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Linux's Difficulty with Names

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the more-important-than-you-think dept.

Linux Business 946

JohnTyler writes "This article at XYZ Computing takes a look at Linux's strange naming practices. When compared to their Window's equivalents, the names of many Linux programs are difficult to recognize and even tougher to remember. This may seem like splitting hairs, but it is actually an important usability issue. Just think, if you had to do a bit of graphic design which would be easier to pick out of the menu, GIMP or Photoshop? Or if you wanted to play a song, Media Player or xine?" The article is a bit thin, but it raises an excellent point.

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Like most of the *NIX family . . . (5, Funny)

mmell (832646) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346148)

names are based on the assumption that nobody can touch-type.

ls, rm, df, du, etc . . . did any of the engineers at Bell Labs type 10-fingered?

Re:Like most of the *NIX family . . . (2, Informative)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346168)

Most commandline programs are like that in both *Nix and DOS/Windows. I believe we're dealing with desktop applications here.

Re:Like most of the *NIX family . . . (1)

mmell (832646) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346245)

Yeah, but unlike M$, there's usually a command-line invocation waiting for those of us who view the keyboard as a valid interface. I've seen quite a number of programs written for M$ Windows which won't run from a command-line . . . period - even when the Windows desktop is up and running (not necessarily M$'s fault - mostly, it's junk from lazy third-party programmers).

Yes, there are *NIX programs which require an X-terminal - GIMP, for example. GIMP is actually an acronym for what the program does, so should the desktop icon for it be named "Graphic Image Manipulation Program" (or whatever GIMP stands for)? I think I'll stick with "GIMP".

Names don't matter... (5, Insightful)

RevDobbs (313888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346227)

Names don't matter, it is all about training and then familiarity.

What's more intuitive, "Matt", or "Coffee Boy"?

Oh, and what does Exel and Outlook do? Does Outlook Express do it any faster?

As a technical discussion, names as handles to objects or ideas don't matter (excluding downright misleading names, like a boy named Sue): it gets down to user training. To write that "Whatever the reason, desktop Linux's usability is hindered by its naming practices" is just silly: in a work enviornment, users will use what they are trained on. At home, Grandma is going to use whatever will let her get her polaroids out of her new camera.

And Windows isn't particularly easy to use; rather, everybody has had some exposure to it.

As for your examples... once you know what they stand for ("list","remove","disk free", etc.), those commands are a hell of a lot quicker to type (and less prone to error) than spelling the words out.

Re:Like most of the *NIX family . . . (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346231)

You realize they had short names because every byte of storage was precious?

Re:Like most of the *NIX family . . . (1)

mmell (832646) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346272)

Okay, you busted me!

That said, I like the way *NIX handles it. As somebody elsewhere must've asked, "What's in a name?"

Re:Like most of the *NIX family . . . (1)

NutscrapeSucks (446616) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346298)

Acutally it's because they were using teletypes with crappy keyboards and very slow connections.

Re:Like most of the *NIX family . . . (2, Insightful)

belmolis (702863) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346255)

I don't know about that. I have been a touch-typist since I was 12 but I still alias the names of commonly used programs to a couple of letters. Even if you're a touch typist, it is faster to type two letters than more than two letters.

Re:Like most of the *NIX family . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346322)

Even if you're a touch typist, it is faster to type two letters than more than two letters.

Very insightful. Who would have thought.

Re:Like most of the *NIX family . . . (2, Informative)

BushCheney08 (917605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346257)

The goal was two-fold: typing efficiency and saving space (adding characters to the command name meant more resources were used - this was important back in the days when having a few kilobytes of RAM was a lot)

Re:Like most of the *NIX family . . . (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346324)

While saving RAM was a big deal when you only had 32k, its also true that noone was expecting people to type "lpr -q la120", they expect the system administrator to alias the word "print"to something similar. If the raw command was "print", then the aliased command would have to be something like "lpr"!

Anyway, if you want commands like "print -printer=la120" you should be using VMS.

here is a bit of education. (4, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346294)

Back in the 80's, we were on teletypes (tty) with greenbar and the fast modems where using 75-150 baud modems. While I coded in the 70,s it was on punchcards, but I do know that other system were using less than 75 baud modems. Basically, each letter came at a high cost both in paper and in bandwidth. So, the commands were kept small and simple.

Look, if it really bugs you, then create your own commands, perhaps with alias or symlinks. But to think that commands were done due to lack of typing is silly.

Re:Like most of the *NIX family . . . (2, Informative)

sconeu (64226) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346311)

Those were named back when you were using a 300 baud connection to a paper TTY.

You *WANTED* to save typing.

Re:Like most of the *NIX family . . . (5, Informative)

DigitalReverend (901909) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346349)

omg, and here I thought all slashdotters were geeks to some extent.

The *nix operating system was developed when the input/output device was a teletype. ( http://www.virtualaltair.com/virtualaltair.com/vac _88-tty.asp [virtualaltair.com] )

There was no backspace key, and you didn't see what command you typed in until AFTER you hit the enter key. So to keep things easy, you end up with 2 to 4 letter commands. ls, ed, df, dd, etc...

Hehe... (5, Funny)

setirw (854029) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346149)

But then again, you click the "Start Button" to shut down in Windows :)

Re:Hehe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346169)

Yeah LOL! That showed them!

