Putting Open Source to the Mom Test

Rikki Endsley

ROSE Blog: Rikki's Open Source Exchange

Mar 05, 2009 GMT
Rikki Kite

I stumbled across Amber's blog by accident today – she's writing a series of posts that document her experience installing and using Linux distros and a variety of open source applications.

I hope open source developers are following along as stay-at-home-mom Amber shares her adventures in Linux and open source. She eloquently points out usability issues that make it hard for your average mom to race out and embrace open source. Developers: Take note. For that matter, publishers should take note – I hope Amber gets a book deal out of her blog series.

Amber is a self-proclaimed average mom, which means that she juggles many tasks and has a limited amount of time and patience at the end of the day. Her husband works at Canonical (and used to work for Red Hat), but she wanted to move from her Mac and try out Linux without his help. She shares what she learns about open source – and its community – along the way.

Amber's open source adventure starts on February 12:

I am just your average housewife, home maker, mom, volunteer, etc. I normally use a MacBook Air or a Mac Powerbook G4. I just plug things in and they work and I must say I love using a Mac.

She decided to start with Ubuntu because it's "Linux for human beings," and she clearly meets those requirements.

On February 18th, Amber observes:

I still think there are the right tools for the right jobs and maybe Ubuntu and the publishing applications aren't what I need to the job I want to do (yet:) ). Mac and Pages just make it easy. I pick what I want to do, pick the template and with minimal tweaking bam I have what I want and need.

But wait! Amber also recognizes something that Mac and Pages just hasn't offered her:

Oh And I filed my first bug report. I am learning:) I am so happy.

In fact, she's convinced a friend and her son's teacher to take Ubuntu for a spin.

This is what makes me think that a book publisher needs to sweep in and sign Amber up for a book deal – she walks the novice user through the process of installing and using Linux. No technical background (or spouse in open source) is required. For example, on February 19 she does a great job of explaining the bug differences:

I am just happy I figured out how to file what is termed as a Usability Bug vs A Bug that breaks things or causes them not to work. I learned reading on the Ubuntu sites and in #Ubuntu-women, that bugs in OS and applications are different, just like in our homes we have different bugs i.e. spiders, Moths, crickets, etc.. around my house there are different types of bugs in the systems (as in my house) as well, some you can tolerate more than others and some you can't at all. Spiders (to me) are like those bugs that crash a system or applications, to me they need to be eradicated, Moths (again to me) though they are annoying, you can work around them, that I think is what is termed a Usability bug.

When reading through Amber's posts, I couldn't help but be impressed about how well she articulates what excites so many people about open source: The Community. On February 19, Amber wrote:

I understand how easy and exciting the Open Source Community can be. It is as addictive as Facebook. I have to admit, when I got my Mac I did a lot of YELLING "hooooooonnnnneeeyyyyy, why doesn't this do what I am telling it to? Make it do (fill in blank) until I got the hang of a Mac." With Ubuntu I am doing my best to navigate this using the community and the tools available. It is easier that I thought and the community is very helpful to the non-technical person like me.

And on February 20, she said:

I just got added to Planet Ubuntu Women...I am so excited, and learning so much.

Unfortunately, she also gets to see our not-so-favorite part of the community – the few people who don't actually encourage anyone to move toward open source. On February 22, Amber wrote:

I would like to think that regardless of the flavor of Linux one chooses each person of the Open Source Community would welcome them (new users) and want to help them understand and not potentially scare new people away from trying any flavor of Linux. Some of the comments I have gotten would be enough to scare me away and send me back to Mac and say forget it, if I hadn't been brave enough to just try.

Luckily, the few unfriendly folks don't undo what all the helpful members of the open source community have done to encourage and assist Amber.

I don't want to be a spoiler and tell you everything that Amber says about her adventures in open source. I do, however, recommend that you go read through her past adventures and follow along (and help a Mom out) as she continues on her journey. Amber already gave Fedora a spin, and it looks like openSUSE is next on the list.

(Amber, let me know if you get that book deal!)


  • Hai

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  • Good one !!!

    "She didn't say want you think or want her to have said"

    (WELL SAID!!!!)

    Whaaa happy

    And you dont have to think very hard to see this for what it is, if this was turned around and she was promoting MS and her hubby worked for MS you would be screeming like a banchee.

    She does not work, her hubby does, so you could say she is on the FOSS payroll, its just another cheap attempt to promote a second rate OS,

    And yes, the nice people at LT dont believe in free speech, just as you dont seem to like the truth.
  • spiders and moths

    If I have to choose between spiders and moths, the spiders win (as long as we aren't talking tarantula's, of course). Spiders are useful as they catch flies and mosquitos. Moths gnaw holes in clothes...


  • Looks like darryl's making the rounds

    I see darryl (and his other brother darryl) are making the rounds in stories POSTED on LT...like any good Microsoft troll. He sees what he wants to see, Richard. I still say he's a 13 year old kid based on his grammar and spelling.

  • This is not FUD

    Darryl (FUD Master Bill Gates want to be) reread the story again.

    "No technical background (or spouse in open source) is required."

    She didn't say want you think or want her to have said.

    She said

    "Her husband works at Canonical (and used to work for Red Hat), but she wanted to move from her Mac and try out Linux without his help."

    so FUD Master go somewhere else and try to spread your lies.

    Oh we miss you on Linux Today, we like your made up stories (LIES).
  • WTF, no spouse in Open Source but her husband works for Conanical and used to work for RED HAT

    I call FUD FUD and lies damn lies.

    I've heard some good ones in my time, but this takes the cake.

    Nice try better luck next time.

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