Ir al contenido principal

Ralsina.Me — El sitio web de Roberto Alsina

The ethics of advertising

Just fin­ished read­ing an ar­ti­cle at Tim­o­thy But­ler's site (see here) and it was a weird feel­ing.

On one hand, I find the idea of the im­moral­i­ty of avoid­ing ads strange. I mean, I am watch­ing TV, ads come, I flip. In­stant­ly. That's why I like that my TV has a way to pro­gram it to cy­cle through se­lect­ed sta­tion­s. That way I can keep com­ing back eas­i­ly, un­til the ads end.

On mag­a­zines and news­pa­per­s... well, if some­one came and told me that flip­ping through the ad pages is moral­ly wrong, I would re­al­ly not give a damn.

But the weird thing is not that (or rather, the oth­er weird thing is some­thing else).

His ar­gu­ment goes like this:

  1. TT has to make mon­ey

  2. The way to make mon­ey is sel­l­­ing their in­­tel­lec­­tu­al prop­er­­ty in some cas­es (in oth­­er­s, it's giv­en for free)

  3. Tim­o­thy says that's not ok.

The oth­er hand says:

  1. Peo­­ple who write on we­b­sites has to make mon­ey.

  2. The way to make mon­ey is to put ads on the site.

  3. Peo­­ple are avoid­ing the ad­s.

  4. That's not ok.

Those two ideas don't seem to have much in com­mon, but lets re­think the is­sue, in terms of pro­vid­ing in­tel­lec­tu­al preper­ty, be it a web­site or soft­ware.

Sup­pose TT would make Qt ad­ware. What do you think Tim­o­th­y's po­si­tion on Qt would be if he could use it for any­thing, but the app would al­ways show an an­i­mat­ed ad us­ing 30% of the screen. With sound.

That is what web­sites are pro­vid­ing. In­t­elec­tu­al prop­er­ty as ad­ware. TT is pro­vid­ing in­tel­lec­tu­al preper­ty in two ways:

  • As free soft­­ware

  • As pro­pri­e­tary com­mer­­cial soft­­ware.

Of course we know that both prop­er­ties are the same code, but it is pro­vid­ed in two ways.

I find both de­liv­ery mech­a­nisms vast­ly su­pe­ri­or to ad­ware, or nag­ware. Tim­o­thy does­n't.

So, in the same way he sug­gest­ed KDE and TT to part ways, I sug­gest how he can avoid all his trou­ble with ad­block­er­s.

Tim­o­thy But­ler should turn of­b.biz in­to a paysite. He should charge you if you want to read it.

Or, he should be up­front about it like sa­lon.­com is: see this ad, then you can read. Of course now I check sa­lon maybe once a week.

So, the main prob­lem would be, for that so­lu­tion, that prob­a­bly noone would pay to read it. Well, wel­come to cap­i­tal­is­m, Tim­o­th­y.

The evil of sliding

I am not too ac­tive in the pub­lic speak­ing busi­ness any­more (not that I ev­er charged for speak­ing, ei­ther ;-).

A few years ago, I would do it about once a mon­th, now it's about twice a year. But I have done it some 50 times, with crowds of up to 1000, and I think I am pret­ty good at it (but get­ting worse by the min­ute). And I have been to a mil­lion or two.

And for some rea­son, I have de­cid­ed I want to talk about it. Many of the KDE guys & gals have to do it ev­ery once in a while, and a bunch will do it in aKade­my so, maybe this can help some­one :-)

Of course, this is sure­ly the wrong way to do things for 90% of the peo­ple, so read with­out any care ;-)

En­ter­tain­ing is bet­ter than bor­ing

Ob­vi­ous, right? Well, then why are 99% of these things so dul­l?

The main rea­son is, of course, that the one speak­ing is scared (not ner­vous. Scared.) , or that he re­al­ly is a dull per­son on first con­tac­t.

Most of the free soft­ware peo­ple I know are not dull at al­l. But when you first talk to them, they are about as in­ter­est­ing as a brick.

That's prob­a­bly shy­ness. Most ex­tro­verts don't make a liv­ing by stay­ing im­movile in small places and look­ing at the same three ob­jects for hours at a time.

