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The Paradox of Choice

Hemos posted about 10 years ago | from the so-many-options dept.

Science 537

sproketboy writes "Psychology professor Barry Schwartz has written a book which is a must read by those wanting to get Linux on the Desktop. Dr. Schwartz examines the problem of too much choice in our society. Maybe Microsoft has it right after all? Here's a video interview with Dr. Schwartz, a review of the book from the New Yorker and more info from PBS." Of course, the choice issue applies to far more than desktop computers, but is still instructive in that area. Thanks to Stefan Hudson for a SciAm story that has more information.

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537 comments

I choose (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703759)

To post first. How Paridoxical!

I think (-1, Troll)

Shard013 (530636) | about 10 years ago | (#8703762)

most people are too dumb to know what they want. Smarter people should force the rest to do whats best for them.

Re:I think (1)

roninmagus (721889) | about 10 years ago | (#8703839)

/disagree

The smarter people should do just as they are now, and try to persuade them what is right.

I say keep the aforementioned crap as far away from reality as possible. We don't need more elitism.

Re:I think (3, Insightful)

.nuno (153038) | about 10 years ago | (#8703872)

And you have been reading 1984 recently? Or do you work for Microsoft?

Smarter people should find ways to get the rest to do informed choice instead of "mass-hysteria-induced" choice. Getting "smarter" people to do choices for "dumber" people will only allow them to remain "dumb", even if temporarily more productive.

Yay for the dumb people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703917)

So, those dumb people should just stay dumb and not try to improve themselves? Should those dumb people just give up and let other people tell them what to think and want?

Ugh, with this kind of mentality the entire U.S. will be reduced to a horde of gibbering idiots...

Re:Yay for the dumb people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8704079)

dumb cant be fixed. ignorance can, but not dumb.

Re:I think (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703947)

Wow, that's a pretty offensive viewpoint. You clearly don't know many people.

Re:I think (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703955)

Wow, Fidel Castro is web-active.

Re:I think (3, Insightful)

bircho (559727) | about 10 years ago | (#8703969)

Aunt Anne doesnt know which e-mail program to use in linux, but can cook better than most of us. She can choose a better sauce for this or that.

Joe sixpack know how to choose too. He know what the best beer is.

People want to choose when they KNOW what is to be choosen.

Re:I think (4, Interesting)

Pxtl (151020) | about 10 years ago | (#8703976)

While that's a related problem, I don't think its the root cause. The fact is the choices aren't being made easy.

First of all, your choice involves a significant investment of time. Changing your mind is a lot of work. With your programming language, your job, things like this, you are limited by the learning curve. Many PC games are suffering from this badly (although its not as bad as during the Sim era of the 90s when obtuse displays and complex missions and controls were the norm).

Combine this with the fact that your choices aren't very well explained - when I click around in many apps or application managers, I don't know whats what, what's better, what's worse. I don't know what music to download, what channels to watch. If there's a significant time investment in the wrong answer, I might just choose the safest bet. If the cost of a proper search for the rigth answer exceeds the benefits of finding the superiour solution, then I might just choose to do what everyone else does.

This is why we are stuck in a monoculture - society has made it very hard to even find the offstream material, and those in the offstream have not made it easy to know which of their offerings are meritorious for whom. I'm not pointing the finger - noone can blame independants for being disorganised - if they were organised, they wouldn't be the independants. But you see the problem. I don't like pop music, but finding good music is so much work. Solution? I'm finding every single old Depeche Mode and Collective Soul album I missed back in their heydays. When I run out of old music I like, I'll just stop listening. I've alraedy resorted to that for a while.

Not intelligence, time and patience (4, Interesting)

dnoyeb (547705) | about 10 years ago | (#8703987)

I ushered a wedding this weekend. People could sit wherever they wanted. So i started by offering people to sit anywhere, but they just looked like a deer in the headlights. Finally I just started telling them to "follow me" and to "sit there." They were much happier.

Most people are not dumb, they just don't want to be bothered. I happen to be one of them.

Those who do wan't to be bothered will speak up anyway.

Something is broken here. (0, Offtopic)

Organized Konfusion (700770) | about 10 years ago | (#8703764)

Read more link goes to some site, and on this page my userinfo box is aligned to the left. wtf

Re:Something is broken here. (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703827)

Missing end quote in the referance link from Stephan...

Freedom of Choice (5, Insightful)

The Queen (56621) | about 10 years ago | (#8703770)

is what you got...

Freedom From Choice
Is what you want.

(Are we not men?)

Re:Freedom of Choice (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8704064)

"Too much choice" has no bearing on why Linux hasn't taken over desktop/joe user computers.

Too many choices?? Hardly (0, Troll)

Russ Nelson (33911) | about 10 years ago | (#8703779)

This is bullshit. Anybody who complains about having too many good choices has never been in the position of having only bad choices. It's not that the poor don't have choices. After all, poor people in India have many choices. They could walk around all night, they could steal a piece of cardboard under which they sleep, they could steal some other poor person's piece of cardboard, they could sleep under a car, they could lie down on a bit of earth devoid of any padding at all, they could commit a crime and go to jail, etc etc etc. Many choices. All of them STINK. I have no sympathy for people who have so many good choices that they have trouble choosing just one. None.

Unfortunaely, in a wealthy society like America, even stupid people get to be rich.

Re:Too many choices?? Hardly (5, Informative)

NineNine (235196) | about 10 years ago | (#8703848)

But the thing is that with Linux, you can always back out to Windows, which in this day and age, is just a fine choice. So if I'm gonna install Linux, then be presented with 13 web browsers, 3 desktops, and 5 office suites, I'm much more likely to throw up my hands and say "fuck it" and re-install windows, then to try to deciper everything in Linux. Each distro should just pick out the best, and leave it at that. Not only do I not need a dozen web browsers, I don't *want* a dozen web browsers. This makes total sense.

