Walter Bender clarifies his reasons for leaving OLPC:
What’s next for OLPC? I would rather OLPC answer for themselves. Nicholas has made it clear, at least to me, that OLPC needs to be strategically agnostic about learning—that it can’t be prescriptive about learning. So that’s his opinion and that’s where he’s taking OLPC, and that’s not what I want to do, so I left.Excellent interview. Read the whole thing. This bit is great:
X: When you say “agnostic about learning,” what I take that to mean is that there’s a feeling that the XO Laptop should run Windows, and not just Linux and Sugar.
WB: I think it’s pretty obvious and was obvious from the very beginning that it’s a lot easier to cater to people’s comfort than to be disruptive. Nicholas had that wonderful quote in BusinessWeek about a month ago—that OLPC is going to stop acting like a terrorist and start emulating Microsoft. If you read between the lines, the idea is to stop trying to be disruptive and to start trying to make things comfortable for decision-makers. And that’s a marketing strategy, and one that I think has been adopted by many laptop manufacturers. Personally, I think that the customer is not always right, and that a role that a non-profit can play is to try to demonstrate better ways of doing things and let the market follow them. But that is a minority opinion, so I left to do my own thing.
X: Let’s back up. You’ve said many times, and so has Nicholas Negroponte, that OLPC is a learning project, not a laptop project. So can you talk about the basic pedagogical principles that are important to you, and how Sugar embodies those?Issues (I'm not a developer, the following are some of the fracture lines I can work out from quickly reading some entries on the laptop.org lists):
WB: When we started to do this, I tried to build the solution based on three very simple principles about what makes us human. Because I knew this had to be something that worked everywhere, with every child. The first of the three things is that everyone is a teacher and a learner. Second, humans by their nature are social beings. Third, humans by their nature are expressive. I decided those would be the pillars of how we design the user experience for the laptop. The other thing is that I was very much influenced by Seymour Papert and his constructionist theories, which can be summarized in my mind very efficiently by two aphorism. One is that you learn through doing, so if you want more learning you want more doing. The second is that love is a better master than duty. You want people to engage in things that are authentic to them, things that they love. The first is more addressed by the Sugar technology; the second is more addressed by the culture around freedom.
- Sugar development is under resourced despite requests internally to improve this situation
- To port Sugar to Windows is not a trivial undertaking
- Many believe that Sugar / Windows dual boot system will not ship, that MS will not allow it
- Allegations of lack of transparency or consultation from Negroponte in decision making (see Ivan Kristic's This too shall pass ...)
- OLPC software development will fork between a proprietary pathway and an open source (GPL) pathway
Nicholas’ recent claim of Sugar growing amorphously because it “didn’t have a software architect who did it in a crisp way” is similarly muddy: convincing him of the need for an architect is a battle Walter and I fought for months without success. The organization decided to move anyway, and extended me a written offer to take over as Chief Software Architect. Nicholas rescinded the offer unilaterally several weeks later, for reasons he refused to explain to anyone. So yes, there was no architect, but that’s because Nicholas didn’t want one. If he believes that’s the cause of Sugar’s problems, he has no one but himself to blameI wrote an earlier blog about the community user interface aspect of Sugar.
- This too shall pass
My current evaluation: The developers value Sugar highly as a new UI and that many of them believe that its ongoing development is not secure if left up to Negroponte's leadership. Sugar is the main current manifestation of the desirable disruptive pathway that Bender is talking about (what are the others?). Nicholas started a revolution that has bred new revolutionaries who will continue the revolution.