Re: Nautilus 2.6 - We're going all spatial

On Thu, 2003-09-18 at 09:05, Ettore Perazzoli wrote:
> On Wed, 2003-09-17 at 05:34, Seth Nickell wrote:
> > > > > > 2) Many of the people who do understand Nautilus will use it less for
> > > > > > simple tasks
> > > > > 
> > > > > Have you tested this?
> > > > 
> > > > User testing is not a particularly good technique for determining this.
> > > > It is simply one HCI technique out of many (when its useful its a good
> > > > technique because its comparatively easy, cheap, and fast). A long-term
> > > > use study would be much more appropriate. Have I conducted a long-term
> > > > use study? No.
> > > 
> > > Then where is (2) coming from?  Is it just a guess?
> (...)
> > It is coming from a trained-designer-with-a-formal-background-in-HCI's
> > analysis of the problem. This analysis is formed based on my knowledge
> > of the general effects of increase in cognitive friction on people's
> > behavior patterns in conjunction with a general sense of the problem
> > domain.
> So it's a guess.  A fairly educated one, but it's still a guess.

At this point its probably a matter of definition. If you want to define
that as a guess, then every technical decision made inside GNOME is
pretty much a guess. If the only two options are "valid scientific
experiment with pre-post test and a control condition" and "guess", then
its a guess. I think the word "guess" becomes pretty useless at that
point. There are other techniques for getting decent information (not as
sure as a rigorous experiment, yes), such as a careful analysis by a
domain expert, that IMO move you out of the realm of "guess". But enough

> Since other experienced
> trained-designers-with-formal-background-in-HCI's who presumably
> actually user-tested this stuff

As I've said before, user testing wouldn't be the right way to determine
this. Has Apple conducted a long term use study on this issue? It is
possible, but these are considerably more expensive and I think its
quite likely they haven't. Also, sadly, long term use studies are less
reliable than experiments (because you don't get to control how the
treatment is applied to participants). Apple "tests" a lot of things,
but by no means most things. You can't, there are too many "earth
shaking" design issues in your basic desktop.

>  seem to disagree quite strongly with you
> (Apple has tdwfbih's, right?) I think you need to try to be a bit more
> convincing.  ;-)

Saying "Apple did X, therefore there must exist a bunch of designers who
think X" is a pretty shaky argument, particularly with the "new apple".

1) Apple is a political entity. In this case I think you can trace the
heritage of this idea back to the NeXT crew, who assumed quite a bit of
power when Jobs brought them (his posse) to Apple. NeXT was a cute
system, but I think a much more flawed (more innovative, but wrong more
often) system.

2) Apple's strength lies less in always making the right design choices
on a choice by choice basis, and more in having a coherent set of design
choices (a single vision). As an aside, GNOME is sorely lacking in this
(and having to defend everything to the old gods of what Windows and
Apple have done is only going to make it worse).

3) Even assuming that this change was driven by Apple designers with no
reference to external pressures: we have no idea what they were trying
to accomplish. As we've already discussed, design is a set of
trade-offs, and you can't consider a design in isolation...designs ain't
context free. Because we have a different set of constraints (some
similar, some totally different), and a different environment, we can't
re-situate a conclusion made in Apple space into GNOME space without
more understanding. We need to know not the conclusion but the factors
and arguments that went into that conclusion, which we do not. As I've
argued with other people, e.g. rhythmbox, if you want to copy Apple w/o
understanding you should copy them completely (in this case their whole
desktop): most of the worst UI mistakes are made by people who take a
design conclusion and implement it partially without understanding the
context. Microsoft's confused models in Windows are a great example of

> I don't think you have yet made a very compelling point about this. 
> Since it's a fairly earth-shattering move you are advocating, I still
> think you need one.

Earth shattering? Hardly. In the space of possible designs this is a
pretty meek little change.

> [Windows]
> > > Of course it had flaws and there were other ways you could things and
> > > have multiple windows for the same object, but that was still the basic
> > > model and how people used it most of the time.  The non-spatialness-ness
> > > aspects of it weren't even visible to the naive user.  (And we are
> > > focusing on the naive user, right?)
> > 
> > 1) It was too visibly *not* the Object model to allow people to form a
> > solid conceptual model. Conceptual model's are fragile things. If people
> > find evidence that a model doesn't hold don't hold they will often throw
> > it away (or worse, will hold them to the exclusion of developing a new
> > model, but not have any confidence in them).
> > 
> > 2) Windows provided certain artifacts that you would also find in an
> > object model but they did not manage to communicate the design model
> > with sufficient force to develop a parallel conceptual model.
> Once again -- I couldn't care less how broken the Windows way of
> implementing the spatial metaphor was.  I was just pointing out a trend
> (from spatial to browser-like), and that it would be wise to have a bit
> of a stronger argument before making the brave move of moving against
> the trend (and many users' expectations).

This "trend" is based on a shift in two data points.

Windows never was spatial. At best it had a confused model resulting
(probably) from programmers copying designs they saw other people
deploying without understanding why they did them (something you are
trying to convince me to do here, btw). They finally chose to go with a
browser interface. As an aside: The browser interface is a particularly
bad instance of the navigation metaphor/model. This is why I said OS/X
was a different cup of tea. A navigation model is not great, but the
browser interface is much much worse than what OS/X does.

I frankly have no confidence in any choice Windows makes. In this case
Windows had a pretty lame system wide directive to make things "more web
like", likely coming from management or a similar group. Web-like turns
out not to be a very good interface at all, and while many of the web
*page* intefaces were slowly scrapped post Windows 98, the changes made
to the Windows explorer to situate these interfaces inside of a "Web
Browser" like interface never were. I speculate that the idea behind the
web browser interface was to promote positive transfer between web
browsing (which presumably people already knew how to do) and file
browsing. But most people don't understand file "paths", in a URL or on
the filesystem.

With respect to MacOS, I have doubts that the shift was promoted by
designers, as voiced above.


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