Re:Hehe... (2, Informative)

mypalmike (454265) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346224)

> But then again, you click the "Start Button" to shut down in Windows :)

And in Gnome, you click some weird thing that looks vaguely like a foot with 4 toes, then "Programs"->"System"->"Gnome Terminal", bringing up a command line box, then type "shutdown -h now". Clearly more intuitive. ;)

Re:Hehe... (4, Informative)

Enigma_Man (756516) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346256)

I usually just click on "actions" -> "shutdown" to do that, your way works too though.

Re:Hehe... (1)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346286)

Actually, you click on "Actions", then "Shut down", then "restart", "log out", or "shut down". That's pretty damn straightforward.

Correction. (1)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346315)

It seems that it's "System" --> "Log out" now. Ah, well, it's been a while since I used Gnome.

Re:Hehe... (1)

gmack (197796) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346291)

Actually click the foot thing and then you click "Log Out". When the window popps up you click "Shut Down" then "OK".

REALLY! It's not THAT obtuse. (3, Interesting)

SynapseLapse (644398) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346263)

You click the Start button to START the Shutdown process.
I suppose if you know nothing about computers, it seems odd.

But it makes sense if you think about it.

Re:Hehe... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346359)

"But then again, you click the "Start Button" to shut down in Windows :)"

Not really, you can just click the IE button like 3 times.

FPFPFPFP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346154)

FPFPFPFp

fjooooo (-1, Troll)

alphaparadigm (306270) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346156)

BTW: Parent is Random NSFW Pr0n. (1)

SynapseLapse (644398) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346313)

You've been warned, since parent didn't.

Re:BTW: Parent is Random NSFW Pr0n. (1)

alphaparadigm (306270) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346340)

You always click random video links?

oh for fuck's sake (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346158)

*sigh*

Windows has problems too... (5, Insightful)

numLocked (801188) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346159)

This is really more of a software designer's issue than a strictly Linux one. As we speak, I am looking for my copy of Daemon Tools on my computer, but I can't find it because it's named in the start menu by the software's manufacturer, not the name of the program. This is the case for many windows apps and I view it as a similar problem.

Re:Windows has problems too... (2, Insightful)

nicholasjay (921044) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346244)

This because the manufacturer wants it this way. It gives them more brand recognition, so the next time you see something by that manufacturer, it will force you to think of your program. Note that it is also listed this way in the explorer window view.

Re:Windows has problems too... (1)

swv3752 (187722) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346318)

One of the examples was Gaim. Of course the creators say that Gaim stands for nothing to avoid lawsuits from AOL, but it stands for G(tk/nome/nu) AOL Instant Messenger.

The worst about Windows is the Publisher name is listed first sometimes. There is no rhyme or reason to the layout of the Windows' Start menu, and once the user starts adding his own programs it becomes a ridiculous mess.

In Linux with a smart Distro, things get organized in the Menu in a logical fashion. Start>System>Archiving>CD Burning>K3B for example. You may not agree with the exact placement but it is logical and some one can sit down and find an appropriate program very easily.

Similar problem with subject lines... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346161)

Microsoft?

"First Post!"

*nix?

FRIZZOST PIZZOIST! GNAA pWN$ j00!!

Windows' Difficulty with Names (5, Insightful)

JymBrittain (880082) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346162)

I suppose Outlook Express is the ideal name for an email client...as is Outlook. Acrobat is the perfect .pdf viewer or creator. Excel instantly draws to mind spreadsheets [now, but 20 years ago?]. I could go on, but why bother. The article is just more crap slinging between two apes vying for dominance.

Linux' Difficulty with Marketing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346212)

All of those apps have one thing that Linux apps don't. Marketing.

Re:Windows' Difficulty with Names (3, Insightful)

fishybell (516991) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346233)

It's not so much that they have names that aren't self documenting, it's that they have easily remembered names. The list they have shows Nero and WinAmp as popular windows.

I don't think the problem is with odd names (although sometimes they can be a bit obtuse), I think it's really just market share. If thunderbird was preinstalled on 100% of windows machines (like outlook express does), people would quickly learn to equate thunderbird to e-mail the same way they do with outlook. The same thing applies to gimp, xine, konquerer, etc.

Quick reference sheets do the trick (3, Informative)

suso (153703) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346166)

That's why you need a Linux command quick reference sheet:

http://www.suso.org/infosheets/ [suso.org]

And of course... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346170)

the article appeared at XYZ (!) Computing.

Re:And of course... (1)

wfs2mail.com (794623) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346216)

Beautiful!

Gimp and xine are rather shabby names (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346172)

I suggest GIMP be renamed "Baby Guts" and xine be renamed "Smuckers."

It's not bad really... (2, Insightful)

Enigma_Man (756516) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346176)

Most of the command-line stuff is just shortened abbreviations of things. You can also always just make a "shortcut" that's named whatever you want if you need arbitrary names for things. It doesn't really raise a good point at all, things have names made by the people who made them.

-Jesse

Linux Naming (3, Insightful)

codered82 (892990) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346179)

I realize there is tons of software out there for Windows, but *nix systems seem to have so much more that they have to resort to unique naming schemes to differentiate their products. You can only make so many iterations of the words "Media", "Writer", "Player", "Office", etc. Can it make things difficult for consumers? Sure, but I think it's a necessary evil.

Re:Linux Naming (1)

gclef (96311) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346250)

Yeah, but there's a difference between a necessary evil, and intentionally courting evil. Some of the OSS project names are clearly people trying to be cute. For example, "bacula" (" It comes by night and sucks the vital essence from your computers."), which is a backup util; or rancid (the "Really Awesome New Cisco confIg Differ"), a router/switch config backup system.

