Update June 8th -- the grass-roots approach of just installing it for people is one approach. Just put it on your friend's computers. See Mike's blog entry.
I love interesting information about how people think.
Specifically, I love real-world stuff about how people behave in groups, how individuals come to decisions--it's all really amazing and so not what you'd expect.
There was some fascinating stuff in the Sunday NYT from May 14th (I was just catching up over the weekend) about how what makes us happy is not what we think makes us happy. We think certain things should make us happy, and when they don't, we figure, well, maybe a bigger X or a cooler Y will make us happy. It's really the day-to-day stuff, like your car breaking down or coffee with a friend, that affects our happiness, not the big house (since things and events give less happiness with each exposure) or the big events (traumatic attacks, even) that make us happy or sad, overall.
One of my favorite quotes is from Iris Murdoch, who was right on without the psychological research. Roughly, the quote is "Happiness in life is dependent on having a continuous series of small treats."
I meant that introduction to be a little shorter but that topic is one of my favorites. Its theme, however, strongly relates to Dan Russell's guest blog on Kathy Sierra's Passionate Users blog. He talks about how essentially, you can convince people to do stuff all day long but they won't actually do it unless you make it reallllllly easy. It's the lockjaw study you might have heard of--students were shown a film on the perils of lockjaw, and were told that shots were available for free in the college health services center. They pretty much all said that Yes! They believed the film! and their beliefs had changed. And yet....3% of the students ever showed up for their shots.
Didn't matter whether it was a film about lockjaw dangers, a letter on lockjaw dangers, whatever--people were told and they believed it was the right thing to do, but they didn't do it.
What made the difference?
Handing out a map to the health center, and asking students after the film to make appointments to get their shots. Then 28% of students who viewed the film showed up to get shots.
It's the little things.
This is one issue that plagues the open source/OpenOffice.org community. We wave our arms and jump around and shout about our frustrations and say "It's obvious! It's the best choice! Individuals can save hundreds! Schools can save millions! Governments can save zillions! It's easy to download? Why don't they switch?????"
Well, frustrated open source folks, take a deep breath. It's not that people don't believe that free is better. That's not the whole issue, at any rate. We might all be convincing gazillions of people a day that clearly, they could save money and licensing hassles with OpenOffice.org or Ubuntu. But unless they have a map and an appointment (or, better, have it installed on their computer), conversion isn't going to happen very quickly.
So how do we make it soooo easy for people to use open source software? How do we get 28% of the people we talk to to actually switch?
One approach of course is to get Oprah to give away Linux laptops at every show. That would be cool.
The new deal with Dell and Google might help a tad, depending on what Google software is preinstalled on those Dell computers.
I'm a little sleepy still and recovering from Memorial Day weekend so I must confess I'm not chock full of implementation ideas. But I wanted to get this out there and ask for suggestions. Get the idea-mill turning. Put the emphasis on the little things that are really important.
And now I must go have a cup of cocoa, to get my day started with a small treat.