feel the fear and do it anyway
Sometimes, with some products, it's OK to say, "We can't make this any easier or less scary, but we can help you come out the other side."
helping a user be afraid and do it anyway is a powerful force. We shouldn't be too quick to over-simplify a product or experience. Of course, it's up to us to get our users through the big, challenging, thing--there's a big responsibility for stellar documentation and support. And we're talking moral support, not just tech support, so building a user community is even more important with something really, really, scary.
Does anyone else think "command line" and "man pages"?
An old idea of mine is that man pages could be made more helpful by making them interactive: tick or perhaps drag'n'drop some options described in the man page, fill in form elements attached to them, then execute the command you assembled that way.
And here's a new idea I had while talking in #libervis yesterday: improving man pages by adding in the community. Make it possible to add "sticky notes" to parts of a man page you don't understand, which others can then look at and give helpful comments on. I bet it could be implemented on nuxified.org using some kind of drupal module and a man to html converter. Does a drupal sticky notes module exist?
A similar idea, but perhaps harder to implement with only preexisting software: convert man pages to html, put them on nuxified, and give each option in each manpage a html anchor, so it becomes possible to give a link to the appropriate option in a manpage. Of course it could also be a side effect of the other idea: one could insert a sticky note in the place where one wants a user to look, then link to that.
What do you think?