Don't get me wrong, I like and use both of those programs, but their names alone require a very...patient manager to approve them.

What a moron. (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346184)

"Photoshop" sounds like an application for buying photographs. The writer only knows it's a graphics editor because he has read or heard it somewhere. Contrary to a myth promoted by Microsoft and others, you simply can't use a computer without having to learn anything.

Also, FWIW, and unlike any version of Windows I've ever seen, the GNOME "start" menu breaks things down by category, so you can look in the "Graphics" or "Sound and Video" submenus if you have a general idea about what you're looking for. The last Windows I sat down in front of offered me an almost flat menu of two complete columns on a high-resolution screen, and since I rarely use Windows I didn't know what more than a handful of the applications were.

Worse, in those rare instances where things were put into sub-menus, you had to look under the vendor's name to find the product. So you not only had to know that "Photoshop" means "graphics editor", you also had to know that it's published by someone named "Adobe".

Idiot-level apologetics.

Re:What a moron. (1)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346320)

Also, FWIW, and unlike any version of Windows I've ever seen, the GNOME "start" menu breaks things down by category, so you can look in the "Graphics" or "Sound and Video" submenus if you have a general idea about what you're looking for.

KDE is the same. For example, I can open the menu, and go to "Graphics | Image Editor (The GIMP)", or "Internet | Instant Messenger (Kopete)".

Re:What a moron. (2, Insightful)

emtilt (618098) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346337)

Not really. "Shop" is used in the sense of 'workshop.' The average person wouldn't be shopping for photos on their computer, so the first logical thing to assue would be that it is a program for working on or editing photos. I agree with the rest of you post though. Windows does suffer from this problem as much as Linux. All too often you have to know the manufacturer's name. It would benefit Windows greatly if it broke things into categories. I do this myself on my Windows machines, but the average user just lets programs go to wherever they default.

Re:What a moron. (1)

Jaycatt (530986) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346341)

Worse, in those rare instances where things were put into sub-menus, you had to look under the vendor's name to find the product. So you not only had to know that "Photoshop" means "graphics editor", you also had to know that it's published by someone named "Adobe".

You hit the nail on the head with that one... I guess it's marketing, but I notice that everything I install first goes into a directory with the company name, and then puts the software in a accurately named directory under that. Trying to find it later proves almost impossible, especially for some of these game companies. It has to be marketing, right? Or do the manufacturers out there really expect me to buy so much of their other merchandise that it will be so handy to have it all grouped together?

These days, when I install something, I take out all the company name heirarchy and just start with the name of the software. I know all the names of the software that's on my system, but I'd never think to look under "Applied Software Technologies" for anything. Okay, that's my rant for the day :D

Re:What a moron. (2, Insightful)

Trolling4Columbine (679367) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346357)

There's the small matter of Photoshop costing several hundred dollars. I can't imagine somebody would purchase any piece of software, let alone one as expensive as Photoshop, without knowing what it does.

Your argument is more Devil's advocate than anything substance. You just can't bring yourself to admit that Linux isn't perfect.

GNU, not Linux! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346185)

These aren't Linux names, they're part of GNU. Linux is just the kernel.

Re:GNU, not Linux! (1)

wfs2mail.com (794623) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346251)

GNU? What's that? Is it Unix?

Re:GNU, not Linux! (1)

Ekarderif (941116) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346290)

GNU's Not Unix!

Linux names are fantastic (4, Funny)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346188)

touch...
mv...
finger..
touch..
mount...
mv...
finger...
unmount...
sleep...

Seriously, I agree. I think that is why I like giving SUSE to my friends/family. Telling my elder family to click on "Image Editor" is much easier than telling them to click on "GIMP."

Re:Linux names are fantastic (1)

dangerz (540904) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346258)

touch...
mv...
finger..
touch..
mount...
mv...
finger...
unmount...
sleep...

Sounds like the beginnings of an excellent night, my friend.

Re:Linux names are fantastic (4, Funny)

Kjella (173770) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346279)

touch...
mv...
finger..
touch..
mount...
mv...
finger...
unmount...
sleep...


I think you forgot to fsck. Then again, this is slashdot so I probably shouldn't be surprised...

File Extensions (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346191)

You know, I'd always thought of this in a similar way: file extensions.
If you look on the Mac, when it used extensions, they seemed to always make more sense than Windows extenions.
Here are some examples:
A movie file - Mac: .mov (by default), Windows .avi.
Sound file (older Macs) - .snd vs. .wav
Picture file - .pict vs. .bmp

Re:File Extensions (2, Interesting)

bored (40072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346319)

Yah good point, only since windows was originally running on DOS many of the good file name extensions were taken. For example '.MOV' was the RLE encoded movie format used by autocad, 3ds and others for the autoflix. '.SND' was the Tandy deskmate sound file. .pict was to long (8.3 format) and a number of the pxx formats were used by paint programs. '.PIC' has the following hits http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=DOS+.pic+ +format [google.com] . PCX was particularly popular.

Back then though all the mac people used to point to the file name extension in DOS/Windows as a bad practice and a reason why the mac was better (the filetype was hidden in the resource fork and tied to an application).

What do you want? (1)

chronicon (625367) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346193)

gPhotoshop?

Yeah, right, and get sued out of existence...

Hmm, or wonderful media exposure at least? Lindows --> MS Lawsuit Threats --> Media Exposure --> Changes Name to Linspire but reaps the rewards of all the attention...

Goes to show the old saying that any publicity is good publicity.

Re:What do you want? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346321)

Goes to show the old saying that any publicity is good publicity.

