|By Joe Winchester||
|November 30, 2006 09:00 AM EST||
Ted Nelson, inventor of, among other things, hypertext, once lamented that software development today is at the same evolutionary stage film making was at 100 years ago. Back in the 1900s, when the technology of film production was in its earliest stages, the cameraman was the person in charge because he was the one who understood the technology and could make it function correctly. The audience's sheer fascination with the magic of films was enough to captivate and hold their attention while the silent and blurred subjects grinned and gawked directly into the lens. Much has changed in the last hundred years though, and movie directors are now the ones in charge of making a film. It is they who decide every camera angle, every pan and zoom, every focus switch, and every light level in order to create the finished product. Their goal is to captivate the viewer, hold their attention, and suspend disbelief for 90 minutes or more. Cinema is a branch of the arts whose end product is thing of aesthetic quality.
There are striking similarities between cinema and GUI software, the most obvious of which is the fact that both interact with their users through a screen. It was developers at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in the 1970s who realized that the eye is the highest bandwidth connection to the brain, and to interact with the user in the most efficient and natural way required using a terminal as more than just a way of receiving and displaying formatted text output. As a result of this epiphany, the first WYSIWYG editor was created and the concept of the GUI was born. Having the user interact with the information via scroll bars, push buttons, pop-up menus, check boxes, and so forth were all conceived 30 years ago. Each time a new whiz bang PC operating system is released or a software package created that will "revolutionize the way we work," I am always disappointed to peel back the hype and find that most of the effort occurred under the hood, leaving the front end largely unchanged with just a token rearranging of controls. Yesterday's dinner is re-served with fresh salad dressing and a quick 30 seconds in the microwave to make it smell fresh.
The problem is a deep one and can be traced back to the original Xerox developers who, although they were undeniably creative geniuses who shaped most of modern computing, also created the legacy that now holds us back. Their task back then was to create applications that supported laser printers; they needed a way for the user to see what the finished output would be before wasting toner and paper. WYSIWYG is more aptly an implementation of the acronym WYSIWYP or "what you see is what you print." For example, the scrollbar was designed to allow the user to deal with having their available viewing area smaller than the size of the underlying page, not as a way of navigating through large lists of back-end data. All of our computing metaphors - such as copy and paste, applications on a desktop, folders with files, trash cans, and so forth - come from a paper-based view of the world. Ted Nelson writes that "like the fish that is unaware of water, computer users are blind to the 2D tyranny of paper." The problem occurs because everything we do in GUI software is predicated on the fact that we're using the computer as though it were a page of information.
What needs to be done then to break out of the goldfish bowl we're all currently swimming around in? We need to create applications that push the boundaries of software toward cinema, where the user experience is all that matters and our job isn't to be latter-day cameramen just arranging precanned widgets and controls designed to help some laser printer engineers.
Part of the problem lies in our psyche, who we are, and where we came from. In Hackers and Painters by Paul Graham (www.paulgraham.com/hp.html), he draws a parallel between the numerous people involved in creating a piece of art. One is the painter who has the inspiration, the talent, and the creative ability to produce the finished piece. To do this he has the knowledge of how to apply paints in the right way, the right combination, and the right technique to produce a work of art. The other person is the engineer at the paint factory. He has the knowledge of how chemicals can be mixed together to produce different products; paints that dry on the canvas and not in the tin; different colors, mediums, and so forth. The two disciplines are clearly different and neither the artist nor the engineer would be able to apply each other's trade. When the paint factory hires new recruits, they approach the chemical engineering department for graduates, and when the art gallery needs new material, they visit the art department. Software should be the same, where for a GUI application the people required understand how to communicate with users through a computer screen and how to convey information. These people are artists, not engineers. They are people who understand how to direct a movie, not those whose only skill is loading film in a camera and switching it on and off.
When this is understood it can be used to good effect, for example in the computer gaming industry where the production process has more in common with a movie studio than a traditional software house. Likewise, the plethora of special effects that occur in films, not to mention the raw technology underpinning CGI cartoon movies, makes the boundary between the two disciplines even more blurred. Computer games companies hire, and put in charge of production, creative talent and artists, while the engineer's job is relegated to cutting the code, pointing the camera, and making the canvas come to life in the image of the design team's ideas and vision.
What we need to do for desktop software is to learn from the games programmers, to recognize that the screen can do more than rehash a 30-year old paper presentation metaphor to the users, and see if we can inject more art, and less science, into the applications we produce.
|David Marshall 12/11/06 09:56:09 PM EST|
Reliable speech recognition and artificial intelligence would go a long way toward making interfaces more usable. How many times I have to move around looking for files and opening them with the correct app when I wish I could just say "edit the web.xml file in my garbanzo web app folder". Or "Restart Apache."
This kind of stuff is so tedious especially if you have RSI. It mystifies me to see that so many people are returning to essentially a 1970s operating system (Linux) or Unix on the Mac. Now they can issue commands like ls -l to see all their files or cat xxx to look at a file in a terminal window. grep , awk , sed. This is for hackers and only hackers. The fact that these things still exist is not a testament to their power. No one has broken out of the box. I don't think MS Vista is a move forward but it sounds like they at least they entertain some of these ideas. Unfortunately, they seem to be taken with the idea that you can walk into your house and have your computer figure out what song to blast from your entertainment center. That much I can handle. But give me a computer that I can ask "Whats 34.48 times 94?"
