Re: [dev] Interesting post about X11

From: Kurt H Maier <>
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2010 07:39:45 -0400

On Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 12:02 AM, Connor Lane Smith <> wrote:
> Think of it more as how the user
> interacts with the software, not on a graphical level but a
> psychological one.

Are you listening to yourself? There's no 'psychological interaction'
with computers, unless the user is profoundly insane. Computers are
tools used to enable software tools. It's like a drill with
interchangeable bits, and I have yet to see DeWalt advertise their new
psychcologically-streamlined drill experience.
> The Unix philosophy, creating simple tools which can be easily
> combined in new ways, isn't an engineering improvement, it's an
> interactive one. It's about allowing the user to more efficiently use
> their software. That's why we have stderr (hey old thread), why we
> prefer fewer flags, and why "silence is golden". It's more about usage
> than machinery.

None of which has anything to do with "user experience" except in the
sense that a hammer with a wooden handle offers a better "usage
experience" than a handle made out of ice cream.

> Talking of pastel, have you ever used Acme? You should read the paper
> on it [1]. The "nuances and heuristics" section is all about is how
> Pike tried to make the user interface simple and efficient. But- but-
> that's a user interface for Plan 9 programmers! Could it be that we
> too need well-designed user interaction?

Somehow, after years in the suckless community, I did actually manage
to notice acme. I've read the paper. I've installed it. It's a pile
of unusable shit. I am not trying to insult Rob Pike, but Acme was a
total failure. I agree that programmers need well-designed
interaction, but the fact that you consider Acme's interface
'well-designed' indicates at best a lack of consensus in the matter.
I'd certainly say Acme is 'well-designed' in the sense that a
hamburger left on the grill for several hours is 'well-cooked.'

> This may shock you, but we are mortal. Programmers cannot understand
> the entire machine down to the last transistor, and computers are
> becoming ever more complex.

Maybe *you* can't. Lots of us can. Many of us pursue such
understanding as a hobby. Some people make a living understanding it.
 "It's hard" is no excuse for crapping up software.

> However, you are right about one thing: a lot of programmers don't
> give a shit about "user experience". That's a huge shame. That sort of
> thinking will get us closer to vi and emacs and further from acme and
> sam.

I think you've mixed up the sides in that match. vi and Sam lie on
one end of that road, and Acme and Emacs are at the other end.

> None of the editors I've mentioned are perfect (please no holy
> war), but the latter two are designed to be simple both internally and
> externally. (If only internal simplicity mattered we would have stuck
> with ed.)

I note you dismiss ed, probably because of its underdesigned "User
Experience." I use ed more often in my work than vi and sam combined.
 Again, however, there's nothing 'simple' about Acme. If I need to
read a seven-page paper with a page-long bibliography to use the
editor, the editor can go fuck itself. I can get started in vi with
'i' and ':wq' -- so much for your carefully designed "User Experience"

> I hope that someday more programmers will care about user experience.
> I also hope that they realise programmers are users too, and aren't
> perfect either.

And I hope that programmers who feel the way you do stay where most of
them are today: rewriting file managers for the fifteenth time in the
Gnome and KDE projects.

# Kurt H Maier
Received on Wed Jun 16 2010 - 11:39:45 UTC

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