Only for a Media Player!

Re:What do you want? (1)

No2Gates (239823) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346325)


How about "Pictureshop"? Doesn't sound anything like Photoshop, but the name implies what it does.

This is easily fixed, and to some extent has been. (4, Informative)

Pantero Blanco (792776) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346198)

Most of these applications are listed as in the K-menu in the box I'm using are listed by function first. For example: Web Browser (Firefox) and Advanced Text Editor (Kate). That eliminates pretty much all the confusion there, doesn't it?

so true (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346201)

your mothers a snow blower

Holy Buckets! (1)

nicholasjay (921044) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346202)

The article is a bit thin, but it raises an excellent point.

Does this mean you actually RTFA?

Recognition vs decipherability? (2, Insightful)

redelm (54142) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346204)

There are two issues here: recognizing something known versus determining what something unkonwn is.

To someone who knows nothing, PhtoShop sounds like a place to buy/print photos. And Windows Medial Player sounds like a game of newpaper/TV congomerates :)

To the Unix cogniscenti, cp, du are nothing more than CoPy, Disk Usage, etc. It is a question of something learned.

Accualy its open soruce in genral (1)

Cyberglich (525256) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346206)

There are some great programers out there but they can use a cource in marketing when it comes to names. One example i use is Hamachi a great linux and windows VPN client but its named after a fish...

Only slightly true (2, Interesting)

ChaserPnk (183094) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346213)

This problem reminds me of the prescription medicine naming issue. There are only so many ways to say that a certain drug is for the heart. This is a huge problem and a cause of pharmacy medical mixups all over the world.

The same problem exists with software. Sure it would be nice if a photo editing app has the name Photo in it, but sooner or later you're going to run out of names. And this problem isn't limited to Linux--how exactly does "Excel" imply spreadsheet?

I will agree that Linux names are a bit on the wilder side and less professional sounding. But the problem isn't really as bad as it made it sound. What type of program the GIMP is can be indicated by its icon or where the user found it in the menu hierarchy.

Seriously, we need to devote more time to build software that does what it's meant to do well. I'm sure people will use a killer app if it was called "U Nasty" if it did what the users wanted.

Re:Only slightly true (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346293)

I'm sure people will use a killer app if it was called "U Nasty" if it did what the users wanted.

I'm sure you're wrong, because no PHB is seriously going to consider allowing the installation of a program called "U Nasty" on a stodgy corporate network. Convincing them to use "Firefox" is hard enough! It should be named "Internet Navigator Professional 2005."

Stupid stupid stupid -- category mistake (3, Informative)

gowen (141411) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346217)

acroread.exe and winword.exe are meaningless names, too; and yet thats what the Windows executable are called. The name of the file is an irrelevance. If the GIMP appears as 'gimp' instead of 'Image Editor' in the Desktop menus and icons, that's really is stupid, but it's fine to call the executable that.

up2date is a silly name, but as long as it appears in the menu as 'Add/Remove Programs', that's hardly relevant, is it?

who needs names when you have icons (1)

Brigadier (12956) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346220)



I'm sorry to break it to you but I don't use names to recognise programs. I use Icons. When using windows I almost always look for the icon, then to the word. Same thing applies, to Gnome, or OSX.

This problem reminds me of a problem had with different generations of CAD users. Old schoolers (me) know all the command line commands and love them. New users only recognise the icons.

Re:who needs names when you have icons (1)

ninja_assault_kitten (883141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346243)

I think they're talking about selecting an application before you install it...

Re:who needs names when you have icons (2, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346348)

Look at the icons for Firefox and Thunderbird. Guess what those programs do. The Thunderbird icon looks more like Edna Mode from The Incredibles than a bird. Downsizing the logo does not an icon make.

Only a few people do icon design well. Susan Kare [kare.com] , who did both the original Mac icons and the original Windows icons, is the best known. Take a good look at her work. For some modern icon designs, see Kare's icon family for Autodesk. [kare.com]

KIllustrator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346221)

Didn't somebody have to change the name of their project because it sounded too much like an existing product? I agree that naming is very important. Why does it have to be OpenOfficeDotOrg? I don't understand how M$ got the name Open Office shut down. Other products use the word office, example: WordPerfect Office.

Re:KIllustrator (2, Insightful)

generic-man (33649) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346309)

http://www.openoffice.org/FAQs/faq-other.html#4 [openoffice.org]

The trademark for "OpenOffice" belongs to someone else. Therefore we must use "OpenOffice.org" when referring to this open source project and its software.

It wasn't em-dollar-sign that forced the name change; it was "someone else." hope this helps.

On the other hand (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346223)

If you wanted to play a video, would it be easier to pick out RealPlayer or the Videolan Client? If you wanted to browse your personal directory, would it be easier to pick out C:\Documents and settings\username or /home/username? If you wanted to send/receive some email - Outlook Express or KMail? Hell, if you wanted to shut down your computer - Start->Shutdown or /sbin/poweroff?

See? It kinda swings both ways...

What problem? (2, Insightful)

rickbrodie (535715) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346225)

I may be missing the "usability" point here, but just how is this a big deal? I don't think it really makes that mush difference what the name is, as people pay much more attention to the position a link is in the menu and the icon rather than its actual name. Not to mention that once someone uses it once or twice, they very quickly learn exactly what it is and what it does.

Furthermore, I realise that this is aimed at people who have absolutely no experience in either computers in general and at least linux specifically, but a name like "xine" should not be an impediment to progress. For instance, any distro worth anything ought to be set up with some useful file associations. Most people play a movie or mp3 by clicking on /it/ rather than opening a player and then opening the file within it.

