Group 2 (video)

A read-only copy of the Google document with the original formatting we used to take notes is available here

Anna Zacchi

Federico Mena Quintero

Friday afternoon we took a tour in various departments of the Largo City Hall, and we interviewed three users of the deployed GNOME infrastructure.

The city of Largo, in Florida, has the biggest deployment of GNOME in the public sector, with about 800 people using it. During our visit, our host at the city of Largo in Florida, Dave Richards, began the introduction of his deployed system by showing us the thin clients. Thin clients are machines without a hard disk and with a solid state memory instead. These machines also have an air cooling system without fans. He then proceeded with a slide presentation of the system. GNOME and the various applications run on the servers in the machine room, and the thin clients connect to servers. We then had a tour of the machine room. His adopted solution was very interesting: each server was devoted to a single application. One server for the desktop, one for the browser, one for the mail system, one for Libre, and so on. We then had the chance to interview real people. We split in two groups. In one group we used a video camera to record the screen and we had a semi structured interview.

Interviewed people belonging to different departments


1)Credit card transactions (video)

1 monitor

She had a stack of sheets with printout of credit card transactions and she was inputting everything on a web application, one record at a time. The web application had Autofill of fields based on entry on other fields. She didn’t like it that webapp opened too many windows: every time she clicked on the name of a procedure from the list on the main web page, a new window opened. In the webapp, one pane didn’t shrink, so she couldn’t lay windows side by side to compare their data. She had a cheatsheet on papper with instructions, for she was just taught to use this webapp. One instruction said, “main menu, Firefox, $webapp_name” - it’s the path she has to follow to launch that. She said that the new webapp was more clumsy, “trial and error” because it was mouse-based, while old text-mode app was keyboard-based. Conclusion: data entry needs to be doable entirely with the keyboard, so that the mouse doesn’t slow you down to switch between fields / etc. She didn’t like it that the panel’s window list doesn’t list tabs you have open in a browser. She knew the keyboard shortcuts to zoom in/out of web pages, and used them appropriately. She keeps paper notes, because she can take them around the building.

Navigation in File System

Bookmarks in file chooser. She Liked bookmarks in the file chooser.

Launching an application

Launched a big webapp (what she uses all day to enter transactions) from a bookmark icon in the Firefox toolbar. When she was in the web application, she was using the links in the web page index to open new web pages that she called “applications”

Switching among windows

Closing them or minimizing, or simply clicking on a window visible in part. Using the bar (bottom) Panel

She used it to open applications.

Libre Office

Didn’t like the distinction between Backspace vs. Delete in LibreOffice calc. They do the same function (delete a cell), but one asks you questions and the other doesn’t.

2)Payroll (video)

1 monitor

She had a terminal program to manage the payroll. There was a list of time cards. One for each line. She was checking which one were signed and approved by the manager, and then she would send out the payments. Every year (or month) she was printing a 700 page journal in a huge stack and checking it by hand for errors. She liked to mark it with a highlighter and write notes, and then go to the relevant people and ask them about those inconsistencies. She could bring that piece of paper to them and show them. Once the inconsistencies were updated, she would check the online version towards the paper one. She has worked here 22 years and the apps has been updated a couple of times.

She would like to be able to have three people connect to the same terminal, and toggle between them, so she can show the same document to all of them to have them sign a document for approval.”it would be convenient to have two or three people to sign in on the same terminal, so you can toggle back and forth and show what you are looking at, instead of having to sign off so that someone else can sign on” Navigation in File System

She actually knew complete pathnames (/users/largo/blahblah) and could type them in the right place to start looking for files. She was using the text field entry in bookmarks in the bottom panel to enter the path name. Location of files

Libre Office

She had a problem with opening a text doc in Libre office. When Libre office doesn’t open her document correctly, she says that “LibreOffice changes it”. In particular, she had a problem dealing with her big payroll document, and the system adm had to implement a workaround. Problem: she had trouble opening a text file with fixed-size columns. It didn't work if she just had LibreOffice Calc try to import the file. The file was not visualized as she wanted, all the fields were messed up and not aligned. Couldn’t she just view the text file in GEdit? The problem is because she almost always wants to print the information and gedit wraps the text if it doesn't fit within a certain amount of space. If the output is something like 128 characters, the lines wrap down and don't appear exactly as the physical report. She didn’t quite understand the issue of fixed sized columns. So the admin had to implement a workaround using a TXT->PS->PDF conversion. The PDF driver lowers the font and turns it landscape to ensure the text file looks exactly the same in print form. This solution has also the advantage that the PDF output is static and cannot be edited. They don't want the users being able to edit their report dumps (possibly even accidentally).”