I run a retail store. I have a large number of products that cover one particular need. Without help, customers just get overwhelmed and leave. We have to ask them what they need, and help them make a decision. Same thing with Linux, except that there's no help. You install a distro, get 1000's of programs, 95% which are useless to the user, and they get overwhelmed and bail.

Unless some expertise is offered (ie: each distro picks ONE office suite, ONE browser, ONE desktop, etc.), it's just too much to deal with, and completely unnecessary.

Re:Too many choices?? Hardly (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | about 10 years ago | (#8703907)

You install a Fedora Core, you get one browser, one desktop, and one office suite. Sweet!
-russ

Re:Too many choices?? Hardly (1)

NineNine (235196) | about 10 years ago | (#8703972)

That's definitely good to know. If I want more, I can install more. Sounds like one worth trying.

Re:Too many choices?? Hardly (4, Informative)

Incoherent07 (695470) | about 10 years ago | (#8703962)

I agree. And even if each distribution picks, say, 1 standard software package to put in an "average Joe" version, you still have to pick a distribution, which isn't exactly the most straightforward choice when there really isn't any means of comparison (everything's so customizable that it really doesn't matter a whole lot, but it looks like it does).

The reason the average person doesn't switch to Linux is a lot like the reason the average person doesn't build their own computer; not because it's hard, but because it gives you too many choices (hard drive, motherboard, processor, case, etc.), and most people would rather just pick up a box that they can plug in and use.

Re:Too many choices?? Hardly (3, Insightful)

lambent (234167) | about 10 years ago | (#8704020)

That sounds like fascism, to me.

Consider: how many manufacturers and models of cars do we have? Consumer electronics? Colours and styles of paint?

When you go to the grocery, do you ask for 'meat', or do you specify species and cut?

You can feel free to live in your one size fits all soylent world. Go to your car dealership, and say like a simpleton, "I WANT A CAR". I'm sure they'll be happy to oblige you, and fill you out with a nice payment plan that suits your needs without you even having to read the fine print.

Re:Too many choices?? Hardly (4, Funny)

RPoet (20693) | about 10 years ago | (#8704083)

When you go to the grocery, do you ask for 'meat', or do you specify species and cut?

What the hell is this "meat"? Just give me a store full of gray boxes labelled "Food", damnit!

Nice Troll (4, Insightful)

Azureflare (645778) | about 10 years ago | (#8704090)

What the hell are you talking about?

Thousands of programs? 95% of which are useless?

13 web browsers? 3 desktops? What Linux Distribution are you using?

Come on man, have you tried some modern distros oriented towards the new user? (I.e. Mandrake 9.2/10, SuSE)? They give you a default desktop. In mandrake's case, that is KDE. They give you one browser (Konqueror). One email client (kmail). The alternative apps are buried in menus, but those apps are NOT immediately viewable to the user.

Most modern distros do a very good job of eliminating excessive choice for the new user. Mandrake is the easiest, and you should be using it if you are a linux newb.

Re:Too many choices?? Hardly (1)

Karem Lore (649920) | about 10 years ago | (#8704099)

I bet you run a HI-FI store full of different HI-FI's and when someone comes in and asks for a machine that plays music you walk him over to the DC6600 model with THX surround sound, 7 speaker dooper wooper when all he wanted was a walkman... Yes sir, but you can't have the quality that you desire, nor have the different functionalites that this DC6600 offers (not mentioning that to understand it would require a degree in acoustic engineering and a firm grasp of Japanese for the manual)...:D

Re:Too many choices?? Hardly (3, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | about 10 years ago | (#8703953)

Unfortunaely, in a wealthy society like America, even stupid people get to be rich.

Unfortunately.. it's usually the rule that stupid people get to be rich.

The gaining of wealth has nothing to do what what and how much you know.

it has everything to do with who you know, your sales ability or your ability to talk people out of their money for what you are offering..

very very few brilliant scientists or engineers are rich... it's tipically the businessmen and those good at selling that are.

and these people usually are pretty darn dumb when it comes to anything outside selling to persuading people...

Case in point... the Mercedes owner that needs the gas station attendant to explain and or show him how to use the gas pump, or the rich people that almost fall to pieces when the power in their area goes out for 3-4 hours and they do not know what to do and cannot fend for themselves without a microwave oven or resturant. (No joking, it happened here during the big blackout and we had interviews on tv from soccer mom's that could not figure out how to get food for their families when the power was out. one even complained.. "you cant even open a can of food!")

Re:Too many choices?? Hardly (3, Interesting)

sleepnmojo (658421) | about 10 years ago | (#8703964)

Having choices is fine, but when we have to many that is where we have a problem. Look at cable tv, or satellite. Do we really need 700,000 channels? Having to choose between 20 different products is difficult. Why do you think everyone just goes with MS? It is a universal product. No one *really* likes it, but everyone uses it.

I concur (1)

Lysol (11150) | about 10 years ago | (#8704044)

In my view, the good doctor is only part right. Sure, maybe for those who don't want to, don't have the time to, or just plain aren't interested in choice, sure, no choice is great. One operating system, one people - yah that's fine for them.

However, for myself, I've stuck with the Unices because I'm interested in them. And in fact, you can make a much bigger argument for this whole thing when you look back any any significant discovery or invention in history. Some people struggle out of ideology to make things and others accidentally cause things to happen out of sheer curosity.

