Two short tales landed in my view this past week that provide lessons on the difficulties of getting computers to take over complex problems in their entirety.
Joe Clark has a near-perfect short post that rejects the grandiose wailing of bloggers falling apart over the iPad. I’m tempted to quote the whole thing, but this is where he hits the bulls-eye:
…one’s inability to hack an iPad means precisely nothing. Nobody needs to program an iPad to enjoy using it, except those who have no capacity for enjoyment other than programming and complaining about same.
This was the weekend those of us with high standards lost their remaining residue of patience for ideologues who hyperbolize about open systems without actually creating something people want to use.
Amen. That treat was all the more enjoyable after finding it especially hard to read Cory Doctorow’s over the top rant against the iPad…
Last year I wrote that interaction designers will soon find themselves expanding the craft to mediate human-robot experiences, where the instructions of software become physical actions in the real world.
Consider how computers entered our lives across a few decades: first as far-away leviathans in research labs, then to lonely occupants of special rooms in companies, then to every desk and now to every pocket. Here, there, then suddenly everywhere, and robots seem poised to follow the same curve.
I’ve been waiting to see signs of this wave touching the shore of mass culture, and that happens in a new commercial from Honda. Have a watch.
Honda has not hidden its interest in robotics, with Asimo visiting conferences and other press-heavy events, but has always relegated it to the realm of ‘just research’. With this ad, that gradual rebranding shifts gears, gently humanizing Asimo with Canadian interests, getting us used to the idea of a robot from Honda as part of our lives.
Last week I got into a discussion on the blog for Spark, a weekly CBC radio show about technology and culture. From the comments came an interview with Dan Misener, and part of that conversation made its way into an episode that asks why computers are so hard to use. The segment starts at the 40-minute mark, and should you be disposed to listen you can do so.
As with most interviews there are parts that get cut. While I liked the parts Spark included, one part I wished would have made it on was about the importance of the iPad’s adoption of unmediated input. The following is a tidied-up crib of those thoughts.
Just over three years ago Steve Jobs closed a keynote with notice that Apple Computer had changed its name to Apple, Inc. My first reaction was that they were taking the business more towards the iPod model and away from Macs. Later, I wrote that I saw Apple taking the direction towards digital appliances and what that meant for watching movies at home. I’m happy the Mac is still central to their strategy, but in the iPad we see more of what Apple sees: the general purpose computing paradigm is a dead end.
Lots of techies are upset, seeing the future of making software as a Facebook experience: whitewashed, right angles and the turfing out of anything not deemed to fit by corporate interests.
How did that happen? There were plenty of chances to make things easy and for everyone, like the marketing copy we keep slapping onto our product descriptions. But we blew it.
If email were an animal it would have to be a shark: it’s been around almost forever in internet time, its basic design all but unchanged by time and circumstance. Email’s success is impressive: it’s an almost universally understood concept; it was the nascent internet’s first killer app; it’s an underpinning of identity in (some) new and legacy web applications.
Yet when we talk about email we often focus on the the shortcomings and misuses. Given the misunderstandings, misdirections and scamming that goes on in email, it’s no surprise that email gets a bad rap that it doesn’t necessarily deserve. Just like the shark.