Error Messages Are Evil

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Error Messages Are Evil

Alejandro Tejada
Recent article published by Don Norman.
http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/error_messages_are_e.html

"Error messages punish people for not behaving like machines.
It is time we let people behave like people. When a problem
arises, we should call it machine error, not human error:

the machine was designed wrong, demanding that we conform
to its peculiar requirements. It is time to design and build
machines that conform to our requirements.

Stop confronting us: Collaborate with us."
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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

Richmond Mathewson-2
On 11/05/14 21:48, Alejandro Tejada wrote:

> Recent article published by Don Norman.
> http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/error_messages_are_e.html
>
> "Error messages punish people for not behaving like machines.
> It is time we let people behave like people. When a problem
> arises, we should call it machine error, not human error:
>
> the machine was designed wrong, demanding that we conform
> to its peculiar requirements. It is time to design and build
> machines that conform to our requirements.

Indeed: but how?

Mind you, if Donald Norman (who has been banging on about Usability
theory and 'affordance'
for years) wants to write about machine errors, he should at least
correct his human error and
get his English grammar sorted out:

"the machine was designed wrong"

is a simple grammatical error any person who wants to be taken
seriously, and has any academic
pretensions, should not make.

"the machine was designed wrongly"

Obviously Donald Norman doesn't know that verbs are modified by adverbs,
not adjectives:
that is HUMAN ERROR.

---------------------------------------------------------

"It is time to design and build machines that conform to our requirements"

Well, oddly enough, all machines that I know of are designed by humans,
and are very rarely,
if ever, designed to annoy the people who use them, but in conformance
to their requirements.

--------------------------------------------------------

Donald Norman started his career years ago by making some blindingly
obvious remarks about
door handles being put on the wrong way round, or on the wrong sides of
door . . . and he did
have a point; now he, as a "one trick pony" has extended that into areas
which do not connect
with door handles.

-------------------------------------------------------

What Norman might have done is criticise GUI, and in very many cases the
criticism would be valid.

What Norman conveniently overlooks is that millions of people use
computers with
"badly designed" interfaces, "badly designed" keyboards (he had a right
royal rant about the QWERTY
keyboard) and don't seem to feel an urge to get up from their collective
bottom and radically
redesign everything.

The same could be said for the efforts of the late Jeff Raskin.

--------------------------------

Error messages are a necessity, not because computer systems are
designed badly, but because
humans and computers are completely different things that work in
completely different ways.

If babies had error messages parenting would be 1000 times easier.

All an error message is is a computer's way of telling us it doesn't
understand; because a computer
is, frankly, a very stupid mathematical calculator, and we humans are
not. If a computer did not
throw up error messages we would never know when we were failing to get
a machine to do what we wanted it to do: that would make life far more
difficult than any error message.
>
> Stop confronting us: Collaborate with us."
>
>

Computers never "confront" us; they are not capable of that. All a
computer does is tell you it does
not understand what you have told it to do.

Accusing a computer of "confronting us" is a socking great
anthropomorphism which only serves to show that Norman has very little
understanding of what a computer is and what it can do.

The fact is that a computer can ONLY do what we tell it to; and it ONLY
"understands" a load of electronic pulses. Clever people have made our
lives easier by designing graphical representations
of what goes on inside a computer and nicer ways of getting a computer
to do what you want it
to. Some people are not quite as clever as other people, and they have
designed less effective
ways of getting a computer to do something.

------------------

"Error messages punish people"

"punish" ; utter rubbish.

Error messages are more important than Norman realises.

Before he makes any further pronouncements of this sort Donald Norman
needs to do the
following to things:

1. Go on holiday to a country where he doesn't speak the language and
nobody there speaks his.

2. Get time allotted to himself on a VAX machine (if there are any left)
and learn a spot of
Assembler language, and then try and type an e-mail message to his best
friend using only
Assembler language on the VAX.

---------------------

It's amazing how purified I feel after a rant of that sort.

But, having had to read about 3 of Norman's book and attend interminable
lectures on
Usability theory at the "University" of Abertay I feel very strongly
indeed about what he says, and
have given it some considerable thought.

Richmond.

