Easter eggs and free software
Posted Feb 10, 2006 2:37 UTC (Fri) by liamh
Parent article: Easter eggs and free software
Funny you should mention the "humorous diagnostics" that sometimes pop up. Having been exposed to the culture for several decades, I know how they are intended to be received when I see them. But not being steeped in the culture, I get perplexed and frustrated. There is an important piece of information I'm looking for, and it is obscured because someone wants to crack a joke.
Humor is very culture-specific and does not scale up. What is funny in a small hacker lab at MIT does not translate well to thousands or millions of users, some maybe using a computer for the first time, many who do not speak English, and so on. Since we do have temperature sensors on our main boards, it is not far-fetched to imagine such sensors in peripherals. Is it that ridiculous that a computer could detect a fire in a peripheral and warn the user? What if someone who doesn't know that this is a joke takes it seriously?
Humor in the kernel (or in any software that users might see) smacks of clubbiness, an "in" joke that only the elite are supposed to get, and that everyone else has no business using the software. This seems antithetical to the philosophy of free software.
Having said this, I really do appreciate humor (like "the OpenOffice.org developers, evidently feeling that the application had become too small and quick, ...") but humor has to be user-tested to make sure it works for all audiences, just like user interface design.
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