Slashdots difficulty with names (5, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346226)

"This article at XYZ Computing takes a look at Slashdot's strange naming practices. When compared to their Web 2.0's equivalents, the names of many Slashdot URLs are difficult to recognize and even tougher to say. This may seem like splitting hairs, but it is actually an important usability issue. Just think, if you had to do a bit of news which would be easier to tell your friend on the phone, digg.com slash technology or linux dot slash dot dot org slash, no not linux dot slash dot dot org, i said linux fullstop ess ell aye ess haych dee oh tee fullstop oh arr gee?
The article is a bit thin, but it raises an excellent point.

HAHAHAHAHA (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346230)

lonestar says ur mom is a bitch and a troll

fpfpfpfpfpfpfpfpFPFPFPfpfpfpfpFP

are you sure about that because its REALLY smart yet dumn yet smart PLEASE read an article about segovia bovia loser user mooser slashdot subulcutr is FASDFSADF yes it is yes it is br br br your ho ho ho christmas ur moms a ho ho ho biatch The Slashdot subculture is a mixture of juvenilia, sarcasm, deliberately bad jokes, intellectual arrogance and highly developed and artistic attempts to provoke outraged responses from other forum users, amuse them, or challenge their thinking on the popular Slashdot technology website. Many of these are older phenomena which originated in common slang culture, later migrating to Usenet and eventually Slashdot.

erd stereotypes are extremely common on Slashdot. The most common stereotypes are:
That Slashdotters are male
That Slashdotters are single
That male Slashdotters have poor social skills, particularly in relating to women
That female Slashdotters are rare, non-existent, or in reality males hiding behind a feminine name
That Slashdotters spend inordinate amounts of time in front of computers
That Slashdotters use the GNU/Linux operating system on their computers
That Slashdotters have poor hygiene
That most Slashdotters usually live with their parents (often expressed as "living in their mothers' basements")
That Slashdotters are obsessed with pornography (example: "500GB hard drive? Where am I going to find enough pr0n to fill that?!")
Complaints that the "typical Slashdot reader" would not understand a subject because of nerd stereotypes are common. The response may be "Why do people persist in using analogies so incomprehensible to the average Slashdotter?" when referring to one of the above points.
If someone questions an action or concept which appears ridiculous but is well-established on Slashdot, a wit may reply with "You must be new here!", indicating that only a newbie would not accept that ridiculous proposition as reasonable. It can also refer to the opposite - a practice that appears reasonable, but does not meet Slashdot standards. For example, it is common for people to post messages about an article without actually reading the article. This will sometimes receive a reply starting "Don't you people even read the article?" or similar. "You must be new here" is a common follow-up.
Another Slashdot user stereotype is based on the pecking order created by the site's user ID system. Slashdot assigns a numeric ID, increasing over time, to users who create a username and password in order to post comments without being labeled an Anonymous Coward. Thus, users with a low (one- to four-digit) numeric ID, who began visiting Slashdot in its early days, sometimes are viewed as more elite than the masses of five- to seven-digit ID-bearing newcomer newbs. ("Newb," or more frequently "n00b" is online slang for someone who is naïve or clueless, typically used in referring to newbies. It is taken originally from 1940s slang.) Indeed, a comment may sometimes receive greater respect from readers because the poster carries a low numeric ID, thus allowing some of the old Slashdot trolls to be rather effective. Low user IDs are also a source of humor. The above-mentioned "You must be new here" is sometimes used sarcastically when a low-ID user says something insightful but contrary to seemingly prevailing opinion. Sometimes threads which joke about low user IDs get replied by low-ID users, which in turn get replied by even lower-ID users, and so forth.
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Slashdot articles