3) Permit assistant and city marketing (video)

1 monitor

Her main job was to assists people with city permits. Her customers were usually new business, new to the permit process. She was meeting with customers and she was supporting them throughout the process of applying for permits. She was also maintaining the web newsletter for her department, using web applications. She was also doing marketing for some city’s developments.

She uses the task manager inside Evolution for tasks and to do lists. She also has handwritten notes on paper.

She would like to have an application such as MS Access because she works a lot with spreadsheets. (She didn’t elaborate, but considering what she said next, that she would like the spreadsheet to detect duplicates and delete them easily, and we assume that she need the ability to treat lines in the spreadsheet like records, treating a record as a whole object, like in a DB). She would like to have an help system with a clickable list instead of a pdf file (She showed us the help system in Evolution that is not clickable).

On the desktop she had about 25 icons, some files, some folders, and some links to applications. The links to applications were on the desktop because she didn’t know how to add them to the panel when the panel was already at the maximum screen size. The other files were files that she accesses frequently, such as her time card, or files that gets updated frequently, and morning briefings (they appear automatically on the desktop). She also has a folder with documents for easy reference. But she tends not to put references on the desktop, because if she works from a different computer it doesn’t show up. She can actually access it, but … she prefers to keep them on the drive. When she learned from Dave how to add more icons to the panel, she tried to remove one by right clicking, but she didn’t know which menu item to choose from (there were three). She asked Dave and she opened the menu again and she asked if the menu item “remove from launcher” was ok. Maybe the name “launcher” instead of the commonly used “panel” confused her.

Navigation in File System

She uses bookmarks. She has everything in bookmarks, and if something is not, she adds it. When she cannot find something in the bookmarks, she looks in the history. She used the history menu that was in nautilus in a previous version. Location of files

She has a quota in her email and she often has to remove emails and save both the mail and the attachments in a folder. She creates folders for projects and she saves the emails there. She goes in Nautilus and she uses the right mouse click to create a new folder. Then she drags and drops from Evolution to the new folder the attachments and the mail itself.

Launching an application

She uses the bottom panel and she really likes it. If something is not there, she uses the CitySeal icon that launches the list of applications. If she really needs an application and doesn’t have it in the panel, she searches for it in the seal, and she drags it on the desktop, because her panel is full. Than Dave shows her how to add more icons to the panel, and enlarge it and how to scroll it when it became longer than the screen.

Switching among windows

She always closes or minimize windows on the screen to look at the desktop or to work with a particular window. Using the bar (bottom) Panel

Libre Office

She has problems in Libre, when there is a very old document that went through many modifications, and she keeps track of changes. When she toggles back and forth between tracking and not, it crashes.

She would like to have more buttons on the toolbar of Libre. She would like to search for duplicates like excel does. She would like to have a button to highlight duplicates, so she can easily delete them.


When the mailbox is full, near to her allotted quota, she cannot drag and drop things. Her tendency is to drag and drop everything, so when the mailbox is full, and she is in calendar and drags a calendar appointment, the email system is crashing. So sometimes she goes in the sent folder and she deletes invitations. In the other systems that she used in the past invitations were not taking space, but it looks like they do now, in Evolution. Evolution doesn’t understand the quota system. (She call it the mail system, not “Evolution”.)

In the spreadsheet, she doesn’t like that when you copy and paste text from the browser or from evolution, a dialog windows opens every time to ask for the choice of language, even if the copy is always from the same window. She would like a button that asks to maintain the choice.



People find it useful to place windows or data side-by-side so they can compare them; applications often don’t let them do that (windows are too wide to be fit side-by-side)

Need to share data between different applications visually or by dragging/dropping or copying pasting. Without the nuisance of toggling between windows

Data entry is slowed down by having to switch to each field with the mouse. Terminal-based applications let you switch between fields with the keyboard, so people don’t lose their flow.

Need to move between fields with keys instead of only mouse

People like switching between windows with the bottom launcher bar. They know that (right)-clicking on the application’s icon will give them a list of open windows for that app, and then they select the correct window.

Easy way to select an open document among the several ones open by one application

People memorize or write down the “path” they need to follow to do something. Our first user had a paper notebook with a note like, “Main menu; Expenditures Input; Add/Maintain invoices; Click Star (*); Add New; Posting date...”.