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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

Bob Sneidar-2
In reply to this post by Alejandro Tejada
Call me a naysayer, but I think the premise is nonsense. Only a perfect machine could conform to those standards, and there is no perfect machine. All will have or develop problems, and to not inform the user when that happens is irresponsible at best, and disastrous at worse. And it doesn’t help to exclude error banners (like some red text in a web page) as being error dialogs. The issue is confrontation, and an error banner is every bit a confrontation towards the user that a mistake has been made.

Here is a common scenario: I need the user to enter his full address in order to ship the product to him. The end user neglects to enter his street address, or perhaps enters the wrong credit card number, and clicks submit. God forbid I should punish the poor end user for (dare I say it) making a mistake! Better that I just allow the order to go through, and perhaps pick an address in the concentric center of what information I have, or just ship the product anyway, even though no actual payment has been made, but by all means I MUST NOT present the end user with a judgmental ERROR DIALOG, or offend against his frail ego by alerting him to any oversight he may have inadvertently made! If the machine cannot discern the missing information, then it cannot be human error. It MUST be the machine!

Pure tripe.

Bob S


On May 11, 2014, at 08:48 , Alejandro Tejada <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Recent article published by Don Norman.
> http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/error_messages_are_e.html
>
> "Error messages punish people for not behaving like machines.
> It is time we let people behave like people. When a problem
> arises, we should call it machine error, not human error:
>
> the machine was designed wrong, demanding that we conform
> to its peculiar requirements. It is time to design and build
> machines that conform to our requirements.
>
> Stop confronting us: Collaborate with us."
>
>
>
> --
> View this message in context: http://runtime-revolution.278305.n4.nabble.com/Error-Messages-Are-Evil-tp4679382.html
> Sent from the Revolution - User mailing list archive at Nabble.com.
>
> _______________________________________________
> use-livecode mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Please visit this url to subscribe, unsubscribe and manage your subscription preferences:
> http://lists.runrev.com/mailman/listinfo/use-livecode


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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

Alejandro Tejada
Probably, the point of Mr. Donald Norman is:

Reduce as much as possible the chance of
human error... (Richmond wrote about this
key concept in a previous message: affordance)
http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html

"A truly collaborative system would tell me the requirements
before I did the work. If there are special ways you want
stuff entered, tell me before I enter it, not afterwards.

How many times must we endure the indignity of typing in
a long strong only to be told afterwards that it doesn't fit
the machine's whims (more accurately, doesn't fit the
whims of the programmer)?"

Yes, that is the point: The program should guide the users
and collaborate with them... effectively stopping them
of making ineffective or potentially dangerous actions
and guiding users in a smart way.

This sounds really difficult to do. It's very difficult to stop
users from doing what they want, but not impossible.

It's possible, but... it's wise?

and that is another difficult question
to answer...

Al
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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

Dar Scott
In reply to this post by Richmond Mathewson-2
Ah, I have much to learn.

I said, “The house was painted red.”  

I should have said, “The house was painted redly.”  

