Joel Spolsky, one of the better known ex-Microsoft programmers, writes a single sentence that most displays the incomprehension of design and user experience that seems to typify Microsoft products:
In the case of the iPod, the way beauty is provided happens to be through a clean and simple design, but it doesn’t have to be.
His justification for this is his claim that the Hummer is appealing because of its complexity. No, the Hummer is appealing because it’s huge, and thus a good compensation for insufficient virility. But what design statement it has is that its overall shape is simply a box with a notch cut out of it.
Nobody has come up with beautiful design that isn’t clean and simple–even the Baroque period has lots of filigree, but at the base of that are some very simple figures and they’re arranged with incredible care.
Joel’s psychological block is that he can’t see a distributed benefit in the face of a concentrated harm. He sees the additional sales he would lose if he were to remove a feature. He doesn’t see the benefit to his users who don’t need Feature X of one less option to hunt through to Do What They Want To Do.
Even the iPod has [a] gratuitous Solitaire game.
I’m willing to bet a lot of money that the “gratuitous” Solitaire game had to pass through many, many hoops to make it into the product. It wasn’t one marketing survey that said, “We’ll get X more purchasers if we have a couple of games.” I’ll even bet that it had to be shown that it wouldn’t degrade the experience for someone who Just Cares About Music.
Joel is right that simplicity isn’t just “leaving out features.” It’s work to achieve it, and takes talents that 99.99% of programmers don’t have. But simplicity is important, and is almost always the number one failing of software, which is why I still get questions about how to use Microsoft Office products, more than two decades after those products were first released.
This time, let’s make it really creepy. Let’s worry about sexual harassment–from preschoolers.
Damarcus Blackwell’s four-year-old son was lining-up to get on the bus after school last month, when he was accused of rubbing his face in the chest of a female employee.
The prinicipal of La Vega Primary School sent a letter to the Blackwells that said the pre-kindergartener demonstrated “inappropriate physical behavior interpreted as sexual contact and/or sexual harassment.”
Yeah. Here’s the thing. Even if someone had been sexually abusing or showing that 4-year-old sexual content, he wouldn’t know what the behavior meant. Note the interesting language: “interpreted as sexual contact”.
Wow, who would believe these liberals, huh? Actually, this was in the Reddest area of a Red state, near Waco, Texas.
The father has requested the incident be expunged from his son’s record. The “sexual” references were deleted, but the “incident” remains.
So ladies, beware these 4-year-old predators, ready to force themselves on you. Gosh, I hope none of the preschoolers I meet are gay, or I’ll be next. Eeeeek!
(Not the Colombian girl named America, I know, but the country.)
Your ‘Do You Want the Terrorists to Win’ Score: 72%
You are a terrorist-loving scoundrel who hates our dear leader and the values he defends. There are few redeeming qualities about you. You most likely celebrated when the evil-doers hit us on 9/11, then opposed the Iraq war when we tried to pay them back. You hurt us at every step and cause troops to die in the field by questioning Bush’s decisions. You are most likely a lost cause, doomed to be a brainwashed victim of free thought and liberalism forever. No dose of Ann Coulter’s prose can save you now.
I did call them “Freedom Fries,” but with irony and because it pisses off the French, which is always entertaining. I also thought there must be WMDs, and they didn’t give me the option to say that the UN is both a tool to gain international support and run by Euro-wusses and Third World dictators. (But who else are we going to deal with? Asians?) Plus Islamists do hate our freedoms, and I hate them back. But that has little or nothing to do with Iraq.