Beating the Dead UI Horse

Brian K. Dowtin (
Tue, 16 Dec 1997 09:29:19 -0500 (EST)

I was think yesterday about the user interface issue.
And I think Gary's clearly stated that its a non-issue, but
I'd like to put this out just to clear my head.

When I want to call for pizza, I don't have to go to the phone room, and
close the door and put on my phone clothes, and then start up the phone
machine, and call the pizza guy.

When I want to make toast, I don't have to put the entire kitchen in
Toast-Mode, before making toast.

I don't have to do either of those because these two things are integrated
into my life. I want to make a call, I go grab the cordless phone, walk to
where I was going anyway and while making the call I can do whatever I was
doing. As for toast, I put the bread in, push the handle and wait. I can
still keep doing what I was doing in the kitchen or elsewhere.

I think that this serves as an applicable (often preferable) metaphor for
computer applications. When you're doing your taxes and want to use a
calculator you don't want to have to go into the 'calculator room' in your
house, or begin some elaborate process on your supersized automated
abacus, you'd like something small, simple, inobtrusive, that does
everything you need it to.

When we talk to people face to face, more often than not, we don't enter a
talk mode, or have to block out all other things (sometimes we do, and
then we go to a quiet place), but most of my communication with folks, is
in a very casual way as I'm living and working and playing.

I think the issue with the UI of more than a few programs is they require
too much attention and system resources. They aren't able to be
integrated. They become the computer. Often they fill the screen, and
attempt to become the main interface. They block other views. You can not
'background' them, like say talking on the phone, which can be done while
you wash dishes or sweep the floor.

I spend inordinate amounts of time at my computer, and often work on more
than one task and with neat software like phones/conferencing, I have the
potential to have others, miles away help me on that task. But with
intrusive or heavy UI's its difficult or impossible to use them in that

While this relates to Cu-Seeme, it also relates to others. (NetMeeting,
IPhone5, etc.)

Just so you know, I prefer smaller, efficient apps that perform the task,
over larger, resource hungry apps, that perform the task, plus add these
213 additional features. That is to say I'd prefer a wordprocessor that
doesn't consume 52% of my systems resources, takes up less than 10 megs,
has a spell checker and doesn't crash, over one with 20 times the
features, and with animated assistants that alone take 40 megs, and that
requires next years machine to run at its full potential and may melt down
for no apparent reason.

Thanks for letting me clear my head,

'Brian Dowtin