Since we're having a beginner thread, I'd like to share some experiences about the things that had a big impact on how I work with computers.
First, unlike many here, it wasn't so long ago that I was 12 and in primary school. Back then we just got informatics as a subject. The curriculum wasn't what many people would call interesting. We spent some time doing binary arithmetic and a little bit of studying of computer components. Then we moved on to BASIC programming. We still didn't have PCs then (and programming was done on paper only) and the informatics teacher was new. So we spent some time digging in the school storage area and managed to dig out an Orao. It was an 8-bit computer running on a Motorola processor if I remember correctly. It booted directly to interpreter and we only had the computer and no cassettes, no manuals or even program listings. So anything we wanted to do we had to program directly on it. At first everyone was impressed by it, but after few weeks, many lost interest in doing anything with it. Me and few other classmates didn't. I had a much better PC at home (Cyrix MII running at 233 MHz with 32 MiB of RAM), but that computer at school could be programmed by me and my home computer running Windows 98 couldn't.
Sometime later we got real PCs for class use and then the major difference showed itself up: Those who weren't so interested in the old computer also mostly spent their time in class playing computer games behind teacher's back while the few of us who were interested in that strange computer continued doing what was in the curriculum. Later on we also got into computer related secondary schools and universities. The first point I see in this story (if there is any at all) is that for some people Word and Excel mastery is really the best that can be done to help them. The second point is that for some of us that old, barely working and constantly crashing manual-less computer wasn't enough to stop us.
From that period comes the second story I want to share as well. Back then in Windows, there was something called Windows 98 tour. It was an interesting interactive application that basically showed the operating system capabilities. It played some music and did some animations. The most interesting part of it for me was a link to a tutorial program buried somewhere in the windows directory. It had some basic things like click, right-click, double-click and drag and drop exercises and explained ideas behind some basic GUI concepts. For example you had to drag a circle from one part of the screen to another or to double click on a specific part of a box so that it would change texture and so on. In later versions of Windows it was removed. I think that such an application should be made prominently visible if it exists or made if it doesn't. It may help the youngest and oldest users of the Pi. I've seen some older people who can't get the hints provided by the GUI which show relation of elements. Unfortunately, I don't have any experience with young children. The tour application could be helpful too, or maybe a list of interesting links that would come with the OS itself. Basically the pdf quick start guide is a bit too short for someone that is new to GNU/Linux and the whole ecosystem in general and I have a feeling that the wiki is a little bit distant right now for many.
Now I'll rant a bit about my first experiences with GNU/Linux. The first distro I installed was Slackware. It was probably in 2001 or maybe 2002, I don't remember exactly. The basic install went pretty smooth, but then I got a command line and I had no idea what to do with it. Back to Windows 98 it went with me (but I kept the Darkstar hostname for many years after that). Next attempt was Red Hat 8. I was 13 at the time. I managed to get the CDs and somehow installed it on my computer. I even got a hardware fax modem, since winmodems which were popular at the time didn't work on GNU/Linux. I got comfortable with GUI and learned what was KDE and GNOME (and I also decided that I liked KDE better) and got comfortable with the repository based distribution system. From then on until the release of GNOME 3 I've always had at least one GNU/Linux distribution installed. Oh and back then, my parents couldn't install any operating system on a computer. They can't even today.
And for the end of this more or less useless post the thing that really got me close to GNU/Linux: Gentoo! Now I know that Gentoo has reputation of being extremely unfriendly to new users, but for me it was the completely opposite experience. The first thing I did was to print out the Gentoo handbook for my platform. It's a very long document, but is one I really recommend that every GNU/Linux user reads. Assuming no prior experience, it explains how to install Gentoo on a new computer using Live CD. What I really (and it's worth saying again) really liked about it is that it reads a bit like those choose your own adventure books.
It doesn't dumb down any part of the process, but at the same time it explains relatively nicely how each part of the process works and what each option that can be selected does. In each section there's an objective like for example network connectivity. Then there are ways to do it. If you want to use this magical script that will solve everything, go here. If you want to use DHCP, go there. Way over there you have the explanation how to set absolutely everything by hand. For almost every step needed to get the system running, there are two or more ways explained how to do it.
This is the first time I really felt safe using command line. Most instructions in the handbook are generic and will work on almost any distribution. Even when I couldn't get IP address at all in Ubuntu, I'd go back to that printed Gentoo handbook and to its chapter about networking. The manual way was longer and more complicated than latest GUI, but it would always work. People who only used the Networkmanager (whose slogan is Linux networking made Easy, if I remember correctly) had no idea what to do when they couldn't connect using it. I did. They took (or maybe it's better to say were given) the easy solution and when it doesn't work, then they have unsolvable problem because they don't know any other way. Sure in day to day use, the easy solution does have many benefits, but if we only rely on it, we turn into Windows.
I see many people here talking about simplifying things so that they could be used by children and showing only one path that works right. It really hurts me to see that. I'm not against having a recommended well documented path, but what I'd really like to see for Pi would be document as wide as Gentoo Handbook. Give people lots of options and gently point them in the preferred direction, but don't shove them and tell them it's my way or highway.
Finally I can see two potential problems with this approach: First is: Who is going to write such a guide and the second is what if we overwhelm the kids.
For the first one, I don't have a good answer. Hopefully community. We have a wiki (or do we? The dictatorship reports I've seen don't look very nice) from which we could compile data.
For the second, well we're trying to educate next generation of computer scientists and engineers here. If they get used to reading long lists of hopefully well explained options, the 1500 page datasheet for the newest ARM chip they get one they grow up won't be ask shocking.
I hope I didn't waste too much of your time for having you read this.