It's fine for the doc to have an opinion on this. And he very well can because we live in a society (somewhat) tolerant of many views and ideas. You take these away, and society will just die - there will be no point.

I mean, this was part of what the whole Matrix was about - control and choice. Some don't mind being controlled - fine, no problem. But don't take away choice for everyone, including those that might actually use it. Otherwise, your back to just a few (who probably themselves won't even care at all at some point) making decisions which, many historical lessons show, is usually a bad thing.

Choice. Good.
No choice. Bad.

Re:Too many choices?? Hardly (4, Interesting)

Chess_the_cat (653159) | about 10 years ago | (#8704093)

There are too many choices. If Linux wants to make it on the desktop they need to orient Linux in such a way that there are two choices: Windows and Linux. The problem right now is the choices are Windows and Adamantix, ADIOS, AGNULA,Aleader,AL-AMLUG,ALT,Ankur Bangla,Arabbix,Arch,Ares,Ark,ASLinux,ASP,Astaro,Au gustux,Aurora,Aurox,AUSTRUMI,Ayrsoft,Bayanihan,Bea rOps,BEERnix,Berry,Biadix,Bioknoppix,blackPanther, BlackRhino,BLAG,Blin,Bluewall,Bonzai,Boten,BrlSpea k,Buffalo,Burapha,ByzantineOS,Caixa Magica,cAos,CDlinux,Censornet,Chinese 2000,ClarkConnect,CLE,clusterKNOPPIX,Cobind,Colleg e,Componentized,Condorux,Conectiva,Cool,Core,Cosix ,CPUBuilders,CRUX,Damn Small,Danix,Debian,Deep-Water, Defender,Definity,DeLi,DemoLinux,Devil,Drinou,dyne :bolic,Eagle,eduKnoppix,EduLinux,eLearnix,ELX,EnGa rde,ESware,Euronode,EvilEntity,Feather,Fedora,FIRE ,Flonix,Freeduc,Freepia,GeeXboX,Gelecek,Gentoo,Gen toox,Gibraltar Gnoppix,GNUstep,gnuLinEx,GoboLinux,Guadalinex,Haki n9,Hancom,Happy Mac,Haydar,HispaFuentes,Holon,Icepack,IDMS,Ignalum ,Impi,INSERT,IPCop,JoLinux,Jollix,JUSIX,K12LTSP,Ka lango,KANOTIX,Kinneret,kmLinux,knopILS Knoppix,KnoppiXMAME,Knoppix STD,KnoppMyth,KRUD,Kurumin,L.A.S,LBA-Linux,LFS,LGI S,Libranet,LIIS,LindowsOS,Lineox,Linpus,LinuxConso le,Linuxin,LinuxTLE,Linux XP,Litrix,LiveCD Router,Livux,LNX-BBC,Lonix,Lorma Luinux,Lunar,Lycoris,Magic,Mandows,Mandrake,Media Lab,Medialinux,MEPIS,MIKO GNYO,Miracle,MIZI,Morphix,MoviX,MSC.Linux,MUMi,Mur ix,Nasgaia,Netwosix,NordisKnoppix,NuxOne,OGo Knoppix,O-Net,OEone,Omoikane Onebase,OpenDesktop,OpenNA,OpenSLS,Openwall,Oralux ,Overclockix,PCLinuxOS,Peanut,Penguin Sleuth,Pequelin,Phayoune,PHLAK,PHP Sol,Pingwinek,Plamo,Plan-B,PLD,Polar Bear,Puppy,QiLinux,Quantian,Red Flag,Red Hat,ROCK,ROOT,RPM Live,Rubyx,RUNT,SCI.Linux,Securepoint,SENTINIX,Sen try Firewall,Shabdix,Shark,Skolelinux,Slackintosh,Slac kware,Slavix,SLAX,,Slix,SME Server,SmoothWall,SoL,Sorcerer,Source Mage,Soyombo,stresslinux STUX,SULIX,Sun JDS,SUSE,SystemRescue,TA,Tao,Tech,TFM,Thiz,Tilix,T PM,Trustix,TupiServer,Turbolinux,UHU-Linux,uOS,Use rLinux,Vector,Vine,ViruX,vnlinuxCD,Voodoo,White Box,WinBi,WOMP!,WOW,X-evian,Xandros,Xteam,Yellow Dog,Yoper,YourESale,ZENIX,Zeus,and Zopix.

Every fork, every distro is one more nail in Linux's chances on the desktop. Linux is divinding and conquering itself. Pick a distro. Name it the One True Linux. Promote the hell out of it. Then you'll see results.

Am I the first (0)

fewnorms (630720) | about 10 years ago | (#8703780)

to think of "May the Schwartz be with you!" when I read that name? :)

Re:Am I the first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703966)

> Am I the first to think of "May the Schwartz be with you!" when I read that name? :)

Don't have many Jews in your neck of the woods, do you?

That's like saying 'heh heh his name is Smith. heh heh just like in The Matrix'.

Three Links?! (5, Funny)

IronTek (153138) | about 10 years ago | (#8703783)

This would have been an informed post, but there was a link to a video of the guy discussing the paradox of choice, a link to the article about the book, and a link to an interview with the guy in the video who wrote the book that the article was about... ...so I couldn't decide.

Sounds like Commie Propaganda (0, Flamebait)

ThomasFlip (669988) | about 10 years ago | (#8703787)

I for one would like a many choices thankyou.

Re:Sounds like Commie Propaganda (5, Insightful)

Russ Nelson (33911) | about 10 years ago | (#8703840)

It's not about the number of choices. It's about the quality of them. Even the poorest schmuck has plenty of choices. It's just that they all suck.
-russ

Re:Sounds like Commie Propaganda (1)

Afty0r (263037) | about 10 years ago | (#8704000)

It most certainly is about choices.

