[lug] Excellent Rant

Michael J. Pedersen marvin at keepthetouch.org
Tue Mar 20 10:19:32 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.

I've written and developed some smaller programs as well. In fact, I have an
excellent example of what problems can be found with such programs. I have a
particular program which we use at work that I wrote. It's an extremely simple
program. You run it, it runs a build for you. It takes care of all sorts of
messiness so you don't have to remember to do it (ie: makes sure a log file is
being written, so that you can review it later if you wish, puts the build in
the background if you want it to do so, etc). All it takes to use it is to
type one thing on the command line: the command name itself. It does the rest
of the work for you. How much simpler can I make it?

Now, for the funny part, guess how many developers use it? I'll give you a
hint, it's significantly less than half of them. This is despite my emailing
them repeatedly about it, despite my telling every one of them who has a
problem to use it (because it really does fix most, if not all, of their
problems). But still, very few of them use it. I'm reasonably certain that
it's less than a quarter of them use this tool, which is as simple as possible
to use and run (does it have options? Sure. But they're not needed).

Hence we get to what, to me, is the real root of the problem: People already
believe they know everything they need to know about computers. Anything else
is a waste of time for them. So they won't listen. You can even change the
entire process, and they won't hear you tell them how easy it is. They will
continue to do exactly what they have done, no matter how wrong it may now be.
It's not just end users, it's developers, it's sys admins (I suffer from this,
too, I'm sure, and don't see it in myself).

And now, from the message above (by extrapolating, since I agree with his
argument, and have other symptoms in common, the comments you've made also
apply to me), I did a bad job with this program? Even though you need do
nothing other than run it, and it will take care of everything else?

Yes, people do write programs like that, and other people refuse to use them,
for the simple reason that it's not what they're used to. Sorry, but I'm not
taking the blame for other people's stupidity. I'll still try and help them,
and make their jobs easier, but if the option they want is sitting right in
front of their face, and they can't be troubled to use it, it's their failing,
not mine.

> 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

In the example above, the previous process was broken. It actually did not
work for the developers, and had to be completely re-done, from scratch, over
a period of months. In the final part, the program I wrote, it was a simple
wrapper meant to make the job easier, so that it could be run from anywhere,
instead of a specific directory. And even that got ignored.

> 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.

Go to Wal-Mart, electronics section. That's where they keep the phones. In
there, you'll see two (basic) types of phones: cordless, and corded. Cordless,
you have to have an extra button to turn it on and off, elsewise it is offhook
when you leave it on the coffee table. However, there is a corded phone in
there that costs about $10. It has 12 buttons (13 if you count the one that
depresses when you hang it up), and 1 switch (volume). If you don't want a
phone that has 30 buttons, don't buy it. Alternatives ARE available, and will
continue to be so. Personally, I want the 30 buttons, as it (generally) means
that it has more features, and I do want the extra features in a phone.

> 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

Actually, I'm doing just fine without having a pencil or pen available most of
the time. It's rare that I can even find one in short order. I use the
computer or my palm pilot as replacements. Now, as for the most complicated of
the things I interact with daily? You're going to love this answer: Stupid

And I don't mean people who don't know what I know. I mean people who come to
me with a question, and when I try and give them the answer, don't listen to
me. Instead, they repeat the question, whining until I give them answer "Fine,
I'll do it for you." That is the most complicated thing I deal with daily.
People who refuse to do things for themselves, even when they are perfectly
capable (both mentally and physically) of doing it themselves. This happens
both at work and at home. And it gets so damned tiresome to not be able to do
things I either want or need to do because of yet another person who refuses
to do something for themselves.

That is the most complicated thing to do deal with, and that is the one thing
I can do without.

> 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,

Yep, Apple meets Unix. I'll wait and see on whether they did well or not, both
technically and in terms of user interaction.

Michael J. Pedersen
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