Code Vigorous

Dustin J. Mitchell

Users and their Motivations

12 Aug 2009

I stumbled upon a summary of the Drefyus model of skill acquisition by Andrew Hunt today, copied out of the powerpoint here. There’s a bullet point in there that I hadn’t seen before:

  1. Level 1: Beginner
    • Little or no previous experience
    • Doesn’t want to learn: wants to accomplish a goal
    • No discretionary judgement
    • Rigid adherence to rules

I’ve been toying with the idea of a beginner’s guide to Amanda for some time. My vision was of a shallow but broad description of how Amanda fits together: clients and servers, applications, holding disks, changers, devices, and so on. Scaffolding, in the constructivist sense. The intent was to head off some of the more ignorant questions about Amanda, and give beginners a base on which to build their own Amanda configurations.

But this won’t work! A beginner does not want to learn, and anything that tries to “teach” a beginner is just so much noise to him or her. In fact, most beginner guides are nothing of the sort – they are probably only useful to those already at level 2.

This is all the more the case with Amanda: like plumbing, Amanda users just want backups to happen so they can concentrate on their core business, so even smart folks will happily remain at level 1 if they can make it work. So what can we do to support these users? And how can we encourage people to move to the next level?