touch. However you then let yourself down by concluding with a sentence that doesn't seem to relate to your previous statements. I suggest that next time you end with an insult and resist the temptation to continue typing.

One last thing, you just got owned...

Re:'The hackers took over' (1)

trybywrench (584843) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784511)

Doing away with hackers will have the effect of homogenising the industry. Guess what tho, not every country thinks this way, some developing nations will look at the stagnant 'hacker free' computing industry and destroy it in a matter of years by producing more innovative products.
Making technological innovation happen is maybe 5% actual "innovation". It takes many people of many different specialties to actually put it all together and get it to society. An anti-gravity machine some hacker develops in his garage is absolutely positively useless unless they can get it to the population at large. Making that happen is just as hard and complex as the "innovation".

Re:'The hackers took over' (1)

FilterMapReduce (1296509) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784601)

I agree. But on the bright side, at least the "hackers took over" quote made the geek-friendly hacker/cracker distinction [catb.org] , which is fairly rare in the mainstream press. It makes me wonder how many BusinessWeek readers misunderstood it.

Re:'The hackers took over' (2, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784745)

I like your synergy and value delivery and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:'The hackers took over' (1)

thermian (1267986) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784875)

heh

Re:'The hackers took over' (1)

sesshomaru (173381) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784757)

I would call it the desire to suppress computings hacker origins as well as suppressing the education of third world children. Business Week has an agenda, and it is not a benevolent one.

Re:'The hackers took over' (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784935)

Which explains disasters such as MFC, win16 and win32 and Vista.

Hackers have roles designing operating systems and configuring complex projects.

Good managers understand business demands and customer expectations.

There needs to be both and not too much of one or the other. My old man would plan for over a month before his team woult write a single one line of code. A good project focuses on customer and corporate requirements and then designs the model of the application before any code is written.

Today everyone wants deadlines to be completed yesterday and just get mad and outsource if the desired result is not sufficient or buggy.

All criticism comes from non-users (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23784239)

The most interesting thing is that the one non-critical voice mentioned in the article (the Peruvian schools using the laptops) is the only voice which seems to have actual experience using the laptops. That seems to me to be a very good sign that those who are shouting so loud aginst it are reading from Microsoft publicity briefings and not from reality. Negroponte's comment that he is acting like Greenpeace lying down with Exxon is kind of telling. If MS is the one responsible for making computers bad for education then working with them really is like working with the devil. Anything you do will be twisted againt you.

Missing some Key Ideas (1)

introspekt.i (1233118) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784307)

It seems to me that OLPC packed those tiny laptops with some really nifty features and some kinda neat pieces of software. Problem is, how do you integrate these devices into curricula? How do you prove to teachers that integrating these devices into curricula is beneficial? How do you adapt these devices to the multitude of curricula in many different locales and cultures? The intent of the project is pure, but sometimes seems somewhat boneheaded. This initial flop comes with little surprise. I hope the project can adapt to maximize the benefits for all parties involved. This will have to include much more conversation between the intended user base and the producers. There really can't be a one size fits all solution for the third world's educational needs. One size fits all solutions just don't exist. I have yet to find a good baseball cap that stays on my head ;-).

A poor understanding of end user needs (4, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784349)

I think the reason is that the OLPC was always a solution in search of a problem. It started out as "lets make a cheap laptop".

It didn't start out as someone going to schools and asking the people what they needed. It seems like the most reasonable course of action for a project like this is:

1. Go to the schools and listen.
2. If you still think that computers are the solution, bring some expensive ones into some places as a pilot project
3. If that is proven, then remove functionality from the expensive ones until they operate like the cheap ones
4. If they still prove useful then maybe decide to make the cheap ones

Did this happen? If it did and the cheap ones worked in prototype form but not in their final form, then the OLPC's problems can probably be solved. If not, then it was probably doomed from the start.

The "do something I think is cool and see if people like it" plan of action tends to lead to disappointment when people don't like it. The likelihood of disappointment is proportional to how cool you think the project is.

If you donated $150 per child to each of these classrooms, would they automatically use the money for OLPC laptops? What if they could get real, full-scale laptops and support discounted to $150? Would they buy them? My guess is that the answer is no in most cases. They'd buy the things they need instead.

Re:A poor understanding of end user needs (1)

introspekt.i (1233118) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784379)

Agreed. It's one of the basic principles if not THE basic principle of technological design.