Reducing the number of potential choices available to someone makes them more likely to make a choice

If you present someone with a large number of choices, they immediately perceive that as requiring a large amount of work on their part in order to discern which choice they "should" take. They may choose instead to not make a choice at all.

At some point they will encounter a website/system/shop/application that presents them with fewer choices, and if they should choose one, they will then stick with that particular supplier/provider until something very significant happens to make them reconsider.

The secret is not to simply to reduce the number of choices though, it is to offer someone only the most compelling choices, and only allow them to see other choices if they explicitly desire to do so. One can further help (or mitigate the effect of a large number of choices) by providing guidance alongside the choices - though this guidance needs to be instantly digestible, requiring little to no effort.

Wonder how long it would take to port to NetBSD (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703790)

*p_e_n_i_s_b_i_r_d_p_e_n_i_s_b_i_r_d_*
p______...___________________________p
e____(_..__`'-.,--,__________________e
n_____'-._'-.__`\a\\_________________n
i_________'.___.'_(|_________________i
s____________7____||_________________s
b___________/___.'_|_________________b
i__________/_.-'__,J_________________i
r_________/_________\________________r
d________||___/______;_______________d
*________||__|_______|_______________*
p________`\__\_______|__/__''\_______p
e__________'._\______/.-`____{}|_____e
n___________/\_`;_.-'_________/______n
i___________\_;(((____.--'\_/________i
s_________.(((_____.-;\______________s
b____.--'`_____,;`'.'-;\_____________b
i_taco's____.'____'._.'\\____________i
r_dick_--'_________|__\_|____________r
d__________________\_\,_/____________d
*p_e_n_i_s_b_i_r_d_p_e_n_i_s_b_i_r_d_*
Perhaps the crime most feared and most under reported is that of male on male rape, says Rob Malda in his new book Male on Male Rape: The CmdrTaco syndrome.

Like most efforts in the incipient victim's rights movement, the book and CmdrTaco's own career as coordinator of Slashdot's Rape Education and Prevention Program got their genesis in someone's own victimization and transformation as a male rape survivor. For CmdrTaco, the events leading up to and surrounding his and many other male rapes are rooted in homosexuality--the sexuality of choice for Slashdot authors.

It started for CmdrTaco in the fall of 1989 when he and his friend Hemos began their sophomore year at the Slashdot school for the sexually impaired, sharing a dormitory room at Bradly Hall and serving as President and Vice President of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance.

As campus gay leaders they raised questions and initiated dialogue on issues about which many men on the campus felt uncomfortable, including all the men on the third floor of Bradly Hall. As a result, they received anal penetrations, reach arounds, offers to write for Slashdot, and a daily dirty sanchez from the other men on their floor. To escape the hostility, Hemos headed home for the weekend and CmdrTaco visited a gay bar. CmdrTaco meets a man there who hours later would in CmdrTaco's dormitory room would rape him. He describes dramatically how he could not call for help because he loved it too much.

"A culture that encourages and condones sexual violence wielded as a tool for the control and subordination of those with less power in our society." Basically, CmdrTaco states that he, and other flaming homosexuals use male rape as the leverage to gain control of Slashdot's readers. Slashdot has always been pro-gay, but CmdrTaco has turned the once "queers are people to" website into a man-sauce guzzling festival of uninvited anal penetration and reach arounds.

What we actually know about male rape is very little. It is, as JonKatz describes it, "something like a stack of delicious, shit crusted pancakes that I can't wait to stick my tongue into!"

His is not the first book on the subject however. Cowboy Neal, also of Slashdot fame wrote the first book in 1990, Male Rape: Breaking the Silence on my Favorite Pastime.

CmdrTaco though traverses the 20 studies that have been conducted in the past 30 years. These are the only studies that have examined the issue in a non-institutionalized setting, such as Slashdot. Here is what we do know, from the shards of information CmdrTaco expertly and exclusively narrates.

* Male rapes constitute about five to 10 percent of all rapes.

* Male rapes account for 100% of all rapes in the Slashdot community.

* Most perpetrators self-identify as "uber geeks".

* Most offenders refer to themselves as a "CmdrTaco."

* Most offenders are Slashdot readers.

* Most offenders rape out of lust or passion or sexual desire.

* Most victims state that they are only trying to "root" a victim's "box."

* When documented at all, Slashdot authors had no preference to heterosexual or homosexual victims.

* Slashdot authors referred to these pack or gang rapings as "lan parties.".

* Stigma and shame are common responses from male rape victims.

* This is followed by the victim's interest in the Linux operating system.

* Contemplation of suicide is fairly common among male rape survivors.

* The most common form of post-male raping suicide attempts is forcing a huge member into the already violated "purple carnation" (Slashdot lingo for a penetrated anus).

should i post (3, Funny)

QEDog (610238) | about 10 years ago | (#8703791)

Should I post in this story or in the other stories? What to do? what to do? argh! I'm going crazy!!!

Scientific American Article (4, Informative)

-Surak- (31268) | about 10 years ago | (#8703795)

Looks like link this was going to be included in the article, but something got messed up. Sciam digital subscription required for the full article, unfortunately...

Scientific American: The Tyranny of Choice [ PSYCHOLOGY ] [sciam.com]
Logic suggests that having options allows people
to select precisely what makes them happiest. But, as studies show, abundant choice often makes for misery

Too much choice? (2, Funny)

Chris_Stankowitz (612232) | about 10 years ago | (#8703799)

Thats like saying ther is such a thing as getting laid too much.

Linux (and Pizza) is like a Blowjob, no matter how bad it is, its still pretty good!

