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Science News

The Paradox of Choice 537

Posted by Hemos
from the so-many-options dept.
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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The Paradox of Choice

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  • Wow... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:08PM (#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...

  • Nothing new (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:11PM (#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 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doesn't_Comment_Code (692510) on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:11PM (#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.
  • by TEMMiNK (699173) on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:12PM (#8703865) Homepage
    "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.
  • by sleepnmojo (658421) on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:19PM (#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.
  • Re:I think (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pxtl (151020) on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:19PM (#8703976) Homepage
    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.
  • by dnoyeb (547705) on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:20PM (#8703987) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by Perl-Pusher (555592) on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:21PM (#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!
  • by Chess_the_cat (653159) on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:29PM (#8704093) Homepage
    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.

  • Makes sense to me: (Score:3, Interesting)

    by airrage (514164) on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:35PM (#8704173) Homepage Journal
    I have often found that cell-phone (mobile) carriers have the vast array of plans which overlap and seem to not really give you feeling that you have a well-fitting plan.

    Also, it's that Coke in a 1-liter bottle versus 6-cans versus 6 glass-bottles versus...

    I tend to re-buy crap for this very reason: the first purchase I realize now why it was so cheap, the second purchase while more expensive I realize it's just over-hyped. The third typically is a good cost-to-quality ratio.
  • Re:Freedom of Choice (Score:2, Interesting)

    by glass_window (207262) on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:48PM (#8704296)
    Why not? They blame it on the reason why nobody has elected an independent for president.

    a) bush
    b) kerry
    c) nader

    a) windows
    b) mac
    c) linux
  • by Junks Jerzey (54586) on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:49PM (#8704304)
    This is a simple, fundamental principle. Every option you give the user means that you dodged a design decision. Sometimes this is fine, but it can be tremendously overdone. In a great many cases, what you're doing is forcing the *user* to make design decisions: which fonts look good together, which icons are the clearest, which keys work best for various features, and so on. Have some spine! Keep things simple and clean!

    With Linux things are worse, because the decisions forced on the user run much deeper. Now you don't just wade through pages of configuration settings in KDE, you have to choose which window manager to use in the first place. Bleah. I'm a techie, a programmer, and I don't want to mess with this stuff. Just give me something reliable and WELL THOUGHT OUT, and I'll use it.
  • by loftwyr (36717) on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:49PM (#8704306)
    What people seem to get confused is that reduced choices is not a bad thing.

    Choice is a requirement of freedom, to be sure. But don't confuse how many car manufacturers and models are out there as freedom of choice. Freedom of choice is having at least 2 things to choose from. Ask yourself, do you really need a market with over 100 different car models (where half are a duplication of another with minor changes and a diferent name) Do you really need 50 different types of bread? Marketers want you to think so, that way they can say their model is better and they can split the market.

    In reality, if the fewer choices are all of good quality, then you don't need 50 or more.

    If you are choosing something, you need just a few options that suit your needs and are adaptable. One or two models of car with a menu of options is fine. It does not infringe on DEMOCRACY to have fewer options and a better involved populous than a large number of options and a populous who is confused and unable to be educated on which is better.

    Overall, if you have few options, you can educate yourself on how each is good and bad and make a decision for yourself from a position of strength.

    But, of course, that's the last thing marketers and politicians want...
  • by Neil Watson (60859) on Monday March 29, 2004 @12:51PM (#8704338) Homepage
    I just installed Linux on a friend's laptop. He does not have much experience with Linux. To help in through the transition I installed Openbox as his window manager and gave him a simply menu and hot key list:
    • Web Browser: F1
    • Chat: F2
    • Email: F3
    • Word Processor F4
    • Speadsheet F5
    • Presentation F6
    • Xterm F7
    • Run Command F8
    • Exit

    Less choice, less questions, less confusion. So far I have had no complaints. Obviously, as he gets comfortable he will want more choices later. At the beginning, I think the overwhelming amount of choice is what turns new users away from Linux.

