Linked by Kostis Kapelonis on Mon 29th Nov 2004 18:55 UTC
Editorial The IT sector today is a complete mess. The end-users rarely understand this, but most insiders reach a point when they realize that things should be different. The problems are numerous but they all reduce to a basic principle. IT and consumer electronics companies are interested more about money than helping people solve their problems. Of course companies need to make a profit and nobody denies that. They should however make money by helping people and not by creating more problems for them.
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by Yamin on Mon 29th Nov 2004 20:12 UTC

Computers are the most complex tools we use. They're complex because...well...the tasks we want to accomplish with them are complex.

Even something as common as 'writing' a word document. Think of all the things people want to do with it. When people work with a word processor, they're not just thinking 'I want to write a document'.
They're thinking
'I need a table here',
'I want this cell to be red'
'I want all sentances automatically started with capitals...except this one...I like the small i here'
'I want a 3 column look here'
'I want it to spell check...'
you get the idea.

By all means, I think the crux of the article is right in that we should be making life nicer for people. But lets not forget the basic law of engineering ;) Everything is a tradeoff. I like the google example. Google is by far the easiest/sleakest to use webmail program. Yet look at the trade offs it has made. Yes, the UI is much simplified...but how easy is it to 'reply' or 'forward' a message. Now it's hidden under 'other options', or at the end of the message. (still IMHO, the right decision by google). Now I've got this new concept called a 'label' and 'starring' a message.

Sometimes automating things is more harmful than doing it manually. Take spell checking. A very easy candidate for automation. Do I really want it auto-correcting things. What if it chooses the wrong I won't know about it. Do I simplify the spell check to only include fix/skip about add/ignore/ignoreall/change/changeall...

Computer programs are complex because they are the system we interact with that has the greatest number of inputs and options and permutations. If we're worried about aunt tillie, perhaps the generic computer is not for her. Maybe she needs a basic system that auto-updates/defrags itself, where you cannot install any applications and comes standard with a web browser, gmail account, word excel, and a My documents folder.

Even take firefox that I'm working on right now. Take a look at its options menu. There's a lot of crap in there. Yet, I just went through it...there's not much I'd want taken out.

If we're willing to deal with less flexibility, by all means, lets Simplify maaaan.

Things of course are much simpler, if we simply made word processing like a virtual typewriter ;) Or if we wanted, we could actually use the car analogy. Either learn to change the oil yourself or be sure to take it in for servicing. Buy a new computer...warranty only valid if you don't install new programs, and you take it in for servicing every X time (they will clean out the cache, defrag, wipe out temporary files, adjust program menus to suite you, install new apps/extensions for you...)