Re:Too much choice? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703851)

Only on slashdot would someone compare linux to a blowjob.

Get a life!

Re:Too much choice? (4, Funny)

2nd Post! (213333) | about 10 years ago | (#8703874)

And what, Macs are like getting laid? What does that make Microsoft?

Re:Too much choice? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703965)

No, no... Macs get you laid. With Microsoft, you're simply fucked.

Re:Too much choice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8704031)

Like being taken as the "special friend" of a fellow prisoner.

Re:Too much choice? (1)

CaptainBaz (621098) | about 10 years ago | (#8703875)

I respectfully disagree - all three can be bad.

Think Mandrake, Anchovies, and um... teeth :-)

Re:Too much choice? (1)

corbettw (214229) | about 10 years ago | (#8703991)

Linux (and Pizza) is like a Blowjob, no matter how bad it is, its still pretty good!

You've apparently never gotten a blowjob from my ex-girlfriend.

Re:Too much choice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8704104)

Q: What's the difference between a dirigible and 365 blowjobs?

A: One's a Goodyear; the other is just a blimp.

pikachu! i choose you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703803)

seriously, choice is bad?

Linux is powerful because of choices!
I really dont care if linux makes it on the desktop or not. I bet the devleopers dont either. Heh, well the ones doing it because they like to!

oh well, i like choice.

So why not do both? (5, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 10 years ago | (#8703805)

Last Monday, Miguel de Icaza (at Novell's BRainshare here in Salt Lake City) mentioned Novell's push for the Linux desktop, and covered a lot of the same ground, but he presented it quite intelligently...

You can have a simple desktop that Joe Sixpack can play with, and at the same time set up a dialogue that allows the tweaker in some of us to have free reign over what each little widget and bit of desktop does.

I just don't get why it has to be such an "either or" choice here...

Re:So why not do both? (1)

back_pages (600753) | about 10 years ago | (#8703933)

I feel so justified. I was talking about this long ago. I think for (any distribution of) Linux to be really successful on the desktop market, they'll need to deliver at least two versions of the product. This can be chosen at installation time or literally be different products, but desktop success NEEDS to have a wizard/automatic driven desktop for people who just want the thing to work, and linux NEEDS to have the geeky engine exposed to be accepted by the experts.

The company that does this well and gets their product on machines will have a significant lead in becoming the dominant linux on the desktop and, I believe, will be well on the way to taking profits right out of Microsoft's hands.

Re:So why not do both? (1)

.nuno (153038) | about 10 years ago | (#8704081)

In the context of "Productivity Desktop", this is being done already for some time. About a year ago we had to provide one of our customers with a dumbed- and stripped-down version of RedHat 9 using KDE's restriction-ability (where you can customize and lock-down menus, applications, whatever) and where users only had *exactly* what they needed.

Of course, this is not so easily done for Uncle Joe, whose requirements include "getting to that pr0n site Li'l Mark is always talking about" and "do stuff". But it's a start...

Re:So why not do both? (2, Insightful)

back_pages (600753) | about 10 years ago | (#8704001)

As for the "either/or" mentality, I guess it doesn't matter much. The important thing, I think, is to draw a line and decide which is part of the "easy to use" desktop and which is part of the "experts only" desktop. Then you can support one or the other without telling Grandma to open up her config file in vi and edit the daemon options to support more client connections.

There are plenty of "easy to use" packages for linux, but having 10 easy to use programs with 30 hard to use programs makes for a desktop that's hard to use. Even if it's 50/50, it's a desktop that's hard to use. If you make it an "either/or" choice, then some people can have a fully easy to use desktop but you still get to sell the complete linux clockworks.

I really don't see a way to give both at the same time without frustrating the hell out of both the expert and the novice.

"Thanks to Stefan Hudson for a" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703806)

For a what?! Sure, people don't usually read the articlesss, or the summaries, but now we're not even bothering to finish writing them?

dr Bill (0)

melendil (766114) | about 10 years ago | (#8703812)

So MS cares for our health, I have never thought about it in this way. One system, one browser, one Bill to rule us all! For our mental good of course...

All Will Be Assimilated (0, Troll)

23skiddoo (31460) | about 10 years ago | (#8703814)

Of course, I haven't read the article, but I'd rather have choices than Big Brother Bill spoon-feeding me what He thinks I need!

annoying... (5, Funny)

spangineer (764167) | about 10 years ago | (#8703815)

Tons of choices can be annoying - going to a restaurant and being forced to select from a huge list of foods can be overwhelming. Usually, all I end up doing is finding one thing I like and then ordering that all the time, without checking out other stuff. It's too much of a hassle to try out every choice that exists in the world.

Then again, if we didn't have as many choices, I might not be able to find one thing I like in the first place, and thus probably wouldn't go back to eat there - I'll choose to go somewhere else.

But if that choice was taken away, I'd have to eat something I didn't particularly like, which never killed anyone.

Morale of the story? Having too many choices is the real reason I'm a picky eater.

Re:annoying... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703996)

No sir, your fear of making "bad" choice is the reason that you are a picky eater. Let's be honest about it.

Re:annoying... (1)

laklare (204915) | about 10 years ago | (#8704071)

Eating out is a lot easier when you're vegan. Just scan the menu for the one or two things you can eat and you're done! Works for me.

Wow... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703817)

Somebody really fubared their links...

But anyway, I know I enjoy my choices. I can choose linux or windows. I much prefer choice to no choice. Does anyone really believe that we are better off when we can't make decisions for ourselves?

Sure, it might be nice to be a little drone in the big hive... You don't have to put any effort into thinking for yourself, or expanding your mind, since the hive could really care less about your individuality. In fact, indivduality is discouraged.