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RTFA
A common recurring theme is the notion that most people do not read the featured article, and that many posts are therefore uninformed. Someone posting an incorrect reference to a linked article might be responded to by one or more comments urging the original poster to "RTFA", or Read The Fucking Article (adapted from RTFM) or possibly euphemised as Read The Fine Article (often in humour or the workplace). It is fairly common to refer to a linked article as "TFA" in reference to this.
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Duplicate "dupe" posts and poor editing
A common "feature" on Slashdot is the prevalence of duplicate news posts, an often-made mistake by the Slashdot editors. Comments complaining about the duplication of current and past posts and even polls are common. Misspellings by the Slashdot editors are also very common. There are often posts making fun of this and indeed this is yet another recurring theme.
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Verbal assaults
Personal verbal assaults on the Slashdot editors are extremely common. These are often expressed as trolls that accuse the Slashdot editors (for example Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda), open-source celebrities, etc. of being either homosexual, incompetent, or hopeless nerds. They are sometimes expressed as senryus. In the most extreme form, textual porn taken from random internet sites is rewritten to incorporate Slashdot editors. CmdrTaco's wife, Kathleen Malda, more commonly known by her maiden name of Fent, is a frequent target of these remarks.
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Trolling
Trolling is very common on Slashdot, and there are a number of repeating trolls that are seen on the site. Similar to trolling is flamebaiting, which is also highly prevalent. The most common flamebaits on Slashdot are references to the Microsoft vs. Linux controversy and ad hominem attacks on posters with bad spelling and grammar by grammar and Spelling Nazi. See Slashdot trolling phenomena.
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Moderation
The Moderation system is an integral part of Slashdot, and has spawned a few common cliches on its own. Complaints about the moderators, or "mods" are common, and discussions about the fairness of certain moderations are often spawned as a result.
Karma whoring is a derogatory term for the posting of comments that do not add to the discussion but that are still likely to be modded up, doing so specifically to increase one's karma score. Like the term troll, karma whore can refer to the comment in question, the act of posting the comment, or the user responsible. While not malicious or deliberately disruptive, karma whoring is considered trolling because it distracts from more meaningful and informative comments.
The practice is a side effect of the karma system, and is similar to the concept of "tactical voting" as that term is used concerning elections. Users earn karma when one of their comments is modded up. Users with a high karma score enjoy a higher status within the community and a default bonus to their comments' scores, resulting in higher comment visibility. Karma is designed to be a measure of the user's meaningful contributions to the discussion, since in theory it is meaningful comments that are modded up. In practice, some moderators will mod up comments simply because they agree with their opinion, and a user can sometimes collect karma points simply by stating an opinion that the majority of slashdotters agree with, without developing a full comment that would actually bring any new insight to the discussion. Many users consider this cheating, hence the derogatory term implying that the user would do anything, even whore themselves out, for karma.
Other comments marked as karma whores are those in which a user pastes a verbatim copy of the featured article into a comment because the site that hosts the article is unavailable (usually due to the Slashdot effect). These comments are almost always modded up because they are genuinely helpful, but they are still derided as karma whores because any user could have created them, making it seem unfair that the karma boost should go to the particular user that did it first. This practice of pasting unavailable articles into comments has given rise to the article text alteration troll. To avoid being labeled as a karma whore, some users paste text of the article as an Anonymous Coward (thus not earning karma).
Because of the specialized nature of Slashdot (it's owned by the Open Source Software Group), moderation often leads to Groupthink, where any opinion that is in disagreement with the website's established principles (no matter how sound or well-phrased) will very likely be "modded down" and censored, leading to the perpetuation of the groupthink mentality. This is often confused with trolling.
Currently, there seems to be a movement among editors and moderators towards being pro-Microsoft. Many comments critical of Microsoft are moderated down as Troll, while many pro-Microsoft comments are moderated up as Insightful or Informative. This is readily apparent in any topic that deals with the Xbox 360, Microsoft's new gaming console. Also, any criticism levied against Microsoft's competitors, such as Sony, are moderated up as Insightful. It is speculated, but not proven, that Microsoft is encouraging it's employees to post and moderate on Slashdot, as well as paying the site for positive news and moderation.
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Orwellian and other political themes

Orwellian fears of totalitarianism are a recurring theme. Slashdotters are very concerned with privacy issues, and in fact, references to Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four are often seen. These types of posts are most often found in the "Your Rights Online" section of Slashdot.
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Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt
The Slashdot community has a love/hate relationship with certain technology corporations. Much of this is directly related to the (presumed) popularity of GNU/Linux within Slashdot. Some claim that browser statistics show that a majority of Slashdot posters in fact don't run Linux but instead Microsoft operating systems. This could possibly be due to the Slashdot community visiting the site during the workday from company-owned Microsoft Windows computers.
The phrase "Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt", often shortened to FUD, is often used to ascribe a propaganda-like character to actions or statements by corporations. Most often, this is used when describing either Microsoft Corporation or The SCO Group. This has more recently been applied to the ADTI.
Microsoft is a long-standing target of Slashdotter criticism. Common criticisms include that Microsoft's products are unstable, have poor security, or have Big Brother-like attributes.
The SCO Group is often targeted for criticism as a result of its claim that "Linux is, in material part, an unauthorized derivative of UNIX" (SCO letter to its Linux customers, 12 May 2003). SCO has asserted broad rights to the intellectual property of Unix, and thus also claims rights over Linux. SCO is attempting to enforce and defend its alleged rights through a series of lawsuits, including ongoing litigation with IBM. SCO brought on the wrath of Slashdotters for, among other things, attempting to charge a fee of $699 for "authorized" copies of Linux. As a result, replies to Linux articles will often contain the semi-serious joke that the poster owes SCO some amount of money. (See SCO v. IBM.)
The Alexis de Tocqueville Institution (ADTI) has recently become the target of jokes since its president Kenneth Brown (author) published a report entitled Samizdat which claimed that Linus Torvalds was not the original creator of Linux, but rather that Linux is a derivative of Minix, a claim which is disputed by many, including Andrew S. Tanenbaum, the creator of Minix.
LAMENESS FILTER ENCOUNTERED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kill the problems where they lie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346234)

First, nothing to do with Linux directly. This is just the silly names all programmers come up with for their programs - a marketing department just renames it to something equally silly but with buzzword power.

The real issue is in the desktop environment - The menus to get to the program should separate things into categories that make sense - major DEs already tend to have this concept. The only problem then lies in finding and installing these programs.

Part of the standard appology (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346239)

When introducing new users to the linux systems at work I always end up explaining that the programs are named by clueless geeks who *think* they are funny (gnu, less, etc.). Please just ignore the stupid names and enjoy the power of the tools.

Dichotomy (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346240)

From the aricle: There are a number of things preventing Windows users from moving en masse to Linux. While the naming of applications is probably not a make-or-break issue when considering a new operating system, it is a legitimate consideration. This is the case because many of the names chosen for Linux programs are downright confusing, and the last thing desktop Linux needs right now is to make the transition from Windows or the acquisition of new users any harder than it has to be.

