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The $100 Laptop & Another Reason Why I Don’t Get Along With Jakob Nielsen

If you have never heard of the $100 laptop, you should read this article in BusinessWeek Online.

To me, I think this might be the one of the most important ventures ever taken on. Do you have any idea how much education this could bring to people who may never even have a chance to see a computer in person? Can you fathom how many lives can change by being able to have an education? To see outside their little world that would normally never be possible?

The audience he and his colleagues have in mind is the hundreds of millions of poor kids all over the world. Negroponte came up with the nonprofit “one laptop per child” idea when he was chairman of the MIT Media Lab and observed the failure of standard attempts to use computers in education to improve the lives of underprivileged children. Typically, a handful of computers, designed for business applications, are installed in schools; students only use them in special computer classes and are forced to share. Negroponte’s idea was to give a laptop to each student that he or she could take to every class and bring home at the end of the day. “OLPC is child-centric, designed to be a seamless part of their lives at home, at school, and in play,” he says.

Now Jake Comes In To Ruin The Fun

While XO has been greeted warmly by many, some technologists criticize Negroponte and his colleagues for not testing out their new ideas on underprivileged school children earlier in the process. And that goes for the user interface as well. Jakob Nielsen, a user interface designer and principal in the consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group, falls into the critical group. While familiar with the design of Sugar, Nielsen’s criticisms focus on the process. It’s only in the coming weeks that they’ll begin to get feedback from kids. “It’s always dangerous to release any product without the safeguard of user testing,” says Nielsen. “But it’s outright reckless in a case like this.”

I find this line of thinking reckless in a case like this Jakob. In principle, yes, I agree that testing is good, but to delay a project like this in the name of usability is just plain stupid. We should be doing whatever we can to get these things out there, in the hands of the kids who need them.

I don’t get your line of thinking. You want to do testing? Do usability testing on some boring company Fortune 100 blog. That is something I can wait for.

My History With Jakob

Perhaps you think this is my first “run-in” with Mr. Nielsen? Oh no, it’s not. In fact, below is a screen grab of an actual email that he sent me. The whole story is here in my old blog archives if you’re interested.