  • by Quebec (35169) on Monday March 29, 2004 @01:04PM (#8704470) Homepage
    I've seen one professor talking about the problem
    of having too much choices (I think it was the author of this book) and he was clear about
    something, it only is a problem for one type of people; those who are not satisfied with their choice until they absolutly know for sure they made the best choice. Those with a "good is good enough for me" mentality do not have any problem with too many choices.
  • Re:Nice Troll (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday March 29, 2004 @01:09PM (#8704535) Homepage
    hey 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.

    Right, the result of which is even better than NineNine's "don't give me a choice" method of simplicity. The distro makes a good default choice, yet still provides the other choices, should you decide you want to try them.

    It's the best of both worlds! I love Software Libre. ;)
  • by thetoastman (747937) on Monday March 29, 2004 @01:10PM (#8704540)
    Like you, I didn't read the entire article since it requires a digital subscription.

    There was a time when I would have chosen to read Scientific American, but now I choose not to.

    Gee - choice. And I chose. And I'm happy with my choice.

    That wasn't too difficult. I don't need a massage. OK, I do, but that's because I did a 60 mile bike ride this weekend and my legs are a bit cranky.

    Personally, I think Professor Schwartz misses the cause and effect. These people who stress over too many choices could be the ones who have been told all their lives what to choose. When confronted with real choice and no clear dictum from an authority figure these people stress.

    [There are a few good sociology and psychology studies buried in this hypothesis, and maybe I'll take the time to flesh them out.]

    By authority figure, I don't mean just mom, dad, the doctor, big (or little) government, or the church. I mean anyone from local pundits to "experts" who people place in a position to tell them what they want.

    That's really the key here. People do not know what they want, and if they do, most do not know why they want it. Many people just believe whatever is told them. This includes what they want.

    This of course is a principle of advertising.

    1. Define a want
    2. Broadcast the want
    3. Convince the consumer that it is their want

    For example - do I want fancy ring tones, cameras, or to play games on my cell phone? Are night minutes starting at 7PM really important to me?

    1. No - vibrate works well
    2. No - not pleased with picture quality
    3. No - the games are ugly
    4. No - many people eat dinner between 7-9 pm

    Simple. I know what I prefer because I'm aware of what I do.

    If you have too much stress from too many choices then you might ask, "What is it that I want?" If you find yourself not knowing what makes you "happy", then it's probably time to start asking.

    And if you find that "happiness" depends on other people, then you are screwed . . .
  • by Matthias Wiesmann (221411) on Monday March 29, 2004 @01:15PM (#8704606) Homepage Journal
    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.
    What? Sorry, no. More than ten years ago, I was doing word-processing using Mac Write II on a Macintosh classic, now I'm using Word X on a Dual G4. Would you please tell me what radical changes happened in word processing? The interface is basically the same, the text window, the ruler above with the tab stops and some buttons for getting bold etc. Many aspects of computing have changed dramatically but not word processors.

    Actually, Macwrite II was a very lightweight program, Microsoft Word for Macintosh had more features. Here is a list of improvement I have seen in Word since version 4.

    • Drag-drop
    • Contextual menus
    • Clippy
    • Macro-viruses
    • Large files

    Others features have disappeared since, like the latex-like equation code, the mailing subsystem and the integrated screen saver .

    Some people are probably doing word-processing using really radical tools (vi?) but the overall design of the mainstream application is quite stable and will not change, the current model is good enough and what people are used to.

    Maybe for some non-roman scripts, something completely different will be designed, and maybe back-ported for roman systems, but until then, word processors will look like Mac Write, spreadsheets will look like Visicalc, etc.

  • Re:Freedom of Choice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bobcat7677 (561727) on Monday March 29, 2004 @01:18PM (#8704634) Homepage
    There are alot of people that seem to think that choice = freedom. While this is true at some levels, there are deeper issues to be considered. For an American example being that America was founded on the idea of freedom: Is a choice between Busy Kerry Nader really freedom? Sure you have a choice but you are limited to only 3 options. Is that really pure freedom or just a little bit of choice allowed you by a governmental system so you feel like you have freedom.

