Dr. Future on Sun, 7 Jun 1998 18:32:24 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Courtesy in Interface Design

Dear Sir/Madam,

   am I completely mad? Or is anyone else fuming at the apparent inability
of these so-called 'software designers' to observe the most basic social
graces and elementary politenesses?

   I am so sick and tired of using software packages and being faced with
such an array of menus that bark out commands like 'File/Save',
'Selection/Invert' and the ubiquitous 'OK'. Would it really be too much
to ask to moderate these tones with a simple display of common courtesy?
The current trend for monosyllabic imperatives is at best curt and at
worst downright rude and intrusive. How much more pleasant life at the
computer would be if we were to be greeted by 'Please Save File - Thank
you' or 'I would be pleased to Invert your Selection at the next
opportunity'. And as for that curse of the laconic style of modern
computing - 'OK' - how much nicer to reply 'Yes, I would like that', or
'That's very kind of you. Thanks'.

   And its not just the brusqueness of menu commands that could do with a
rap over the knuckles. Just consider the sort of cheek you are faced
with when saving a file with the same name - 'File already exists - do
you want to replace it? - Yes/No'. Are they really trying to imply that
the user is so stupid that they do not know what files are already on
their own hard disks? In any case a far more appropriate response would
be to broach the matter more circumspectly as in 'It's so convenient to
be able to save a file and replace one that is already on your disk at
the same time, don't you think? - Yes, I've often thought that/Well, of
course it all depends on what you mean by "replace"'. And on trying to
exit a package and being interrupted with 'Do you want to save changes -
Yes/No/Cancel', giving the impression that the user has foolishly
forgotten something instead of the more civil 'I often save my file
twice just to be on the safe side, do you? - Yes, I'm a bit superstitous
as well/Normally, but I'm in a bit of a rush at the moment/Oh, that
reminds me, I must just go back and check something, sorry'.

   Sorry to go on about this but surely we can't go on using terms of
address that are more suited to a bar room brawl than what we are
constantly told is the future of communications. If software companies
cannot mend their ways then they can hardly complain when unfuriated
users resort to software piracy rather than encourage their

   Remember - Good Manners Costs Nothing!

   Yours sincerely,
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