So, how can a shy per­son be in­ter­est­ing quick­ly? By not try­ing. For Christ's sake, don't make a joke (un­less it's re­al­ly un­avoid­able [1]). Just try to chill out, and speak about what you want to say, in a nat­u­ral tone. Stam­mer if you have to. Think be­fore an­swer­ing ques­tion­s.

Spe­cial­ly, al­low the au­di­ence to ask ques­tions dur­ing your ex­po­si­tion, if you can do it. Who knows, it may not let you say what you want­ed to say, but it will let the au­di­ence learn about what they want to learn, which is just as good.

It helps a lot if you talk about some­thing you re­al­ly know. Don't try to over­reach. I could­n't speak about C++ de­vel­op­ment be­cause I am not good enough. Sure, I could give a crap­py lec­ture. Just not a good one.

So, if you have to, stay on a sim­ple top­ic. The au­di­ence will lead you from there, but if they lead you some­where you don't know... well, say you don't, and then you both can try to fig­ure it out or ask some­one else.

Avoid slides un­less ab­so­lute­ly nec­es­sary

One prob­lem is that they will be­lieve the slides are the lec­ture. They aren't.

If what you have to say can be said in 30 pages with 6 lines each, then why the hell are you tak­ing 45 min­utes to say it? If it can't, then what are they for?

They lock you in a path. Un­less it's ab­so­lute­ly nec­es­sary that you get a spe­cif­ic mes­sage out, I say don't both­er.

Use graph­ic­s? Sure. Use a live app show­ing how to do some­thing cool? Sure. A blue back­ground with a pic­ture of app A say­ing "app A can do some­thing cool"? Yeech.

To con­nect it with the oth­er one, some peo­ple think slides will make things more in­ter­est­ing. Guys slides are in­cred­i­bly bor­ing. They are more bor­ing than the speak­er mak­ing fun­ny shad­ows on the screen.

What the heck, put some nice screen­saver hacks and leave it at that.


[1] I was once show­ing how to rip MP3s in kon­qi and asked any­one for a au­dio CD. I got one from a 16 year old. Writ­ten in huge let­ters on top of the CD was "crap­py mu­sic". I won't say what I said, but you can say your own in the com­ments ;-)

Some more about the docs

An­swer to com­ments on my pre­vi­ous docs item. First of al­l, chill­out peo­ple. This is just the blog of a re­tired guy. It's not ex­act­ly In­foworld, ok?

Sor­ry if I ru­ined your day, that was not my goal. I had an idea. Nowa­days, be­ing a re­tired guy, when I have an idea, I ei­ther code it for my­self or put it in my blog so oth­ers can read it. Some­times it work­s, some­times it does­n't.

It was not my goal to say that the writ­ers or ed­i­tor's job is bad. I meant to say that it can get bet­ter, and I had a small idea that may help there.

Rain­er: hm­m­m... well, I trans­lat­ed all of KDE 1.0 (or maybe ear­lier?) to span­ish on­ce, be­fore there was a trans­la­tions team ;-) but I am sure that does­n't coun­t.

I men­tioned in the ar­ti­cle that there is no need to write doc­book, and that you can send plain text to the docs team. I re­al­ly re­al­ly did, so don't ride me about it.

BTW: the docs don't say where to send that plain text email. For ex­am­ple, the kcalc man­u­al says the doc­u­men­ta­tion is copy­right­ed by Bernd Wuebben and Pamela Roberts (in an ob­fus­cat­ed man­ner, but that's ok).

I am damn sure that if you send Bernd an email with cor­rec­tions for kcal­c's man­u­al, he won't ap­ply them, be­cause he has been out of KDE de­vel­op­ment for 5 years. Pamela Roberts I don't know.

So, who ex­act­ly is one sup­posed to send a 20 line ex­pla­na­tion of the M-but­tons to?

Oh, I get it, you are sup­posed to fig­ure out that doc­s.kde.org (which is not men­tioned in the man­u­al) has a "Con­tact us" link... which sends you to http://www.kde.org/­doc­u­men­ta­tion/ which then sug­gests you learn doc­book (which is not nec­es­sary) and go to http://i18n.kde.org/­doc/in­dex-scrip­t.php where you are told to con­tact the app au­thor and kde-­doc-english@kde.org.