    Going back to the current topic however, it seems like everyone is making this desktop choice issue way too political IMHO. It should be about what the needs are of the users. Isn't that what we as technology professionals are supposed to look to? (tech hippocratic oath if you will?) For some users, we want to limit their options because they don't have the knowledge/experience/brain capacity? to choose the correct option for what they are trying to do. Thank you M$ for aknowledging that. However, there are increasingly more people who DO have the knowledge/experience/... (especially with a whole generation of kids being brought up to use this stuff) that need to have the choices. If the future inventors, artists, and innovators have their tools dictated to them in nice neat little "luser" packages, then how much will that limit their ability to invent, create, and innovate? And how much will the corporation that controls all the tools become in control of the society in dictating who has the tools to do things and who doesn't. [Maybe a caste system of technology dictated by M$ on the horizon?]
    -- my random thoughts
  • by anomalous cohort (704239) on Monday March 29, 2004 @01:30PM (#8704755) Homepage Journal

    Your reaction to being overwhelmed by choice is actually quite typical. People seem to have a problem when presented with a set of choices without a clear winner. I think we have an algorithm that works like this.

    repeat {
    __foreach option available {
    ____evaluate option
    __}
    } until there is a clear winner

    Which is fine unless, of course, there are two or more options that have the same value. Then you have an eternal loop. Wouldn't this algorithm be better?

    foreach option available {
    __evaluate option
    __if good enough {
    ____choose this option
    __}
    }
    choose the best option available

    So, you're presented with mozilla and konquerer. You try mozilla first and find that it is good enough. You stop looking. Don't click on that konquerer icon. You're done. Simple, really.

  • by Nurgled (63197) on Monday March 29, 2004 @01:30PM (#8704757)

    As much as I hate to say it, the problem isn't "hiding" the choice, it's making the "desktop" of every linux system the same, so that users can transfer knowledge. This is true of MacOS, and it's true of Windows within a given version. (MS are less good at this.)

    If a user sits down at a high school linux system and learns how to start his or her favourite word processor, then sits down at another system elsewhere with a different Window manager and desktop environment... what now?

    Sure, they'll learn not too quickly, but this is certainly offputting in the same way that people tend to get flustered whenever they use my Windows box... the desktop is disabled, and I was surprised at how many people only know how to launch applications from the desktop. Also, my Start Menu is categorised rather than everything being under "ArrogantLongCompanyNameSoft Ltd, Inc (R)". The categorisations are pretty simple: "Internet", "Office", "Graphics", "Sound and Music"... yet this minor difference throws people off. It's not what they know.

    So what's my point? Linux will probably never be used on any desktop other than specific corporate desktops, because people can be trained by their company to use them there, while this isn't true of other situations and the training will not be easily transferrable due to the ability to completely change the environment.

    What is more likely is that one day one of the Linux distros that aren't called Linux (such as LindowsOS) will get their "standard look and feel" right and eliminate the choices, and that particular distro will take hold, and most "normal" people won't realise it's that Linux thing under the hood any more than they realise their router or set top box uses the Linux kernel.

  • by swb (14022) on Monday March 29, 2004 @01:31PM (#8704769)
    I got a 20g iPod a couple of months ago and in some ways it's made walking with music a worse experience for me than before.

    My first Walkmen (dating back to 1984) were cassettes, and while you could carry extra tapes, you were largely stuck with one or two and even then skipping around wasn't much of an option (no music search on a Walkman I could afford until the mid 1990s). So you listened to bands you really liked or spent a lot of time making a few mix tapes to guarantee you'd like most of the songs.

    About 6 years ago I traded up to a Minidisc player and while the selection problem wasn't much different, I did start "running out" of music, even though I could reasonably carry a half-dozen discs. The ease of skipping made me far less satisfied with what I had playing.

    Same thing occured when I got a Teac CD/MP3 player. Mine only took 7cm discs, but I'd still "run out" of music due to skipping around, even when I made a mix disc with a bunch of "good" songs I "liked".

    Now that I have my iPod it's far, far worse. I can't run out of music (3k songs), but I do find myself bored/irritated with what I'm listening to, skipping around. On one recent excursion I damn near stepped into a hole because I was spending so much time fucking around with my iPod (trying to find music I "wanted").