Need to have a “personalized” path in a sequence of possible paths to accomplish a task. A kind of personal shortcut or small script.

Not having a browser’s tabs in the normal window list is inconvenient; people would like to have them listed there.

Access to documents, instead or in alternative to applications.

People like creating bookmarks for the file system.

need to quickly reach most frequently used documents

personalize access to frequently used documents

People seem to use Minimize and Close without distinction in the window manager. The end result is “make the window disappear”.

Quickly clear the screen from open windows.

Blurred distinction between close application or minimized window.

People don’t like little inconsistencies with MS Office when they are invoking the same keyboard-based function. Delete and Backspace in Calc should function just like in Excel.

Preserve legacy or transition nicely from one version of a program to another

People would like to be able to show what is on their screen to other people. Relatedly, software that prevents two people from opening the same document or software at the same time is viewed as inconvenient.

Need of sharing windows among people on different systems. Even if some may have access only in reading mode.

People use printouts to show them to other people as a collaboration tool.

Use of physical objects for collaboration, such as printout.

The entire payroll got printed (700 pages!) and reviewed by hand/eye, as opposed to having some automated verification tool. The user preferred to visually scan large volumes of data on paper than on her screen.

Visually scanning information on the paper instead of on the screen. Can we make the scanning on screen preferable?

People attain usage skills, and get disturbed when they are forced to change those skills because the software now operates differently.

Changing procedures in a software disrupt users.

Switching major pieces of software, like when legacy software is replaced, is very disturbing to people.

Some people actually know complete pathnames and type them in the right places (/users/largo/department_name).

Need to leave a document access through typing of the full path.

Some file formats get opened incorrectly by the right application, e.g. a text file with fixed-width columns gets imported wrong in Calc.

Some files need to be opened only in read mode, preserving the same view as the editing software.

People use paper notes to write down instruction

Need of a better note taking software

People use paper notes for to do lists

need of a better tasks software

Some people would like to have a functionality in the spreadsheet that treats lines as records, like in a database, so that they can be checked for duplicates, or sorted keeping the record whole and not sort only one column.

Spreadsheets line should be treated as record when requested. And sorting or duplicates search should maintain a line whole.

Help system should have clickable entries, not static text such as PDF.

people like interactive help system

People like to use the desktop for documents frequently used

Desktop personalization

People like to keep links to frequently used program easily accessible (if they don’t fit in the bottom panel or if they do not know how to fit them)

Need of an environment where to organize a personal access to tools, programs.

People would like to have documents placed on the desktop easily accessible from other computers

Desktop sharable among different machines.

Menu items should be coherent: names for operation, widgets should be the same commonly used (panel vs launcher)

Coherence among the names of items. Coherence also in how they are commonly called.

People uses history or “recently used” as one of the way to find documents

History of recently used documents

Email management some time require users to offload mails and attachments to the file system (to free email quota), and to make the documents accessible to other people in the future

Integration of email system and storage of emails and attachments on the file system.

Working place procedures may require users to make documents available to users in the future when the current employer may not be there anymore.

Documents in the file system may be preserved and passed other users

Co-workers may share document in a shared file system, and they may find difficult to find documents in other people organizations.

Shared document space: document organization must be comprehensible to everyone.

Some people are very fond of drag and drop.

drag and drop is the preferred means of interactions for some.

A person missed a button on the Libre Calc toolbar to find duplicate and eliminate them

People like to personalize the toolbar (libre, calc) with buttons of frequently used operations.

A useful operation in calc is to automatically detect duplicates, and have an easy way to select the ones to delete.

People do not like when they do a repetitive operation and a dialog box opens up every time to request the same information (example copying and pasting from a browser inside a spreadsheet)

Avoid repetition of dialog boxes or choices when doing repetitive operations

Some People try to fit in the email quota by eliminating emails from the “Sent” folders.

Users check for email size when deleting emails trying to fit in the quota.

It is important to know the total size of each email and to find them easily to be able to quickly reduce the mailbox folder size.

When printing, the printers available in an organization may be a lot and it is difficult for the user to select the ones closed by by looking at the list in the printer dialog. When selecting a printer, users often do not know which one to choose.

Users do not know which printers from the list are available and closer to them

Hackfests/UserObservationOrlando2012/ObservationNotes2 (last edited 2012-11-21 17:39:28 by AnnaZacchi)