For a 20-­line write­up? Does that sound rea­son­able?

Maybe the tem­plate used to gen­er­ate the docs could be mod­i­fied to add some­thing in the last page, like "For con­tri­bu­tions or cor­rec­tions to this man­u­al, please send email to xxx@xxx.xxx".

I mean, if that does­n't ru­in your day.

But hey, I can see the at­ti­tude of Lau­ri is more open, at least. And yeah, Lau­ri, thanks for your job, I'm sor­ry I dropped the app lat­er :-(

Sort­ing through the re­al­ly bad garbage is not all that dif­fi­cult. Would I of­fer to triage? Sure, if it's made con­ve­nien­t. Make it come as clear­ly tagged mail with, say, two hy­per­links in it, one for send­ing to docs team for fur­ther re­view, one for declar­ing it crap, I can do a hun­dred of those a day.

Can­l­laith: I share the feel­ing about wi­ki markup. Re­struc­tured­Text is nice, if you find a wi­ki that sup­ports it.

Making docs more useful

There are some prob­lems with some of the KDE apps doc­s. The big­gest are:

Su­per­fi­cial:

They ex­plain too broad­ly, not cov­er­ing any spe­cif­ic de­tail­s.

Un­even:

They ex­plain some things in great de­tail and oth­ers not at al­l. For ex­am­ple, the kcalc docs ex­plain what the lsh op­er­a­tor is. They don't ex­plain what the M+/M-/C/CE but­tons do.

Un­fo­cused:

Be­ing un­even is right, as long as what you don't exm­plain is ob­vi­ous (for ex­am­ple, not ex­plain­ing the but­ton 9 is good).

These prob­lems are com­mon to al­most any tech­ni­cal doc­u­men­t, and they are not eas­i­ly fixed. In fac­t, the on­ly known fix is hav­ing a very good tech­ni­cal writer, and a very good tech­ni­cal ed­i­tor.

Sad­ly, those are very hard to find. And usu­al­ly they won't do it for free.

So, here's a pro­pos­al for a so­lu­tion that may make things eas­i­er for KDE4.

Open source the docs

Oh, sure, they are open source now. Any­one can hack them. As long as he knows how to get to their source code, which is in doc­book.

I un­der­stand the docs team is will­ing to take plain text sub­mis­sions and for­mat them ac­cord­ing­ly, but you can't quite fig­ure that out from the docs them­selves.

Even then, the bar­ri­er to en­try is high, you have to write your ex­pla­na­tion, send it through chan­nel­s, and noone can see it un­til next re­lease.

My pro­pos­al is to in­te­grate in the KDE help view­er a lim­it­ed wik­i-­like ca­pa­bil­i­ty.

The us­er would have a "an­no­tate this page" promi­nent­ly dis­played some­where. And he could use that to at­tach an­no­ta­tions that should be clear­ly vis­i­ble on the doc­s.

And, most im­por­tant­ly, he should be of­fered a chance to share those an­no­ta­tion­s, which would be up­load­ed to a wik­i-­like sys­tem. Said sys­tem would be mod­er­at­ed by the cur­rent docs team peo­ple, who could ap­prove of them.

Then, the doc view­er should al­so have a fea­ture to up­date the docs for a ver­sion, down­load­ing new pages and an­no­ta­tions from that same sys­tem, com­plet­ing the feed­back loop.

Said an­no­ta­tions would then be shown along the doc­s, and could even be marked as "tip­s" which would be added to the tip-of-the-­day sys­tem.

Should be a bit of work, but the KDE hack­ers are more than up to it, I'm sure :-)

Innovative apps and features in KDE

I will be speak­ing about this sub­ject in 48 hours.

Here's the chal­lenge: post as a com­ment (if you see this in plan­etkde, you will have to click some­where to get to my page) de­scrib­ing your favourite in­no­va­tive un­usu­al and/or lit­tle known fea­ture in KDE!

In a few days, I will post the whole thing as a .swf file some­where so ev­ery­one can see it.

My goal is to make it daz­zling, fea­ture-­packed, and very fast. If I can get to 100 fea­tures in 1 hour, that's about right.

So, what is it?


Contents © 2000-2020 Roberto Alsina