November 28, 2006

Joel Spolsky of Joel on Software fame wrote about how Microsoft should eliminate many of their shut down options because turning off your Vista based computer is just too difficult. But each of the options does something specific and to eliminate the different options Joel starts coming up with some pretty ridiculous systems like “eliminate restart and make people turn their computers on and off again” which makes the task of restarting, which people do like five times a day I imagine, a very cumbersome thing. I don’t want to have to sit at my computer and wait for it just to shut down and then fire it up again manually. I want it to restart while I am in the kitchen getting a soda. I want to be able to log out and let someone else log into my computer. But Joel thinks that I should just restart the computer instead. Oh wait, sorry, no restart. He wants me to turn off the computer (this is Windows, can you say one to two minutes of waiting.) Then once it turns off to turn it back on again (several minutes yet.) And THAT log into it. That would make anyone switch to Linux right there.

Joel points out that most people don’t know the difference between sleep and hibernate. Okay, I agree that people just don’t care that much about their computer and maybe the hibernate feature should be hidden so just those who care can find it but they serve two distinct purposes. I think that when people put their computer to sleep thinking it is hibernate, lose power and then lose all of their documents they won’t be happy that Joel took away their hibernate function. Or when people who use sleep as an extended screen saver take several minutes to return to productivity will be too happy either. The reality is that computers are useful because they have lots of options. Sure, as Joel points out, people are fundamentally unhappy when presented with many choices. But he leaves out that people are only unhappy with choices when they don’t understand them and the reality is that people who don’t understand the simple differences between shutting off and restarting their computer are not going to be happy until there is a single button labeled “compute” and they just press it and let the computer make all possible decisions including whether or not to even turn on in the first place.

Joel is basically suggesting that people are unhappy that cars have a key, the ability to turn them on or off, to put them in park but leave them on or just just hit the clutch. All of these play key operational rolls to the car and any idiot can see why each one is critical. Each corresponds almost perfectly to a Microsoft “shut down” option and for almost exactly the same reasons. The issue is not that there are too many choices but that people think that computers, the most complicated, multi-purpose piece of their environment encompassing entertainment, storage, communications and security should make all of their decisions for them. If they can’t understand how to turn off a computer then the danger lurking inside of a device capable off attaching to their bank accounts is definitely far beyond then ken. I think it is important to assume a certain level of understanding when building a computer or else the world’s most popular computer would be the Staples “Easy” button. One button. No choices. No thinking. A button that when you hit it decides why you hit it, whether or not you should have hit it and then decides whether or not your needs warrant the button to do something or to just ignore you. I have read a lot of Joel’s articles and books and often he seems to be pretty good but articles like this make me seriously wonder about his ability to make software decisions. We have recently started using Fog Bugz software internally but I haven’t worked with it yet and my level of concern just went through the roof!

Once again I got caught being really busy this morning and didn’t manage to get out of the apartment for a long time.

Okay this XKCD comic is one of the funniest that I have seen of anything in a long time. W00t!

I managed to put in some time today adding titles and descriptions to the pictures on Flickr. That is going to be a long, arduous task to get them all labeled. It is especially tough because I don’t always know that much about the pictures especially as many of them are many years old. But it isn’t going to get any easier so I might as well get them done now.

I got home and remembered that tonight is the private exhibition at the art gallery at the National Newark Building just for residents of our building at 1180. Dominica and I had been meaning to go to the showing but Dominica is swamped with homework that must be completed very soon so Susan and I decided that we would go and leave Dominica in peace to get some work done. The show opened at seven thirty so at six thirty once the three of us were home Susan and I ran to Subway and grabbed dinner. We brought it up and we all ate and then we went to the show.

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