Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dragon Soup

An old man asks a group of youngsters to sit around the fire so that he can tell them a story.

"The village was gripped in terror. A dragon was loose. A village meeting was called to resolve this problem. First, an wise man stood up and exclaimed 'dragons never attack people in groups...the key is to travel in pairs...or MORE!'"

Now the other villagers were not convinced. Not only was it difficult to abide by these rules, but even if you abide, does the dragon? Who is to say he does not eat you both...and so another elder proclaims...

"Nay, nay...the key is that we must stay in cottages AND reinforce all doors and windows. The greatest concern is that the dragon can get into our homes and eat our families before our eyes. We MUST secure our doors!!!"

Now the other villagers were really not convinced. Not only does this lock the villagers into their homes, but it also means that if the dragon is able to penetrate the defenses, the occupants are doomed to certain destruction...and so a young man with more gumption that brains proclaims...

"Who wants dragon soup!"

Sometimes, a bit of ignorance about the impossibility of the task at hand is just what is needed.

Shamelessly Promoting Oneself

So, I am looking to build a site all about me. Basically, I want it to provide a unified view of everything that I am, and allow people to learn/subscribe (or request to subscribe) to whatever information they want. I have tried live spaces (not too great), google profiles (not too great), Visual CV (better, but not too great), LinkedIn (does not feel like it is about me), facebook, and some others, but I have not found a home. I want something that people would be able to explore my life, either work or personal. Any recommendations appreciated..

Monday, December 21, 2009

Add next to hide

I was just using an IDE (stands for "I'ld rather be fishing, but I am using this code application instead"), and I ended up hiding a folder that I was trying to add something to. There was no request for confirmation. No ability to undo. I tried to undo/unhide by just adding the folder again, but I got a pretty lengthy message explaining the impossibility of my attempt. BUT, at the end of the message, I was informed that there was an option under Project for showing hidden files. I accepted the message, forgot where the message said the option was, forced the message to repeat by trying to add the folder again, and this time I made sure to remember. I clicked the button, the hidden folder appeared, I right clicked it and...yes there was an option to unhide it.

Three minutes later, and completely out of the rhythm in which I had been, I came away with two learnings: 1) I have no short term memory (I just had to re-read the start of this post to remember what I was talking about); and 2) I wonder how often this happens. If this is a one time deal, I should have my license to the product revoked because I am not worthy of its utility. My hunch is that I am not alone. When two options are adjecent in a GUI, it must be expected that some user with a caffeine overload and all twelve fingers typing madly will occassionally misfire. Software should be built from the ground up to enable this kind of discovery and help the developers address the deficiency. I should not have to build this into my software, but my IDE/framework should provide it out of the box (I guess that is out of the internet).

Instrument your software so that it can help you discover its insanity.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Clippy is coming

Microsoft's Clippy is much maligned. The reality is, it had some accuracy and UX issues. Specifically, it usually gave you the wrong information (-1) while disrupting your workflow (-2). Now, imagine that it works perfectly: you are cruising along in an application, no clippy; you hit a bump, and clippy casually says in a corner "you do not have a semi-colon at the end of your expression...should I add it?" No tinking on the glass, asking you if you want help, and when you say yes saying "do you want to add a printer?" Who will be the first company to implement a clippy++? Note: I get the sense that some people will not like clippy, no matter what.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A good day at work

Had a fun discussion at work today. We have started a lunch-time BS session (that is brainstorming) where people pitch ideas that do not make sense for their jobs but do make sense to the pitcher.