I dunno, I think linux allows us to express our individuality through choice (i.e. we can choose numerous desktops/themes/applications and customize them to our taste). Right now I'm enamoured with XFce.

Isn't Choice something that comes along with Freedom? Without Choice, we wouldn't notice if we no longer had freedom...

Apple saw this problem during the 90s (5, Informative)

toupsie (88295) | about 10 years ago | (#8703819)

Apple used to have a massive product line with dizzying list of model numbers. Not only did it confuse customers but it also brought down quality and delayed shipping of many of the models. Now you can just buy a notebook (iBook and PowerBook) and a desktop (eMac, iMac & PowerMac) from Apple. Sure you can supe up the basic model they sell but you are still buying a standardized item.

Re:Apple saw this problem during the 90s (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703937)

This is not really the same thing. Apple offering too many choices isn't the problem. Even with Apple offering only one or two models, the consumer still has the option of buying a PC, or even a box loaded with linux.

Getting it wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703820)

Linux on the desktop? Other industries seem to cope fine with a lot of alternatives, except the software one. The finger of blame is laid firmly on Microsoft and their illegal practises. When they start buying laws to make Linux illegal (like the DMCA and more draconian software restrictions), then their monopoly will be firmly cemented.

Freedom is wrong? People is lazy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703821)

"Here's a video interview with Dr. Schwartz"

And here is a slashdot back. Why do you insist of having videos on the frontpage of /.? Nobody will be able to see them anyway.

Now, freedom can never be wrong - ever. If people can't cope with it, then it is the people who are in error, not the freedom to be able to choose.

I reserve the right (1)

Karem Lore (649920) | about 10 years ago | (#8703829)

I reserve the right to choose between a world of choice and a world of no choice. Hence the choosing is a choice in itself. Hence there is no such thing as no choice...

Nothing new (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703846)

The observations are a direct consequence of a well known usability heuristic called Hick's Law [usabilityfirst.com] . Hick's Law states (roughly) that the time an individual requires to make a decision increases with the number of alternatives available.

Good Title (4, Interesting)

Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) | about 10 years ago | (#8703850)

The Paradox of Choice
From the title, I thought this was going to be a deep mathematical or philosophical piece that I would have to give a lot of thought to.

I do agree with concept that we have too much choice in our society, or rather, we are deep in information overload. Too much choice is not a problem if you can quickly whittle down what you want and what you don't want. The problem is when the choices become confusing and ambiguous - and I think that has happened for the average individual. For instance, go into an applience store and say you want a tv, then hold on to your butts, because you're going to be there for a while. Then pretend you didn't know what all the fancy jargon stuff means (like the average consumer). If that wasn't bad enough, I think marketers actually inflate the problem on purpose, making it seem that there is more choice than there actually is - since that boosts the chances that a consumer will buy your product.

Re:Good Title (0)

pytsun (765818) | about 10 years ago | (#8703891)

"Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Dirac, Faraday, Planck, Kelvin, Maxwell and Einstein believed in God. So do I."

Then Gagarin went to space and said "...but, I cannot see God"

It makes me think of a saying I heard somewhere... (2, Interesting)

TEMMiNK (699173) | about 10 years ago | (#8703865)

"Too many choices, not enough voices" which I interpreted as too many people willing to settle for the norm and not enough people who will demand more, go out on a limb and challenge the status quo, which I think is the main reason that microsoft has its hold.

She's Right (0)

YAJoe (740850) | about 10 years ago | (#8703867)

She's right. Linux is bad for us. Big Brother is good for us. And I also have a PhD and publish BS.

LotD (0, Troll)

Karem Lore (649920) | about 10 years ago | (#8703869)

Linus on the Desktop...A problem? Really? It's not like we haven't used something worse for years...What about Windows 3.0 and 3.1 and 3.11 et al...My god, if people consider Linux not ready for a desktop then they should look back and see what they were using...then look at what they got now...then realise that the only real difference is what Linux has been doing all along...

Re:LotD (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8704046)

Linus on the Desktop...A problem?

If Linus was sitting on my desktop, it would be pretty hard for me to work.

Choice is good... for now (5, Insightful)

ajs (35943) | about 10 years ago | (#8703887)

Choice is a fine thing for now. Most of the world is still being introduced to desktop computing. It is not yet time to select the best technologies for any given application because we don't understand the application well enough yet.

Even something as "basic" as word processing has changed radically in the last 10 years as a wider variety of people have gained access to computers. The "outliers" in the sample set have, in some cases, become the majority of users.

Open source OSes are especially subject to this. Our systems are designed by those who have a combination of real-world-need and ability to implement. As time goes on that will be a broader and broader segment, and others will be brought in to implement for those who have the need, but not the ability (certainly already happened in some areas).

Give computing 20 or so more years to find its feet and it will be time to make hard decisions, but for now I think choice is a good thing.

Now, moving on to the officeplace (which is where most people think of desktop computing in terms of adoption strategies), I think it's key that OS vendors such as Red Hat, Mandrakesoft, SuSE/Novell and others produce a desktop with clear defaults and clear ways for admins to limit choices. This is important for large scale systems admin where you are maintaining 2,000 systems on people's desks. You need some uniformity in order to scale that support reasonably. This does NOT meant that choice should not be available, but that it should be available to the admins who install the systems and the system should behave well once those choices are made.

I think Red Hat and Mandrake do a decent job here. I'm not as familliar with SuSE, so I can't say. But, that is clearly one of the jobs of a vendor: to establish best practices and ease compatibility.