Re:A poor understanding of end user needs (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784589)

I think you need to kick start peoples' imagination from time to time too.

Re:A poor understanding of end user needs (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784775)

Sure. But that will fail often. Like 90% of the time. So it's best to try not to spend too much money or convince too many followers.

A large pilot project with more expensive (but discounted) laptops would clearly have been a good idea. You could still do the OLPC if the pilot project worked out. And you might not have spent as much and disappointed so many people if it failed.

Re:A poor understanding of end user needs (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 6 years ago | (#23785017)

But then you can only deliver shrunken versions of what's available today.

The coolness of the Hardware was what I mostly heard about as the program was coming together - without that "cool factor" and the $100 tag I don't think it would have had the credibility and impetus that it got from early on.

I think it had to have all it had (maybe more) to get anywhere at all, baby steps just would not have cut it.

Educational software is hard (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784383)

Educational software is hard to write. Really hard. Except for very well defined skills, like typing or flying an aircraft, most educational software doesn't help much.

The OLPC should come with one or two really, really good applications for teaching reading or arithmetic, ones smart enough to self-adjust to the user's level and move them forward. That alone would justify the thing.

Fuck them. (4, Insightful)

eddy (18759) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784393)

>and the applications are too complex for children to use.

That line makes me want to say 'fuck you'. The idiots here aren't the children nor the hackers, that much I'm sure of. If I could figure out the C64 [mostly] on my own in a world where there was no 'world wide web' at my fingertips, and adults would go 'compute-what?', I'm sure today's kids will do alright with these computers.

I guess the upside is that even if this guy stood up before 100 children and told them the machine is too hard for them to use, if 99 of them would be naive enough to believe him, there would be that one kid thinking 'oh yeah? This is so on'.

Re:Fuck them. (2, Insightful)

sesshomaru (173381) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784433)

I guess the upside is that even if this guy stood up before 100 children and told them the machine is too hard for them to use, if 99 of them would be naive enough to believe him, there would be that one kid thinking 'oh yeah? This is so on'.
That's the child that Business Week fears, and feels a need to suppress.

Read the non-print version for photos (2, Informative)

greenfield (226319) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784419)

Check out the non-print version [businessweek.com] if you would like to see photos of the XO laptop. Of course, while you will also have advertisements, the content is nicely formatted for the screen.

I often wonder why Slashdot posts links to a version of the article formatted for printing rather than the main article.

Re:Read the non-print version for photos (2, Informative)

Angry Rooster (972166) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784877)

"I often wonder why Slashdot posts links to a version of the article formatted for printing rather than the main article." Because any time they link to the main article, everyone complains that they should link to the print version to avoid ads and multi-page crappiness. - Rooster

too soon to write off as failure (3, Informative)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784475)

I have an XO - It has lots of flaws.

But my son loves it, he's 6 and he loves playing sim city, even when I point out that his city has zero population and he clearly does not know what tax is. He will learn about taxes all too soon and in the mean time, he will learn about computing organically. I'm pleased that he has a chance to do so without being force fed "only one way to do things".

And I'm sure the kid who thought the internet was inside the OLPC has learned a lot through having an XO too.

Would there even be a classmate PC if not for XO. Would classmate have been as good as it is if XO and the new OLPC had not pointed the way for how all of these devices could be better. Will the next generation of XO and classmate and ee-whatever be better yet next time around. YBY sweet fat A.

Seems to me that Negroponte has achieved a great deal, and I suspect that there's a lot more to come and that the children are the winners.

I and many believe firmly that widespread education is a dire need as well as sustenance, and that the former could help provide the latter in years to come.

I wouldn't write Negroponte or OLPC off yet, the OLPC foundation (and the Intel classmate team, for what they do) has my sincere thanks.

Applications are not complex (5, Insightful)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784487)

I've reviewed the details of the Sugar UI and the apps that come with Sugar, and I was struck by the fact that every effort has been made to make the operation of the programs simple and intuitive. There's clearly a lot of usability design in there.

I think the problem is that the OS UI, and the Apps, are new and different. I think the adults evaluating this are stuck in old ways of thinking. They learned computers on Windows, and Windows and Windows app ui conventions are just how it should be, dammit. Anything else is scary and complex, from their solidified-brain perspective.

People aren't willing to give something new (and yes, pretty much objectively better) a chance.