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Aug. 28, 2015 11:45 PM EDT Reads: 400
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Aug. 28, 2015 11:30 PM EDT Reads: 822
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
Aug. 28, 2015 07:45 PM EDT Reads: 171
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome,” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Aug. 28, 2015 06:00 PM EDT Reads: 311
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and analyzed? As an area of investment, how might a retail company move towards an innovation methodolo...
Aug. 28, 2015 05:30 PM EDT Reads: 405
Consumer IoT applications provide data about the user that just doesn’t exist in traditional PC or mobile web applications. This rich data, or “context,” enables the highly personalized consumer experiences that characterize many consumer IoT apps. This same data is also providing brands with unprecedented insight into how their connected products are being used, while, at the same time, powering highly targeted engagement and marketing opportunities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nathan Treloar, President and COO of Bebaio, will explore examples of brands transforming their businesses by t...
Aug. 28, 2015 03:45 PM EDT Reads: 168
A producer of the first smartphones and tablets, presenter Lee M. Williams will talk about how he is now applying his experience in mobile technology to the design and development of the next generation of Environmental and Sustainability Services at ETwater. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lee Williams, COO of ETwater, will talk about how he is now applying his experience in mobile technology to the design and development of the next generation of Environmental and Sustainability Services at ETwater.
Aug. 28, 2015 02:00 PM EDT
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
Aug. 28, 2015 12:30 PM EDT Reads: 146
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevOps to advance innovation and increase agility. Specializing in designing, imple...
Aug. 28, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 195
While many app developers are comfortable building apps for the smartphone, there is a whole new world out there. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Narayan Sainaney, Co-founder and CTO of Mojio, will discuss how the business case for connected car apps is growing and, with open platform companies having already done the heavy lifting, there really is no barrier to entry.
Aug. 28, 2015 11:30 AM EDT
As more intelligent IoT applications shift into gear, they’re merging into the ever-increasing traffic flow of the Internet. It won’t be long before we experience bottlenecks, as IoT traffic peaks during rush hours. Organizations that are unprepared will find themselves by the side of the road unable to cross back into the fast lane. As billions of new devices begin to communicate and exchange data – will your infrastructure be scalable enough to handle this new interconnected world?
Aug. 28, 2015 10:00 AM EDT
Through WebRTC, audio and video communications are being embedded more easily than ever into applications, helping carriers, enterprises and independent software vendors deliver greater functionality to their end users. With today’s business world increasingly focused on outcomes, users’ growing calls for ease of use, and businesses craving smarter, tighter integration, what’s the next step in delivering a richer, more immersive experience? That richer, more fully integrated experience comes about through a Communications Platform as a Service which allows for messaging, screen sharing, video...
Aug. 28, 2015 07:30 AM EDT Reads: 558
SYS-CON Events announced today that IceWarp will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IceWarp, the leader of cloud and on-premise messaging, delivers secured email, chat, documents, conferencing and collaboration to today's mobile workforce, all in one unified interface
Aug. 28, 2015 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 356
The Internet of Things (IoT) is about the digitization of physical assets including sensors, devices, machines, gateways, and the network. It creates possibilities for significant value creation and new revenue generating business models via data democratization and ubiquitous analytics across IoT networks. The explosion of data in all forms in IoT requires a more robust and broader lens in order to enable smarter timely actions and better outcomes. Business operations become the key driver of IoT applications and projects. Business operations, IT, and data scientists need advanced analytics t...
Aug. 28, 2015 12:30 AM EDT Reads: 352
Akana has announced the availability of the new Akana Healthcare Solution. The API-driven solution helps healthcare organizations accelerate their transition to being secure, digitally interoperable businesses. It leverages the Health Level Seven International Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) standard to enable broader business use of medical data. Akana developed the Healthcare Solution in response to healthcare businesses that want to increase electronic, multi-device access to health records while reducing operating costs and complying with government regulations.
Aug. 26, 2015 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 106
For IoT to grow as quickly as analyst firms’ project, a lot is going to fall on developers to quickly bring applications to market. But the lack of a standard development platform threatens to slow growth and make application development more time consuming and costly, much like we’ve seen in the mobile space. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Weiner, Product Manager of the Omega DevCloud with KORE Telematics Inc., discussed the evolving requirements for developers as IoT matures and conducted a live demonstration of how quickly application development can happen when the need to comply wit...
Aug. 2, 2015 11:15 AM EDT Reads: 542
The Internet of Everything (IoE) brings together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before – transforming information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. IoE creates new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented opportunities to improve business and government operations, decision making and mission support capabilities.
Aug. 1, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 472
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems, described how to revolutionize your archit...
Jul. 30, 2015 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,561
MuleSoft has announced the findings of its 2015 Connectivity Benchmark Report on the adoption and business impact of APIs. The findings suggest traditional businesses are quickly evolving into "composable enterprises" built out of hundreds of connected software services, applications and devices. Most are embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) and microservices technologies like Docker. A majority are integrating wearables, like smart watches, and more than half plan to generate revenue with APIs within the next year.
Jul. 30, 2015 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 272
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Opening Keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, d...
Jul. 30, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,218