You can give people choices ... (2, Insightful)

burgburgburg (574866) | about 10 years ago | (#8703900)

while not forcing them to constantly make them. Having a simple, functional default desktop but with the adaptability/personalization we've come to expect is the best way. For those willing/desiring to modify, their options are open. For those who have better things to do (like work), the default is there for them.

Just a problem for the weak minded (-1, Flamebait)

tjstork (137384) | about 10 years ago | (#8703911)


I think choice is awesome. People that can't handle it should not have the right to hold back those who can.

Summery for those who can't choose a link (4, Funny)

Joe Tie. (567096) | about 10 years ago | (#8703946)

Q: Choice is bad? A: Yes Q: Can anyone understand the issues? A: Think of how many letters there are in one word. Now multiply that by how many words are in a page, and then the book. Then by how many books there are. That's so much information! You shouldn't even try. Q: I like choice A: No you don't. You'd be happier if you didn't have them. Q: No, really, I like choice A: Well, here's some proof for you. People with cancer like having doctors treat them instead of creating their own chemo routines. Do you think you're better than people with cancer or something! THE END

It's a standard part of the evolutionary curve (4, Insightful)

heironymouscoward (683461) | about 10 years ago | (#8703954)

There's only a lot of choice in areas where there is still a lot of experimentation into the possible solutions. In areas where a suitable and economic solution has been found, choice is really rather limited.

It's a standard aspect of evolution: early forms show extraordinary variation and complexity; as time goes on the simplest and most economical solutions get standardized and the bizarre varieties get killed off.

The same happens in technology, which is why we converge on mature standards such as TCP/IP and (dare I say it) Linux.

It's just like... (4, Funny)

stateofmind (756903) | about 10 years ago | (#8703990)

It's just like when I'm trying to find some good porn, I've overwhelmed!

So many fetishes, so little kleenex.

Josh

This just in! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8703999)

Psychology professor Barry "FUD" Schwartz receives $50 million from a mysterious donor...

With MS there is no choice at all. (3, Interesting)

Perl-Pusher (555592) | about 10 years ago | (#8704002)

I can concede that 50+ operating systems with no data exchange compatibility would be a bad thing. But that is not the same as having no choice at all. The old Soviet Union had one choice state owned monopolies. Look where it got them. The addition of choice becomes less of a problem when they all follow standards. Take a look at cars, they all have a steering wheel, brakes, etc. They all use similiar motor oil, the same gas etc. Having a choice in cars is good. Being locked into one supplier or manufacturer is bad. It's the same with computers. Open standards, choice, competition spurring innovation, all good things. One supplier, added features and imcompatibilties just to force an upgrade and maintain monopoly, bad!

Remember... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8704011)

When its hot outside and your hemmoroids are even hotter,
just look to the cool relief of Preparation-H to get
you on your way.

The Blue Pill or the Red Pill... (0, Offtopic)

Dutchmaan (442553) | about 10 years ago | (#8704014)

See what choice gets you!

and look! even YOU get to choose whether this is insightful or funny or iformative or redundant or flamebait or troll or you could even choose not to moderate or respond in any way.. you can choose to post anonymously or as your slashdot id...!

You could click your another browser button right now you could just hold your breath until your pass out!

Only *you* can choose to prevent forest fires!...or CREATE them! Do you take the one ring or destroy it!

I choose to stop now..

Partially right - need classes. (3, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 10 years ago | (#8704015)

In many ways he is correct - with so many choices it takes a lot of work to figure out what is worth what.

The problem is made worse by the rapid improvement. Rules that apply last year do not apply this year.

But on the other side of that if the manufactures were not scum, that problem can easily be dealt with.

All it takes is a classification system, similar to what we do with cars.

People know what you mean when you say:

Compact

mini-van

jeep

SUV

sports-car

station waggon

What we need are some similar terms for the newer technologies to become more common.

We need categories like: game-system (high end video/audio), word-system (low-end MS word,Excel,presentationsm with low memory, low speed etc.), net-server (designed to host a web site or other network), etc. etc. to be come common terms that everyone knows and uses.

Devo pointed this out decades ago. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8704039)

Freedom from choice, it's what you want.
Mmm hmm. So this guy rips off Devo and I bet he doesn't even wear a flowerpot on his head not to mention you know he can't skate fer shit. I can't believe how people front these days.

Choices != decisions (5, Insightful)

heironymouscoward (683461) | about 10 years ago | (#8704041)

It's a common mistake to confuse choices with decisions. Decisions are what confuse and annoy people, not choices.

Some simple illustrations of this. Choice: "these are the desktop themes you can play with". Decision: "please choose a desktop theme to continue installation.

Choice: "tired of your wife? Here are ten more girls to choose from." Decision: "you gonna marry me or what?!"

Choice: "choose from fifty different fabric colors for your car interior". Decision: "what color interior do you want your next subway car to have?"

Basically a good designer maximises choice but minimizes the decisions needed to get started.

I believe the article has made the error of confusing the two.

Microsoft has it right? (no trolling intended) (2, Insightful)

OwlWhacker (758974) | about 10 years ago | (#8704049)

Which do you take, full freedom of choice or none whatsoever?

If you have the opportunity to choose from a great deal of options, you usually find that there are a few that are the best of the bunch, and the majority will go with those options.

This is especially true with software, except when you have a monopoly using anti-competitive practices in which to 'influence' or 'force' you to use a particular product.

Choice is good, it provides competition and allows people to decide which is best, rather than being forced to use something.

At least if choice is taken away from end-users, an elected body should decide what is or is not to be used. Decisions such as these should not be made by a monopoly. Anyway, isn't this attitude one that encourages monopolies? We all know what happens where there is no competition...

