"Please select what kind of key you want" ~~ suggestion to developers

Robert J. Hansen rjh at sixdemonbag.org
Mon Feb 23 20:52:13 CET 2009

> The easier it is for beginners to understand PGP/GPG technology,
> the faster its adoption into general use by the public will occur.

There's a discipline in computer science called human-computer  
interaction (HCI).  I took two courses in this in grad school: not  
enough to make me an expert, but definitely enough to open my eyes.   
One of the things my instructor, Juan-Pablo Hourcade, drilled into us  
is that we genuinely don't know what will speed adoption of new  
technologies.  All we know is what successful technologies look like.

Imagine there's a new hotness in IT.  (IT: Information Technology.)   
This new hotness has the potential to change the world in ways that  
can barely even be explained to people who don't already have the  
technology.  Everyone you meet who has this new technology -- let's  
call it "flerbage" -- they've got this magical ability to /know  
things/.  Know things they can't possibly know, that they couldn't  
possibly have learned.  Flerbage is where it's /at/.

The only problem is that flerbage is ridiculously user-unfriendly.   
Most people who use flerbage, this smoking-hot new thing in IT, say it  
took them between ten and fifteen years to really learn it.  The  
learning curve looks like the freaking Matterhorn.  Also, flerbage  
can't be made "easy for beginners to understand."  You want flerbage,  
you're looking at a decade or more of serious, concentrated study.   
Sure, it's cool, but ... is it worth it?

Would you say flerbage was a successful technology?  Do you think  
flerbage will ever catch on?

Flerbage is real, by the by.  You're using it right now, this very  
instant.  Scroll down and I'll tell you what it is.


Literacy is the original information technology.  People who are  
literate have an enormous advantage over those who aren't.  Wherever  
you look today you see signs, posters, advertisements, menus,  
whiteboards, warnings, labels and every other thing imaginable that's  
written down.  Literacy gets taken for granted by almost everyone --  
despite the fact that it takes most of your childhood and teenage  
years to get good at it.

So no, I don't agree with your proposition.  OpenPGP doesn't need to  
get easy for beginners to use.  If it was that simple, we'd be there  

What needs to happen is the populace needs to understand the risks of  
electronic communication, and needs to become committed to doing  
something about it.  If you can achieve that, then you will have done  
something great for humanity.

But the world doesn't need another "easy to use GnuPG interface."   
You're essentially saying, "what the world needs is a really good  
book!"  What I'm saying is, "the world first needs to learn to read."

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