Flutterby™! : Point and grunt

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Point and grunt

2009-05-13 16:54:17.759918+00 by Dan Lyke 6 comments

A few days ago I had the realization that a command line is interacting with a computer using language, and a mouse was the equivalent of pointing and grunting. I further commented that a Mac lacked a right-grunt, which was slightly unfair, but as I immerse myself in the iPhone experience, I'm having this sense reinforced.

[ related topics: Language User Interface Macintosh iPhone ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2009-05-13 17:54:14.168957+00 by: markd

at least the iphone has a mutli-grunt interface.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-05-13 17:54:48.050675+00 by: brennen

Well, while it's technically true that desktop/laptop Macs have had a more sophisticated collection of mouse interactions than the single/double click of yore for ages now, your statement still feels true on a gut-level much of the time.

On the other hand, Apple has been doing fairly sophisticated things with trackpads and touch interface stuff generally. On the desktop, Expose is probably the biggest fundamental leap in mouse interaction since the scroll wheel came along (anyone who doesn't believe me can try it out for free with Compiz on a decent modern Linux).

#Comment Re: made: 2009-05-13 20:37:51.751078+00 by: spc476

While it wasn't a similar reaction, I did have an epiphany about command lines vs. GUIs, which left me more confused than ever.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-05-13 21:26:33.447958+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yes! I think that one of the issues with computers is that they learn language with us, and that's largely a one-on-one experience. My list of aliases isn't yours. The M-x commands my Emacs understands aren't yours.

We do have situations where we have shared learning, computers learning from multiple people. Sometimes, as in CPAN, we manage to make that experience helpful, sometimes it's ambiguous: the Google cloud learns what the majority are trying to communicate with their use of language, often frustrating me as it seems like the relevance of their search results goes down.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-05-14 14:18:39.391845+00 by: other_todd

But most users don't want to develop a language with their computer.

I think I may expand on this somewhere else, but the short version: To develop a useful and efficient linguistic shorthand takes a long-term relationship. My wife and I can communicate vast things in few words, but we've been together a long time. Emacs and I have been together even longer than that. I don't think most users care to enter that kind of commitment.

Most users approach computers with the McDonald's counter model; point to what you want and then fret afterwards that what you got didn't look like the pictures on the menu, or couldn't be cooked to order ... but never complain to the management, nor go to a better restaurant.

I think this is reinforced by a cultural notion of a computer as a servitor and not a partner or even a reliable, intimate personal tool; made worse by the fact that, as a general rule, we are a nation that does not respect the service industry and does not treat our tools well.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-05-16 20:21:20.627203+00 by: Dan Lyke

Worth linking back to Sean's further ramblings on the topic, especially:

It seems that every year or two, how we “talk” to our computers radically changes and everything you know you pretty much have to toss out the metaphorical window and start over from square one, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.00.

This is why I like Emacs. And Perl. And the Unix tools. And why Cygwin, for all its flaws, is one of the first things I put on a new Windows computer.

And why my iPhone experience is a mix of new relationship energy and yuck.