Cooper

Like many a hacker before me, I’m reading Alan Cooper’s The Inmates are Running the Asylum, and like many hackers before me I feel slightly indignant at his blanket dismissal of my attempts at dishing up an acceptable interface, and like many hackers before me I feel inspired.

Take this idea for instance: drag & drop. Nothing is more natural than that, right? You got a document, drag it onto the app icon, and the app opens the document. But this metaphor is actually the wrong way around. And app is a tool and you take a tool to an object, not an object to a tool. Unless the tool is extraordinarily big and clumsy. I mean — I take my handsaw to my shelves, my screwdriver to my computer case, but I would take the putative leg of the imaginary chair I’m not building because it’s too complicated to the workbench where I could turn it if I knew how to do that.

So, if I’ve got a couple of tools in my virtual toolbox, like gwenview to view an image or Krita to muck up an image, I think I’d find it more natural to drag & drop the gwenview or Krita icon onto the image icon, instead of the other way around. Take the tool to the object, not the object to the tool.

(Of course, Alan Cooper’s book is flawed in many ways. The way he blithely assumes that software is worse than other everyday things is ludicrous to someone who discovers grave design flaws in his new socks (the seams near the toe-end are too big and in the wrong place, making them impossible to wear), swiss pocket knives (I did feel as much a fool when the blade snapped onto my fingers as when I was told the difference between save as and export in KOffice by David, perhaps even more so) and gas ranges. And there’s a reason I’m not car-literate. Everything we use has flaws. Although clothing seems worse than ever. Damn that summer jacket that doesn’t breathe and where the zipper always gets stuck.)