Windows users are not switching to Linux because they cannot for the most part open a catalog and buy a Linux-loaded machine. MS still dominates the home PC market. Also, Linux is used more as server software than personal software and the uninformaed tend to look at it only in those terms. And frankly, perhaps it's for the best that Linux not try to follow Windows in any fashion. If someone wants to make a GUI interface to Linux, fine, but to build it along the lines of the current Windows model is asking for trouble. Linux should be breaking new ground, not following along with the crowd.

What's in a name??? (1)

stonebeat.org (562495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346241)

If Adobe releases a free + opensource version of Illustrator/Photoshop, Linux community will be willing to rename GIMP to something easier. :-)

Ridiculous - use a menu editor (1)

bennyp (809286) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346253)

The point is ridiculous - distros could just set up a menu with aliases like 'graphics editor' or 'drawing program' or 'media player' or whatever.

I'm tired of this 'all users are idiots' attitude.

Hurrrrr (1, Funny)

SydBarrett (65592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346254)

Hey look at me I name things recursively because I'm fucking retarded.

Yeah right (4, Funny)

Yahweh Doesn't Exist (906833) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346264)

go ahead, take naming advice from "XYZ Computing", ffs.

Easy Fix, extend some acronyms... (1)

cnelzie (451984) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346265)

Seriously, what is GIMP, besides "GNU Image Manipulation Program"?

   

I call bullshit! (2, Interesting)

QuantaStarFire (902219) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346269)

Whatever the reason, desktop Linux's usability is hindered by its naming practices. This is not a huge factor in its growth or lack thereof, but it is something to consider. If nothing else, its naming is indicative of a community which does not always embrace new users and an operating system which is all to often seen as being reserved for the tech elite. If a person or group develops software they should, by all means, be able to name it whatever they want, but why not help everyone out a bit and name it something which is easy to recognized and remember?

Desktop Linux's usability is only hindered by it's naming practices for those who can't wait the extra second to hold their mouse over a program and read it's description. Besides that, most Linux programs when installed get filed under the relevant group in the Launcher, so there's really no excuse for further idiocy by going "K...Multimedia...xine? What the hell is that?"

If downloading programs, then the situation changes. They can read the program description almost immediately following the game and know what it does. If it's a clever acronym like GIMP, they'll figure it out before then. If it's a word-of-mouth thing, a Google search for the program name will reveal all the information they need.

I don't think the Linux community discourages new users. I think they discourage idiots who lack basic reading comprehension and/or surrender their credit card and SSN to their long-lost uncle in Nigeria, but not a geniune new user who can read the program description. I think that kind of discouragement is a good thing.

Reason for strange Linux app names (1)

TheBogie (941620) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346273)

The reason why most Linux apps have strange names is simple. The people coding these apps have more personnally invested in the project than those working at MS. I know I wouldn't spend months of my time coding up an app, and then christen it with a bland name like "Windows Media Player". Plus, there are no marketing stooges around to force them to change the name to something an end luser could easily understand.

contrarian (4, Insightful)

burnin1965 (535071) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346280)

Although it could be debated as to which platform has confusing names, i.e. what is Excel, what is Visio, what is Access, what is Outlook, ad nauseam, I actualy have a contrarian view for you.

Why give applications boring vanilla names like photoshop, media player, etc.?

With the names that are given to many linux applications it could be argued that someone new to the platform would be lost, but I say they will be lost anyway and when they do learn about the applications that meet their needs the interesting names will leave an impression which will differentiate them from the applications on competing platforms that have common names.

I would also argue that vanilla naming creates its own confusion. How many people think Internet Explorer IS the internet?

I say we stick with the fun names.

burnin

Re:contrarian (1)

phasm42 (588479) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346352)

How many people think Internet Explorer IS the internet?
A smart move on Microsoft's part.

Patent/trademark wars (2, Interesting)

Phreakiture (547094) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346281)

It's the result of patent/trademark problems.

K-illustrator got renamed.

X11Amp got renamed.

There are others....

BTW, WinAmp is not exactly an obvious thing, either.

Well, then OSX must suck too... (2, Informative)

DThorne (21879) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346283)

Safari? A Web browser?
ILife? A...ummm...well, a way of living?

Please. Winamp: do you think someone starting typing "CD Player, Audio Player, Mp3 Player..." in a DOS shell on windows until they found Winamp? People aren't going to stop or start using a desktop based on this, especially when "k3b" is directly under the "CD/DVD Burning" submenu on SUSE/KDE.

This is a non-issue.

DT

Difference in attitude (0)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346284)

I think it's a difference in attitude. Take "Media Player" for example. The very name implies that there's only this one media player, no others. Linux tends to distinguish the application from the type of application, eg. xine is a media player, one of several you can use. People may not know the names of the various software of each type, but that's a brand-recognition issue not a fundamental problem with seperating the name of a particular product from the type of product.

We don't have a car manufacturer "Automobile" making the "Sedan". We have Ford, Chrysler, BMW, Honda et. al. each making several models of sedan-type automobiles (and many models of types of automobiles other than sedans). People don't have any problem with cars with names like "Infiniti Q45" or "Ford Cobalt", so the concept of "the name isn't the type" can't be that alien.

Trademarks (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346292)

is something open source normally cant afford. And when common english words gets trademarks (Windows anyone?) even if they are pretty useful to describe what the program does, you are in disadvantage in that arena.

Giving descriptive names to programs also limits what they can do, or get non-intuitive results when do more than what the name says (like pressing the start button to end working, or running the kill command to revive a task)

Anyway, where is the hard to remember part in commands like fsck, gawk or grep? How can you forget things like unzip, strip and touch? Whats more descriptive to program function than name like apache, samba or gimp? Using linux implies more than just using a computer, but adopting a bit a whole culture. That is bad or good? As always, it depends on the case.