    I don't know if its *entirely* due to the paradox of choice or just a vague sense of dissatisfaction with everything, but the paradox of choice sure seems to explain it well.
  • by AviLazar (741826) on Monday March 29, 2004 @01:34PM (#8704814) Journal
    Lets not throw such terms as "facism" around too easily. I totally understand what this person is saying. While choice is great, too much choice - without explanation or direction - sucks. When I go to the store for meat - i know there is chicken, beef, fish, and pork - do I know the plethora of cuts? No I do not. I go to the butcher and say "Hey I want to make this, what do you think." The butcher then tells me which cut I should take. Maybe he is all out for himself and selling me a terrible cut so he can make an extra buck. My alternative is to go buy a book and learn the fine art of being a butcher (something I do not plan on doing). So I need to rely on this person and hope he is an honest person (and if he isn't, when he comes to me for computer service I will return the favor "oh yea you need a wizzy gadget, it will run you 2 grand". When I go to download Linux I do not have a butcher telling me what would work best for my life style. That is what this person is stating. When I go to the dealership I go there with a thought process - be it cost, look style. So if I go to the dealership and say "hey i want a family car and i want to spend 21 grand" they will offer me help. If i go to the dealership and say "I WANT A CAR" I bet you the person is going to start asking questions like "are you single or married? have kids? do you want to off road? etc." The person has a valid argument, lets not chew him down because we love linux. -A
  • Apple, not Microsoft (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hak1du (761835) on Monday March 29, 2004 @01:38PM (#8704858) Journal
    That's Apple's secret: Apple picks a lot of things for you. They don't always make the best choices, but they usually make workable choices, and even when their choices are technically bad (as they are from time to time), at least they still make them look good.

    Microsoft, on the other hand, is all about choice (within well-defined, money-making parameters): you get zillions of audio and video CODECs, lots of configuration options for the UI, preference panels with sub-panels until your eyes glaze over, dozens of classes that all do the same thing, and let's not forget an ever expanding list of third-party utilities and add-ons to make up for the choices Microsoft didn't give you and the problems Microsoft created while creating all that choice. Microsoft isn't kidding when they are saying that they are giving you choices.

    UNIX, like Apple, traditionally has made choices and stuck by them. For example, the UNIX folks at Bell Labs understood that the use of "tab" in Makefiles probably was a mistake, but it wasn't a big enough mistake to create another "make" utility (at least not for a couple of decades). And, yes, the file system may not be the ideal IPC or database mechanism, but it worked well enough and provided a good, simple answer.

    Linux has inherited some of the UNIX simplicity and philosophy, although, sadly, there has been a lot of uncertainty and waffling come into it, mostly from people who are trying to turn Linux into Windows.
  • Re:Your problem (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @01:40PM (#8704903)
    Something occurs to me... who cares if Linux never leaves this "niche?" Let the average user have windows. Why do we want them to switch so badly? Leave Linux for the rest of us and those creating custom systems.

    Seems to me that if everyone starts using Linux it means that it has bacome something more like Windows. Don't we lose something in that case?

  • Biased... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mercuryresearch (680293) * on Monday March 29, 2004 @02:00PM (#8705155) Journal
    I thought the name of the professor sounded familiar, and sure enough, it was who I thought it was. His position is not agenda-free (not that anyone's is.)

    Schwartz wrote a paper for the January, 2000 edition of the Journal of the America Psychological Association, American Psychologist, titled "Self-Determination, the Tyranny of Freedom."

    The artical basically lays the groundwork for restricting freedom for people's own good, and to force beliefs on people for their own good. Coming from a libertarian viewpoint myself, the entire article was disturbing in a very subtle way -- and it was clear that a political or social agenda was a subtext.

