lunes, 24 de septiembre de 2012

5 defenses of Ubuntu 12.10 Shopping Lens (That miss the point)

A 12.10 feature was fast-tracked and after the feature freeze of Ubuntu 12.10 Quantal Quetzal. The shopping lens (via OMGbuntu). Which effectively adds what can be perceived as ads by most users to searches in the home lens. There were many reactions, including bug report #1054776 which got full heat and a lot of "affected users" in a couple of users.

It called Mark Shuttleworth to make a blog post in defense of it I think this post made more harm than good. In fact, I was on the site that looked at it as a minor annoyance (but with potential to ruin PR) until Shuttleworth's post made it clear that this was, in fact , driven by money-making purposes.

I really think that in its current state the feature has no place in 12.10. It needs to be at least tweaked (removing the shopping adverts from Home searches is a decent fix). Let us explore some of the attempts to defend this feature.

#5. You can just remove it

Sure, we can remove it. This defense misses a big point though. Ubuntu is all about reasonable defaults. While other distributions put more emphasis on you building your environment, ubuntu puts emphasis in giving something well-tweaked and well-thought for the user.

If the main role of this feature is going to be to tip and trick posts explaining how to remove it. Is it a good thing?

It also misses that the method to remove it is not transparent at all. You need to now a bit about ubuntu packages. There is no easy GUI option to just disable the ads.

And it can work both ways. It is as easy to install the feature on a desktop that does not have it as it is to uninstall from one that does not have it. Then why not remove it from the default and make users that want to do Amazon shopping opt-in by installing it?

There is also another issue . What if, as a user, I might give the shopping lens a try every once in a while. If I am forced to remove the lens so that unwanted adverts stop appearing on the home tab, I will not be able to give the shopping lens a try when I want to. Forcing the shopping suggestions on the home tab might as well be discouraging the installation of these lenses and decrease Canonical's profits from it.

#4. They are not ads because...

As seen with Shuttleworth's comment a common approach is to say that they are not ads. That this feature does not mean ubuntu is turning into adware.

Let us assume we are all being honest and that Canonical does not intend them to be ads. But for all practical matters, they can at least be perceived as ads by a good chunk of the community.

In my case, I am not able to accumulate enough willing suspension of disbelief about the claim that they are not ads. If I go to the Unity's main menu and do a search for Shotwell, starting with "Sho", and I am shown "suggestions" to buy Shoes from Amazon. It sounds like adverts.

There is also the little bit about Mark admitting that Canonical will receive money for the hits and that it is indeed the reason they are starting with Amazon. These things are intrusive like ads. Suggest a commercial service like ads and provide money to the entity delivering these searches (just like ads).

But we can spend ages talking about what is an ad and what it is not. What is clear is that there is at least a portion of the user-base who sees them as ads. And the perception of the users is important. If Canonical does not intend them to be perceived ads, then something has to be changed.

#3. People are just complaining about change like always!

Is it so? Is this change just the same as (And I quote a ubuntuforums moderator) "moving the clock applet a bit"? I think that as opposed to layout changes this change brings plenty of issues. It raises privacy and ethical and legal questions. And it threatens to make the public's perception of ubuntu as AdWare.

#2. Do not want the home lens to show results for this? Just move to another scope!

It is true. We could manually click the video tab when looking for our videos or the app tab when looking for applications. But isn't it an extra annoyance?

The current use case of the home lens is to save you time as you search for something that will obviously not have scope issues. I need Libre Office, just type Libre Office and most likely the first results will be app links to Libre Office. I type "Thank you" and the first result will be the Thank you hater video.

Why can't it be the other way around. I suspect that most of the times, when I look for things in my {Home} tab I am going to be looking for local content. The number of times I will need to manually move to a specific tab would be much lower if the shopping results were kept separate.

And an inconsistency. Many of the lenses included in 12.04 are capable of doing remote searches. But none of them appear in the Home lens. If the intention is truly to make the Home lens do everything and anything, why is it that it is only the Amazon shop offers that appear in those searches and not youtube search suggestions (Which appear in the video tab)?

#1. It will be so much better in 14.04 LTS

In addition to all the concerns, there are also concerns about how the shopping lens is not even doing its job correctly. Bug reports about it providing adult content results (and parental controls are inexistent). Or it suggesting you to buy applications that do not run in Ubuntu. Are these are all just [kinks that will be unkinked] in the future?

If the future will be so bright. Can't we just wait for the future? It is true that Ubuntu is usually an early adopter. But there is a difference between rushing to adopt an early version that is not completely polished and rushing to adopt a version that is completely dysfunctional. I think that given the circumstances, it is better to postpone this feature till 13.04 when it will hopefully be more polished and basic GUI options to disable it will be present (and the community can make up their mind about whether it should show up in home or not).

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