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24 March 1999

"Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of nonessentials."
-- Lin Yu-t'ang

I haven't read this closely enough yet to grok it all, but it looks very educational:
  • Maximizing Human Performance [Ask Tog]

    We have had the strange situation over the last 20 years of computing power going up more than 1000-fold, while the eventual user experience has, in some cases, actually slowed down due to bloated operating systems and applications.

    User-performance is maximized by ... reducing the need for decision-making, enabling the machine to gather its own data, and cutting back on the amount of machine-manipulation necessary to achieve the goal.

    (On the other hand, don't do what Apple does, which is to hide [an advanced option] so thoroughly no one can find it. The user shouldn't have to learn through word-of-mouth that the way to get to the advanced options is to hold down the control key while alternately ringing their doorbell and flicking the light on and off in their refrigerator.)

This fits in with an observation that's been crystallizing in my head since last fall: Our machines are now plenty fast, and storage space and memory are plenty cheap. However, we're not seeing proportionate gains in efficiency from our use of computers, and I believe it's because programmers are now optimizing for the wrong variable when they design software.

CPU time, storage and RAM are no longer the bottlenecks they used to be; the time of the human in front of the machine is now the most expensive resource involved in the process and the variable that should be minimized.

Programmers seem to still be optimizing for machine speed or programmer effort or (in the case of certain companies) functionality when combined with other products from the same company. They are solving the wrong problem now.

I could go on, and probably will in more depth in the future...

Coming November 19: The World is Not Enough, the latest Bond film. And the villian is...Robert Carlyle, the lead guy from The Full Monty? Hey, I liked his performance, but he just didn't look like he can be that threatening...guess that's the job of an actor, though. We'll see.

Also, John Cleese will join the cast as R, Q's assistant. That's worth a couple of bucks for admission right there. :)

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