    It appears he is simply continuing on this theme.
  • Re:Freedom of Choice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cygonik (679205) <aeon.descriptor@NOspAm.gmail.com> on Monday March 29, 2004 @02:26PM (#8705525)
    It seems relatively simple to me: Have the first choice be "How much choice do you want?". We have verbosity levels in logs, why not have a 'busyness' or 'user level' option for ui and configuration? With a few clicks I could change my interface from Default to Clean or Busy, and change my configuration screens from Beginner to Intermediate or Advanced. One could even have a default that is login, desktop, or system-wide. ----- If only Ben Franklin had known people would be using Linux, the choice between Freedom and Security would never have been an issue.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 29, 2004 @02:27PM (#8705544)
    >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.

    Jebus... you people think too much and don't even take the time to look around.

    Microsoft uses an "Advanced Options" button to separate their novice/expert configurations.

    Linux by itself is useless. The apps that run on Linux are what could make Linux "absolutely needed", just like iLife on OS X or Office on Windows.

    KDE, Gnome... whatever, why can't we have ONE damn desktop that WORKS? People want to USE their PC, not learn HOW it works.

  • by yagu (721525) <yayagu@@@gmail...com> on Monday March 29, 2004 @02:45PM (#8705836) Journal

    Each Sunday, I would comb the circulars, looking for a computer (started out looking at desktops, eventually looked for laptops). I would invariably spend over an hour picking "candidate" machines meeting my CPU, disk, memory, price, etc requirements.

    And, invariably, I would give up rationalizing to myself I could go yet another week without getting that machine.

    The problem? So many choices, so many configurations, so many prices, so many rebates (instant, and otherwise), I would just give up in frustration in trying to get a reasonable deal while meeting my needs (NOTE: I did not say "get the BEST deal", I just wanted to be sure I was getting a good deal).

    All this while also continually searching the net for machines and prices.

    While I all along had a vision of my requirements, the marketing sleight of hand, with the infinite "choice" kept me from making a decision for almost 2 years! (About one month ago I finally decided.)

  • Re:Freedom of Choice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SillyNickName4me (760022) <dotslash@bartsplace.net> on Monday March 29, 2004 @02:48PM (#8705879) Homepage
    It is limited freedom.

    When the USA was founded, freedom was an important argument, but it should be seen in the settings of the late 18th century.

    I have been reading a lot about the early days of the USA and the following is my recolelction of what I read about the discussions regarding the exact form of government that the USA got at the time.

    In that time, there has been a lot of discussion in the USA and France about the different models of government without monarch.

    There is a choice between a few systems there, and 2 of them were discussed a lot in detail:
    - The republic of Sparta
    - The democracy of Athens.

    What they ended with is somethign that looks a lot more like the republic of Sparta then the democracy of Athens.

    Bottomline, an elite is in charge of the country, however, this elte is elected.

    This means that people cannot make direct choices in matters that concern the country as a whole, but they can appoint those who can make those choices.

    At the time, people were afraid that the purely democratic way would result in chaos and unlimited individualism. The Spartan system didn't provide for the freedom that people demanded and was too much of a tirany.

    In the end, it did end up folowing the Spartan model, but with an elected elite.

    What this tells me is that the founders were actually looking for a way to limit individualism at least to the point where peopel would not act against the common good, and in the hope that peopel would contribute to the common good, while at the same time trying to maintain as much freedom as possible.

    I believe it is a bit simplistic to say that Freedom is THE thing the USA was founded on, it was an important aspect, but in the end, balance to get a state that worked for as big a part of its citizens as possible, and finding the right balance between individualism and the common good were at least as important if not more important.

    It seems to me that the way political parties function in the USA is pretty much a continuation of English tradition. A rather substantial part of the representative democracies in the world have more then 2 major parties, and do indeed need coalition governments. Few of those have the problems that we have seen for decades in Italy where a government wouldn't last more then a few months, in fact, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium are 3 examples of countries with very stable governments while having many political parties.

    A basicly 2 party system (with all respect for the man, I'll skip Nadar, untill some major change happens to how the US population percieves politics, I am afraid he has little chance whatsoever) makes life easy.

    Political views can be put into a black/white perspective, and there is no need for cooperation since one side will end up beign in power while the other side will have to wait and watch untill the next elections (yeah yeah, I know it is a bit more complex then that due to the way the senate and congress work in the USA where you can have a republican president with a democratic congress for example).