Cleverness vs Clarity (4, Insightful)

TheFlyingGoat (161967) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346296)

The examples given are from different companies and design teams, so it's hard to generalize them. Overall, however, popular Windows software tends to be made by companies who put a lot of thought into the naming of their product, since it will help determine how popular that product is. Many linux programming teams either go too general or try getting clever with the name ("Which greek god relates to what this program is doing?").

The problem with getting too clever is that without a strong advertising push or word-of-mouth push (Firefox), people really don't know what your program does. The problem with going too generic is that the program isn't memorable.

There's a few programs that get it right by choosing a name that's both descriptive and clever (Photoshop, Winamp, OpenOffice, etc). Point is, either get a big ad budget or take some extra time choosing a name. Of course, if your target audience isn't the general public (read: ethereal), then it doesn't really matter since computer experts will recognize software based on how good it is.

Poor communication = part of the OSS culture? (5, Insightful)

engineerErrant (759650) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346316)

You're right that many people will probably regard this as splitting hairs, and this in itself is a pretty big issue. Names (from "top-level" names like application titles down to the names of lowly index variables) are critically important in usability, as is documentation.

Yet try as I might, with the notable exception of Python, I've never been able to pick up an open-source product of any complexity that I'm not familiar with, without buying an O'Reilly book or something of the like. Flame me if you will for "not trying hard enough," but it seems to me like having to try hard goes against the definition of usability in some ways. This makes for a pretty big hidden cost.

Open-source projects are the products of engineers working on something they feel is personally important, and it's perhaps unsurprising that communication with the end user (at least on the level of completeness and polish that larger companies need to demonstrate) is not given much priority. But the end users are what will drive the victory or loss of Linux on the desktop, and I think they are already voting with their mice.

And say what you want about Microsoft - but the level of effort they put into this front (from the easy-to-understand language in setup to the MSDN) is way ahead of what I've seen from the Linux world. I think they are the ones to be applauded in this case.

Is Tux really a penguin? (1)

FishandChips (695645) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346317)

The "point" is a little overdone. There really isn't much to prevent a distribution from substituting "picture editor" for "gimp", "web browser" for "konqueror" or for that matter "media player" for "xine". Unless they start poking around in the plumbing, users would never have to bother with the "real" name.

But then, hey, where does the process stop? Isn't Red Hat a darn silly and inexpressive name compared to Windows? Doesn't seemed to have stopped Red Hat from becoming the best-known Linux brand and dominating the market.

There are many more pressing reasons why Linux has a relatively low market share on the desktop. Since Windows works perfectly well for most folks and they don't need to switch, desktop Linux needs to come up with some compelling and sexy reasons to induce them to switch. It has yet to do so, imho. But then perhaps "killer app" is a typically obscure Linux name. Call it "Battlefield 2" or "Half-Life" (and get it to work) and Linux would be hoovering up the new users.

At least its documented (known) - people can learn (4, Insightful)

Skiron (735617) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346327)

Now lets see all the Windows users look at processes running, and let them all go

"Ah! alg.exe csrss.exe ctfmon.exe dllhost.exe explorer.exe internat.exe kernel32.dll lsass.exe mdm.exe msmsgs.exe mstask.exe regsvc.exe rundll32.exe services.exe smss.exe spoolsv.exe svchost.exe system winlogon.exe winmgmt.exe wisptis.exe wmiexe.exe wmiprvse.exe wscntfy.exe wuauclt.exe are running - I know EXACTLY what all that is doing."

Linux processes/apps are named from convention and are all documented. The less said about the alternative (and comparing with) the better.

The k-ification of the GUI (1)

Treacle Treatment (681828) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346329)

The biggest offender of late is KDE. Must EVERYTHING be named Ksomething? Good God... what is a Konqueor ? What will Kompare do ? Will Kannibale eat my computer? Will K9copy reproduce my dog? Some are predictable but they all begin with that friggin' K. Enough already. It's too Kute and as pedestrian as Karls Kuntry Kitchen.

-- TT

Say what!?! (2, Insightful)

N1ghtFalcon (884555) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346336)

What is this I see? Open-source community thinking about why they aren't taken more seriously? Me thinks that if tomorrow I should spot a post admitting that Linux developers also don't know a thing about designing a usable GUI, the end of the world is definitely near.

I realize that this will likely be modded down to hell, but I could really care less if it makes even one developer stop and think. The real problem with the entire Linux movement is a total lack of even the basic understanding of human psychology. Just like they still think that a file is the solution to everything.

We're not machines with RAM and hard drives. Our memory is highly associative, meaning that most of the things we remember are associated to other things. The only "hard-wired" things are those which are used on continuous basis, which I suppose explains why the developers don't notice these problems. For everything else, the less links there are, the harder it is to recall something, which is why naming software using names that say absolutely nothing about what the software is for creates such a mess.

Unix naming (1)

harris s newman (714436) | more than 8 years ago | (#14346338)

I read somewhere (an article by Thompson or Ritchie, or both), that they purposely created command names that were not descriptive of their function. If I remember correctly, it was in order to enforce weak typing. So having non-descriptive application names is in the same conceptual thread as keeping command names non-descriptive. Personally, I wish I was younger to be able to remember all this stuff better.

Windows WE (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14346360)

And "longhorn" isn't a strange name for an OS?? I'll bet the next version will be MS Windows WE (Well Endowed)
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