It's the old "we haven't changed anything, and we're not dead yet, so why change something now"
conservative viewpoint.

Talking about santa... (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784547)

from the santa-is-not-a-capitalist dept.

Funny that they refered to Santa Claus. When some journalist asked Carlos Slim if he was planning to donate some of his money, he answered that he did not want to go like santa claus just giving away money, but that he prefered to invest in developing specific programs for the integral development of people.

That is what makes a businessman succesful I guess... the OLPC guy just thought that throwing a bunch of cheap and durable computers to kids would make them learn... but they did not really thought about integral programs (and not talking about "computer programs" but real ones) in which this XO toy could be used...

Now, any government who wants to invest in them needs to find a reason to do it. Before that, the relevant development programs must be implemented, and I think the governments that could benefit won't go as far as creating their own programs (due to the lack of interest, money or will)

The Bbusiness Week article is terrible. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23784681)

The Bbusiness Week article is terrible. It is written by shills for shills and factually inaccurate

The OLPC XO is being deployed in various places in the world. The deployment is being handled locally, as it should be, in a culturally sensitive fashion.

The XO is designed for use by children and has a very simple but clever User Interface which is easily learned by exploration.

The collaboration aspects of it are outstanding.

The "Hackers" were successful (4, Insightful)

John Jamieson (890438) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784725)

The work by "Hackers" was a huge success. Take a look at the number of UMPC's that will ship in the next 3 years. Tens or hundreds of Millions.
Yep, the work they dreamed up will sweep the world in ways they did not envision.

As far as the "failure" of the OLPC to sell in the millions.
1. A lot of money was being spent by MS and Intel to sink it.
2. It is hard to get $$$ out of many third world countries without graft.
3. It is hard to scale up the distribution and services side of an organization. 0-150 million in a few years is almost impossible on a shoestring budget.

Then, these problems are compounded by the unwillingness to gain volume by selling at retail. Then, they tick off the hardest core supporters by embracing MS.

Yep, this thing will tank.

But the good created by hackers will live on (1)

John Jamieson (890438) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784843)

Sorry about continuing my post this way.

Yes, I believe the OLPC will tank(the product as it exists today), but most of the good will last.

Because the hackers have created this new segment, we will see the cost of components drop lower in the LONG term than even the OLPC project could have done alone.

Because of this new segment, Linux will develop at a faster rate. Bringing additional benefits to the "have not" population that can not afford MS Tools.

OLPC is the fourth fail (0, Troll)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#23784983)

All laptops suck.

When you buy a laptop you have these there basic choices:

1. Windows. An OS that sucks, on decent hardware.
2. Mac OS X. A decent OS, on hardware that sucks.
3. Other UNIX. A decent OS, on decent hardware, but no applications.

OLPC adds a fourth category:

4. OLPC. An OS that sucks, on hardware that sucks, and no applications.

It's a hat trick!

The problem is Sugar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23784997)

The problem is that Sugar is a wretched interface for any purpose -- including pedagogical -- and most of the OLPC applications are no better.

There is no, nada, zip evidence that Sugar is intuitive for children. Its defenders simply offer anecdotes about how some child figured it out and says that it is "easy". Such anecdotes do not prove anything.

A child who has never used a computer before has no standard with which to compare. You will get the exact same responses from a child who is put before an old minicomputer running BASIC and presently figures it out.

Nor is the speed at which the child learns sufficient evidence. Children are brute-force learning machines; that is a basic biological function of children. This is why children excel at puzzle games (think Myst) in which deliberately bad interfaces are created to confound the player.

What happened with Sugar is that the OLPC project decided to create their own unique user interface based entirely upon their own intuition and educational theories. The result was what you expect when a bunch of hackers step outside their field of expertise and try to build a user interface.

The OLPC project disregarded just about every rule in the book on how to build a good UI. Being old time hackers, they couldn't resist magic keyboard shortcuts. Whimsy in naming and icon design is forgivable; using familiar symbols (we're talking symbols that would be familiar to these children) for completely unrelated purposes is not.

Sadly, the impact of all this is that the kids who experience it will end up "upgrading" from Linux to Windows and not look back.

It Looks Gay! (-1, Troll)

anthropromorph (968354) | more than 6 years ago | (#23785295)

People don't want Gay looking electronic devices. Not even the people in the third world. I wouldn't buy one for any of my kids aging from 1 year to 6 years old. They do just fine on our existing systems.
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