Choice is a Tightrope (1)

oscarm (184497) | about 10 years ago | (#8704050)

There is a definite tight rope that has to be walked particularly when we are trying to make a Linux Desktop more usable for your average computer user from the get go? Too much choice at the outset can be quite a challenge, how do you know whether to choose Galeon/Mozilla/Firefox/Epiphany/Konqueror when what you really care about is if you can connect to WWW right after installation.
Distributions that succeed on the desktop have to make a lot of these choices for novice users. The power of Linux, as opposed to what you get in the Windows world, is that you're not stuck with the choices your distribution makes for you. Once you get your feet wet and used to it, you can explore your options.
Plus, anyone who says that choice is a good thing has never been shoping for rings with their girlfriend.

Too much Freedom of choice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8704051)

Yeah,.. I love people thinking for me. Especially Microsoft,. Hell, why should I be permitted to think at all? I could have everything selected for me..

One number for you guy, "1984" ... I think ill deal with my options thanks. No matter how weary it is struggling over a menu at a restaurant trying to make a decision, I like the ability to make the right and wrong choices.

-caes

Don't worry your pretty little head (3, Insightful)

bperkins (12056) | about 10 years ago | (#8704055)

I saw this on a silly cable TV show and have been thinking a lot about it. Choice is nothing new, it's just that the types of choices we all have are changing. If you think about what career you should taken or where exactly you should live, the choices are absolutely staggering. These, for the most part aren't new developments, though more people have the ability to make a wider array of them.

What's interesting to me is that things that people have had to choose from for many number of years have special agents who specialize in making these choices; travel agents, real estate agents and career counselors. I expect that we'll see more and more of these agents in the future, though it's hard for me to imagine how a breakfast cereal agent would work exactly.

I understand that some people may feel overwhelmed by the breadth of choices presented to the average person, but it seems rather condescending to imply that you ought to give up your choices. The underlying attitude seems to be choice is bad for _you_, and I'll go ahead and keep reading the Economist and drinking my reserve cognac.

Concluding that choice is bad because it causes indecision is like concluding that the sun is bad because it causes sunburn.

After all, is freedom really slavery; ignorance, strength?

Psychology not science (1, Insightful)

Hao Wu (652581) | about 10 years ago | (#8704056)

This is why I hate Pyschologist call themself "scientist". They create artificial scoring schemes and contrive arbitrary tests and scales to fit with measurement they desire most, or to some degree.

"Hi. I'm an I.N.T.J. !!! (Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging)

Hi, I'm Hao Wu and I'm gonna kick your ass because I spend 10 hour a day doing real science using difficult equation and concentration factors that makes your B.S. appear highly unfit for publication....

Can I get an Amen?

strategy for dealing with choice (1)

dmh20002 (637819) | about 10 years ago | (#8704058)

all the psycho-babblists need to do is point out a strategy for dealing with choice. the bozo with problems picking bluejeans just needs to spend the time the first time to narrow down the choice and then stick with it and never think about it again.
order 'eddie bauer relaxed fit 40 x 34' every time and you don't have to have your fragile sense of well being hammered by the choices.
do that on everything that doesn't matter to you and only spend time on the stuff you care about, like computers and software.

Choice is only a problem (1)

CBravo (35450) | about 10 years ago | (#8704065)

If you don't know where you want to go. If you have a clear goal or a good gut feeling of what/where, choice is a bonus.

choice = democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8704070)

it's a blessing that we have multiple choices of course it gets complex but noone ever said that freedom was easily earned.

Well, this explains the dupe stories on Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#8704078)

The editors are overwhelmed with bad choices!

OS Winner by TKO (4, Insightful)

Mulletproof (513805) | about 10 years ago | (#8704087)

" Dr. Schwartz examines the problem of too much choice in our society. Maybe Microsoft has it right after all?"

Um, Microsoft being right or wrong doesn't really factor in here. It's the lack of effective competition that's creating a lack of choice. Apple OS has more or less limited themselves to their own platform, which is generally more expenisive than the average computer user is willing to pay, while Linux is still too obscure for the average user to screw around with. It's not that Windows is a spectacular product that by nature crushes all competition in it's path, it's the fact that what competition exists has been limiting itself in one form or another, giving MS free reign on the PC. As such, most products now cater to it, which makes it more popular.

Too much competition doesn't even begin to enter into the PC OS market, because there never has been that amount of competition. MS won by default, which has nothing to do with them being right or wrong.

its not too many, its no "good enough" problem (2, Insightful)

onebitcpu (682182) | about 10 years ago | (#8704100)

I read the article, which is about how people who will keep looking for something beyond the "good enough it works for me" stage are less happy with life in general not just linux. One lesson to be learned for linux desktop is that lots of people are happy with the "good enough" but linux isnt quite there yet, IMHO. I tried to switch my home system to mandrake 9.0 a while agin, and the "good enough" wasnt quite there yet. Yes, openoffice works, but cut/paste between that and the web browser didnt work. Reading files from my digital camera with usb took too much fiddling. The biggest PITA was that every single "top" cd burining software could not deal with the simple task of appending to a multi-session cd without lots of playing with switches etc. I read the manuals, checked the web, worked with parameters etc, and did get it working eventually. I still wound up giving it up, because getting it to do what I wanted was too hard - too much fiddling, where windows would just work. Its not the better/more features that is keeping linux off my desktop - I use it at work, and put cygwin on my pc because I cant live without ls and bash. I am comfortable with command-lines, but that doesnt mean I dont want the software to get the job done quick and easy like windows. Some people might want to buy a dvd player that lets you assemble and configure your own interfaces, but life is so much simpler if you can just open the box plug it in and watch the movie.
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