Saturday, April 21, 2012

Geeks Dictating What We Want

I've long had a problem with the way the relationship between geek and user works. My frustration can be illustrated with Gmail's and Blogger's new Interfaces.

Sure they've given people plenty of warning. However, the new interfaces just don't work at all well with smaller (think 10" netbooks) screens. Gmail feels unnecessarily cluttered and busy and Blogger have compromised bits - mainly around size.

So there are perfectly legitimate reasons for wanting the "old" interface. It works for certain people.

But there's this weird thing that Geeks dictate how people should be working. I find myself doing this at times. I believe, that to get a truly usable interface, we need to stop and ask people what they want. What works for them. Why something else might not work for them. And hell - offering the choice of multiple interfaces makes a huge difference.

This is happening on the desktop as well. As an indication of how dissatisfied people are with the Linux desktops, this blog suddenly became horribly popular again when I started writing about how to change it (I'm probably going to follow up on the gnome-shell post this week). People work one way, Ubuntu wants you to work their way and Gnome-Shell it turns out, wants you do things in their way. So while Linux offers a choice, the choices all feel.... well.... like someone just made a whole lot of arbitrary decisions rather than looking at how people work.

The question is, how do we get control of our machines back?


  1. IT is always moving at a fast pace. I suggest you come live here in South Korea for a year. That will blow your whole IT reality out the window.

    1. Ha! You're kidding me right? South Korea, although it has incredibly good internet stagnated themselves with a terrible decision.

      In the name of security they defined a "standard" that had to be adhered to for online transactions. The standard was implemented in both Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer. When Microsoft won the browser wars, development for the plugin in Netscape Navigator was dropped.

      It turns out the standard was implemented in ActiveX - something that Microsoft were desperately trying to drop. Thus, South Koreans had one choice of browser - and an outdated, unsupported one at that.

      In 2010, that decision was changed. Given that IE6 - the last browser with full activeX support came out in 2001, you're looking at 9 years... Hows that rate of change looking in South Korea?

      Okay - so IT moves at a fast pace. That does not mean it should ignore the people it's trying to serve. Did creating a monopoly on browser in South Korea help it at all?