This is to be, like many if not most blogs before this one, a general dumping ground for thoughts on life, the web, computers, mathematics, philosophy or whatever else interests me.
In general, if I want to write something that others can see, I'll stick it here (for now...)
John: allsupj "Art, with a right taken away" "Predict, but don't look" dot "A door? a for? What comes next?" dot b(irming)ham dot ac(ademic) dot u(nited )k(ingdom)
On extraneous information in user interfaces...
...especially when it is not entirely accurate.
I looked at the Radio Times pages recently... I wanted to get tomorrow's TV... [Think "TV"]
Ok. I went to the right place, instinctively clicking the TV bit. It was the right place, but I didn't realise it until I actually let the browser load the page and took a look.
The problem is that I then realised that I'd clicked "Today's TV" when I really wanted tomorrows. I didn't want to wait for the page to load, so I instinctively clicked back (in far less time than it takes the page to load.) Then I started looking for "TV" in more generality than "Today's TV" advertised.
I Couldn't spot it, so I clicked on TV anyway, I'd started exploring. Then is saw it: there was a day selector. I could get to tomorrow's TV via today's TV.
The question is: Why call it "Today's TV"? Why not just "TV?" A similar thing can be said for "Radio" vs. "Today's radio." In practice, you see this sort of problem all over the place.
The point is this:
You shouldn't reason logically: it doesn't work for this sort of thing! People
aren't computers and lack the predictability of robots!
People don't work logically; they will not fit themselves into your reasoning. You have to mould your thinking and your reasoning around them; by thinking. By thinking: what will the user instictively do here if he wants this? You need to think, to play, and to structure accordingly; the result will seem far more natural; just because of how you were thinking when you made the design decisions.
Many aspects of improving UI design can as simple as that. A good discipline is to know what you are thinking; what your acelerated 'logically derived' intuitions are doing for you; to be able to slow down you thinking so that you can see, then speed it up again. This is hard; very hard; and I am but a beginner on the road to learning this important and useful skill: Not so much how to think, but how to metathink.
Just a thought.John.
With the basic Capitalist system we enjoy (or not) at present, 'the company' (or 'the corporation', or 'the rights holder') makes the product (whatever it is, whether a vacuum cleaner or a magic show.) The customer pays the company, the company charges what it thinks it can reasonably get (or otherwise.) Simple as that.
For Capitalism, the answer to the question: Who pays whom? is 'hardwired' into the system. It is simple, it is efficient; or so it would seem. The trouble is that it is hardwired with laws; laws that, as time goes by, require one fix after another. For example, competition regulation, advertising standards, financial dealing rules, etc.
With the Open Source model, the answer is not hardwired. Thus the solution must be a 'soft' solution. You can have a 'customer pays company' system where it works well enough (e.g. RH, Suse, etc.) But being 'software,' it isn't as efficient at doing 'customer pays company' as Capitalism (i.e. (kind of...) it brings in less money for the same quality of product.) That said, you can play with other solutions. There is flexibility. This flexibility is one of Open Source's great strengths. We can, to some extent, redesign our solutions and implement them on a running system, (possibly with the odd 'reboot',) rather than relying on almost eternally 'patching the patches.'
Surely in the long run, with more research and know-how being directed to the problem, far more efficient solutions can be found?
Just a thought.
On the BBC website, it is reported that Catherine Zeta Jones, via her lawyers, have threatened to sue anybody who publishes stories saying that she is on the Atkins diet.
I quote from the BBC report:
The lawyers' letter said news reports made it appear that Zeta Jones was "more concerned about her outward appearance than she is with serious health concerns."This is, of course, an admirable sentiment, and a good reason to try to oppose attempts by others (especially the tabloids) to say that she is on Atkins. Personally, I simply don't care whether or not she is on Atkins... it's her body, not mine. My body is mine, and I don't use the Atkins diet, nor do I plan to. Maybe because the popular obsession with having a 22" waist (i.e. your own) just doesn't apply to most men?
Anyway, what I do want to say is that I think that threatening to sue is unproductive. In light of the recent court case, this use of lawyers threats can give the impression that CZJ is image obsessed, and overly aggressive in protection of that image, and that IMHO has a negative effect upon the message and intent behind the legal threats. (I'm not trying to provoke anything, that's just the feeling I got after having read only the headline and first paragraph of the article in the printed version of Metro. I thought 'Zeta Jones... lawsuits... legal threats... here we go again.' The point is that many readers will stop reading the article having got that far, and what will they think? What will their impression of the situation be?)
Many people are tired of the way that the modern legal system is used, and are beginning to see expensive lawsuits as little different than 'sorting out' some undesirable neighbour by 'rounding up the boys' and 'going in with the baseball bats!'
Anyway, just my view: Admirable intent, but lack of clear thought as to how best to serve that intent.
...know then, that I'm currently sat in my (shared postgraduate) office at the School of Mathematics and Statistics (University of Birmingham, UK), contemplating my first ever foray into the brave new world of the blog. There have been plenty of times, and plenty of ways that I just wanted to jot down thoughts about a topic, a program, (or programme,) or a piece of music, or some such. I tended to just stick it into a text editor and invent a new (and different each time) method of organising those thoughts into a directory hierarchy of plain text files, categorised in some manner or other. (Said manner was constantly reinvented as a matter of habit... you can imagine the mess!)
And guess what? I'd end up reinventing, reinventing, reworking, rejigging, re-whatevering: without having added much in the way of useful thoughts to what I had written before. Blogging appears to provide a useful solution to this, giving you little choice in the matter. Things are (for appearances' sake) stored in the order in which you write them, and search facilities are used in lieu of categorisation. Thus you just write, rant and argue things as you think them, edit them a little, and the stick them where others can see them.
Obviously there are some things best kept to oneself, but a simple directory of text files with a flat structure will suffice for those; (filenames and grep being sufficient to categorise what little of these files there will be.) Note that there will be an approximate one blog-entry to one file correspondence.
When I write, you will notice a mild addiction to the use of parenthetical remarks. You'll see, for example, "(filenames... there will be.)" As a guide to reading, first ignore all the parenthetical remarks. (Yes, all of them.) They are there to add incidental meaning after the original reading (so to speak.) I could use something a little more like footnotes, but these tend to disrupt the spacial locality that parenthetical remarks have, so I tend to opt to insert little extra bits and pieces in amongst the text I write.
Anyhow, this is my first message, and it isn't really here to say much, other than that, in some way, shape, or form: I have arrived.
11/01/2003 - 12/01/2003 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005