[lug] Excellent Rant

Nate Duehr nate at natetech.com
Tue Mar 20 02:37:20 MST 2001

On Mon, Mar 19, 2001 at 08:57:40PM -0700, Justin Simoni wrote:
> I find its funny, that the original rant is from a person who I beleive
> proclaims himself as a computer expert, and I'm sure works with and develops
> computer applications. The person who he was using as an example couldn't
> use a computer efficiently. This means him, or someone like him didn't do a
> very good job making the program. instead of helping him, he ridiculus him,
> not to his face, but behind his back, he can't take the fact that this
> person isn't as educated in this certain tool as he is.

The vast majority of the problems (as the original poster was trying to
point out) in "this is too hard to use" is that in order to create
something useful on a computer you need a very broad depth of knowledge
about the system and how it works.  

In order to use computer business applications these days, the user 
interface has been simplified to (as one person put it) point-and-drool.

The gap between the complex world of the programmer and the 
point-and-drool world of the business software (read: MS Office) end-user
is widening and the programmer in this rant is simply pointing out that 
part of the problem is the inability or lack of desire of the end-user 
to learn any more than absolutely necessary about their machine they use
every day.  

He's lamenting that with only a LITTLE more work, the Office drones 
could learn how to do something really useful with their machines, but
they plod along oblivious to the fact that the world doesn't end at

Many today claim (and many of the general public believe) that a year
in training toward some certification and one can "catch up" to the
ten-year computer user in understanding and knowledge.  The industry
is lying to itself to make the shortage of QUALIFIED professionals seem
easier to bear, methinks.

> I guess no one thinks computers should be as easy to use as possible, I
> think this should be the entire goal. Why make someone learn an entire new
> way of doing things just to interact with a tool?  An example would be a new
> phone we just got for my house. It has 30 buttons on the damn thing, 30
> buttons! Its a phone. people call me, I pick it up. I can't even do that, I
> have to push a button to do its simplest task.

I don't think computers are difficult to use.  I'll gladly leave making
them easier to use to someone else.  I couldn't care less if someone
finds them "difficult".  That is unless I have a personal relationship
with that person and WANT to teach them something new, but I usually
reserve that kind of enthusiam for someone who's already shown a
personal interest in learning on their own.  No use reaching to help
someone out who's not reaching back.

Now when it comes to making the thing easier for ME to use, yes.  I'll
do it.  And because of my bent toward open-source, I'll probably share
any knowledge of how to make things easier with anyone who asks.  But I
have no driving goal to "make computers easier" for anyone who finds
them difficult to use.  My 83 year-old grandfather uses a computer.  He
started learning 3 years ago.  He's at about the same stage I was 3
years into my computer journey, and I think he's doing GREAT.  But I've
never once made it any "easier" for him.  No special user interface, no
special treatment, no dumbing down of his desktop for him to learn it.
Just some extra time with him once in a while to answer questions.  But
the difference between him and most people is that he HAS questions.  He
WANTS to learn.

(I also don't think a phone with 30 buttons is difficult to use, but I
usually use all the features on such devices and I read the manual to
every complex device I purchase.  If you don't like them, don't buy
them.  There are plenty of phones without 30 buttons available on the
market, but you may have to give up some features.)

> Think of all the things you interact with in your life. Doors, spoons,
> sidewalks, pencils, computers. What's the most complicated of these things?
> Which one can you live without? I don't think i can live without a pencil or
> a pen. I can certainly can do without a computer, since it creates more work
> than I put into it.

So if you've come to the conclusion that computers are a negative impact
on your life, why are you typing the e-mail?  Not being silly here, but
seriously.  Get out -- enjoy the sunshine, get away from the thing.

It's no more intelligent than the desk it's sitting on without you to
add intelligence to its use.  Just like an airplane, it'll crash without
a pilot.

If you want to make it into something or make it do something
useful, that's good enough reason to continue using it.

> oh well, I hope this hasn't turned into a rant on my part, but I just want
> to get some of these ideas out, since simplicity and capability don't repel
> each other, they complement each other.   anyways, OSX out in 5 days,

OSX does look pretty, I'll hand it that -- we'll see how it does.

Nate Duehr <nate at natetech.com>

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