Subject: Re: Users Views
From: ghost@ALADDIN.COM (L. Peter Deutsch)
Date: Mon, 8 Mar 93 17:58:08 PDT

> First off, Marty's statement that there have been no productivity
> gains since the introduction of the PC in 1981 is false.  There have
> been enourmous productivity gains, in just about every measurable
> category.

I know of a number of careful studies that have examined the claimed
benefits of office automation.  The conclusions are that (1) the
gains are small, (2) productivity is often lower rather than higher,
and (3) very careful examination of actual office processes is
required to obtain any measurable gains at all.

I would welcome references to careful -- not anecdotal or
"perceptional" -- studies that support the opposite claim.

> Perceptionally it's even measurable just by looking around the typical
> office.  10 years ago, a secretary could type up a letter on her IBM
> selectric typewriter, and give it to her boss to proofread.  If there
> were any corrections to be made, usually that meant that the letter
> would have to be retyped from scratch.
>
> With the advent of PC's and all the various word-processing packages,
> that situation is now changed to 'one initial write of the document,
> print, small edits, reprint, send'.  If that isn't isn't productivity
> gains, then I don't understand the term.

Remember that the PC equipment is far more expensive, requires far
more highly trained people to maintain (as well as totally new
support people like system administrators), requires more training to
use, introduces new bottlenecks (waiting for the printer), has much
worse failure modes (e.g., a server goes down), and has higher
per-page printing costs.  That's why you have to study real
situations very carefully to come up with real numbers.

> Look at drafting.  10 years ago, most companies had to draft things by
> hand, now they are done with packages like AutoCad, Designer, etc.  If
> you've ever had to edit a E size document by hand, then you would
> realize that making changes with a computer based document is much
> faster.

I'd expect this to be an area where there have, indeed, been major
productivity increases.

> I disagree totally that productivity is lower because of pre-packaged
> software.  I don't think anyone could disprove my disagreement.
> 
> I also disagree with the statement that packaged software impedes
> understanding.  If you believe that, then you must believe the
> converse that free software increases understanding.  That may be true
> for a programmer who wants to add a feature to the software, or make a
> change that makes it more usable, but it isn't true in the sense of
> someone that wants to use the software as a means to an end.  People
> that use software like to have human support, pre-printed
> documentation, etc.  Packaged software normally offers that.

Packaged software also forces you to adapt your procedures to its way
of doing things.  I've seen this with every package I've bought as an
end-user.  I don't know how to measure this cost, and I'm sure it
usually doesn't exceed the benefits, but I don't think it's
negligible either.

> > I use nothing but FSF software (and Linux) and find that I am just as
> > productive if not more so.  However, this transition did take
> > considerable experience.  As FSF-type software develops, hopefully the
> > required level of expertise will go down.
> 
> I too use FSF software, and Linux (love it), but I also use commercial
> based software (HP-UX, SunOs, Dos, Windows NT) etc.  So don't
> mis-interpret my statements above as dislike for free software.  I
> actually do like it, and try to find free equivelents to the software
> I use, but blindly stating that unfree software impedes productivity
> and understanding is sort of silly.
> 
> > Dan Doner
> > dd435157@lance.colostate.edu
> > Mechanical Engineering
> > Colorado State University
> > 
> 
> ==========================================================================
> Darin Wayrynen                        UUCP:     uunet!uupsi4!infogrf!darin
> Paragon Consulting Group              INTERNET: darin@infograph.com
>                                       PHONE:    602-437-9566

L. Peter Deutsch :: Aladdin Enterprises :: P.O. box 60264, Palo Alto, CA 94306
ghost@aladdin.com, ...decwrl!aladdin!ghost ; voice 415-322-0103 ; fax 322-1734
	    "Implementation is the sincerest form of flattery."