    The black/white choice makes it easy because people don't have to think too much about things of which they often don't see the direct relation to their daily life.

    Most people want simple choices if any at all for things that they are not really interested in but want huge variety of choice once they are interested.

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday March 29, 2004 @03:10PM (#8706166) Journal
    Don't want to confuse the lower classes with all these options on the ballot paper you know. Might scare them.

    The old MS joke comes to mind:

    One world, One web, One program - Microsoft Ad

    Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer

    Either this guy think this is a good idea or he doesn't understand choice.

    The current choice is simply:

    • Apple

      Easy oneway to do things. (well if you don't make use of its unix background wich you never need to touch if you don't want to)

    • Windows

      Oneway for the OS. (easy until you become an admin, the old change network settings example comes to mind)

      Choice for everything else. Just check how many email programs and office suits there really are for windows.

    • Linux

      Roll your own. Choice in everything except hardware. And even there you got choice. Just write your own.

    • BSD

      For the necrophiliacs.

    But how is this any different from choosing a car? Choosing a house? Choosing a meal?

    Do I want a car I can fix myself if needed (handy if you drive in remote places) or just a little town cruiser how about no car at all? Do I want my own house I can rebuild however I want or do I want a nice rented apartment fully furnitured with a maid? Do I want a meal I can microwave and be ready or do I want to spend hours in the kitchen to create a feast fit a king?

    Now some people here seem to want everyone to make the same choice they have. This applies equally to all computer OSes. These people accuse other OS users of being zealots and never realise they are a very black pot.

    I for one am not scared of choice. I am scared one day I will not have a choice. Choose whatever OS you want. But let it be YOUR choice.

  • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@nOSpam.yahoo.com> on Monday March 29, 2004 @04:24PM (#8707017) Journal
    Maybe there are people genetically predisposed to want to make choices, to want to choose from the widest array of options. These people would sometimes make the wrong choices and die. Then maybe there are others, people genetically predisposed to do what everyone else is doing. They would become unhappy when forced to make choices on their own (knowing, genetically speaking, that making the wrong choice may kill them.) Sheep and goats, you see. Maybe geeks tend towards the latter, and perhaps that's why most people here have a hard time grasping the fact that many people don't like to have too many choices.

    Or maybe I'm just full of it. I don't know. Maybe the moderators will decide for me.
  • by FreshFunk510 (526493) on Monday March 29, 2004 @04:26PM (#8707042)
    This week's Newsweek has an op-ed article called Afflictions of Affluence that speaks on this very topic. According to it, there are 3 consequences of our rich society: obesity, time crunch and buyer's remorse.

    In short the article goes on to say that because we're so rich and food is so cheap our portion sizes have been getting bigger. And that's why we're becoming fat.

    We're facing a constant time crunch because we constantly view our time as more and more valuable (time is money in our capitalistic culture) ergo there's this need to cram all our activities into shorter time periods.

    Lastly, ther'es buyer's remorse simply because we havfe so many choices out there. You buy one mp3 player but have time to research all 100. You're likely to find a feature in another mp3 player you wish you had.
  • by rbird76 (688731) on Monday March 29, 2004 @05:04PM (#8707504)
    with voting there is a rule/problem (I don't know its name - Condorcet is all that comes to mind) that any vote with more than two participants may yield cycles (for example, in some cases, A is prefered to B is preferred to C is preferred to A....) or other nonoptimalities; thus voting methods may not give results consistent with what everyone would want of independent of how the vote is done. The problem with runoff systems (do you want A or B? do you want B or C?...) is that they depend on the order or options chosen; thus the person selecting the choices may have more power to determine the outcomes than the people nominally choosing the outcomes.

    So while this way of putting choices resolves much of the problems with overwhelming choices, it potentially puts significant power in the hands of the one choosing the choices. Under certain circumstances this could be catastrophic, such as in gov't, where the selection procedure would give the voters the appearance of power and responsibility while concentrating the actual decision-making capacity elsewhere, out of sight and responsibility. I don't know a practical method around this because any of the multiple voting systems can behave badly under certain circumstances, just that this may be flawed. I believe the same problems apply to the decision making method above.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

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