Dar


On May 11, 2014, at 1:43 PM, Richmond <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On 11/05/14 21:48, Alejandro Tejada wrote:
>> Recent article published by Don Norman.
>> http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/error_messages_are_e.html
>>
>> "Error messages punish people for not behaving like machines.
>> It is time we let people behave like people. When a problem
>> arises, we should call it machine error, not human error:
>>
>> the machine was designed wrong, demanding that we conform
>> to its peculiar requirements. It is time to design and build
>> machines that conform to our requirements.
>
> Indeed: but how?
>
> Mind you, if Donald Norman (who has been banging on about Usability theory and 'affordance'
> for years) wants to write about machine errors, he should at least correct his human error and
> get his English grammar sorted out:
>
> "the machine was designed wrong"
>
> is a simple grammatical error any person who wants to be taken seriously, and has any academic
> pretensions, should not make.
>
> "the machine was designed wrongly"
>
> Obviously Donald Norman doesn't know that verbs are modified by adverbs, not adjectives:
> that is HUMAN ERROR.
>
> ---------------------------------------------------------
>
> "It is time to design and build machines that conform to our requirements"
>
> Well, oddly enough, all machines that I know of are designed by humans, and are very rarely,
> if ever, designed to annoy the people who use them, but in conformance to their requirements.
>
> --------------------------------------------------------
>
> Donald Norman started his career years ago by making some blindingly obvious remarks about
> door handles being put on the wrong way round, or on the wrong sides of door . . . and he did
> have a point; now he, as a "one trick pony" has extended that into areas which do not connect
> with door handles.
>
> -------------------------------------------------------
>
> What Norman might have done is criticise GUI, and in very many cases the criticism would be valid.
>
> What Norman conveniently overlooks is that millions of people use computers with
> "badly designed" interfaces, "badly designed" keyboards (he had a right royal rant about the QWERTY
> keyboard) and don't seem to feel an urge to get up from their collective bottom and radically
> redesign everything.
>
> The same could be said for the efforts of the late Jeff Raskin.
>
> --------------------------------
>
> Error messages are a necessity, not because computer systems are designed badly, but because
> humans and computers are completely different things that work in completely different ways.
>
> If babies had error messages parenting would be 1000 times easier.
>
> All an error message is is a computer's way of telling us it doesn't understand; because a computer
> is, frankly, a very stupid mathematical calculator, and we humans are not. If a computer did not
> throw up error messages we would never know when we were failing to get a machine to do what we wanted it to do: that would make life far more difficult than any error message.
>>
>> Stop confronting us: Collaborate with us."
>>
>>
>
> Computers never "confront" us; they are not capable of that. All a computer does is tell you it does
> not understand what you have told it to do.
>
> Accusing a computer of "confronting us" is a socking great anthropomorphism which only serves to show that Norman has very little understanding of what a computer is and what it can do.
>
> The fact is that a computer can ONLY do what we tell it to; and it ONLY "understands" a load of electronic pulses. Clever people have made our lives easier by designing graphical representations
> of what goes on inside a computer and nicer ways of getting a computer to do what you want it
> to. Some people are not quite as clever as other people, and they have designed less effective
> ways of getting a computer to do something.
>
> ------------------
>
> "Error messages punish people"
>
> "punish" ; utter rubbish.
>
> Error messages are more important than Norman realises.
>
> Before he makes any further pronouncements of this sort Donald Norman needs to do the
> following to things:
>
> 1. Go on holiday to a country where he doesn't speak the language and nobody there speaks his.
>
> 2. Get time allotted to himself on a VAX machine (if there are any left) and learn a spot of
> Assembler language, and then try and type an e-mail message to his best friend using only
> Assembler language on the VAX.
>
> ---------------------
>
> It's amazing how purified I feel after a rant of that sort.
>
> But, having had to read about 3 of Norman's book and attend interminable lectures on
> Usability theory at the "University" of Abertay I feel very strongly indeed about what he says, and
> have given it some considerable thought.
>
> Richmond.
>
> _______________________________________________
> use-livecode mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Please visit this url to subscribe, unsubscribe and manage your subscription preferences:
> http://lists.runrev.com/mailman/listinfo/use-livecode


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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

Dar Scott
In reply to this post by Alejandro Tejada
Often I design communications without error responses to commands.  Instead there is state information while the underlying system is working doggedly to make what you wanted work.  

On May 11, 2014, at 12:48 PM, Alejandro Tejada <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Recent article published by Don Norman.
> http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/error_messages_are_e.html
>
> "Error messages punish people for not behaving like machines.
> It is time we let people behave like people. When a problem
> arises, we should call it machine error, not human error:
>
> the machine was designed wrong, demanding that we conform
> to its peculiar requirements. It is time to design and build
> machines that conform to our requirements.
>
> Stop confronting us: Collaborate with us."
>
>
>
> --
> View this message in context: http://runtime-revolution.278305.n4.nabble.com/Error-Messages-Are-Evil-tp4679382.html
> Sent from the Revolution - User mailing list archive at Nabble.com.
>
> _______________________________________________
> use-livecode mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Please visit this url to subscribe, unsubscribe and manage your subscription preferences:
> http://lists.runrev.com/mailman/listinfo/use-livecode


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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

dunbarxx
In reply to this post by Bob Sneidar-2
I am a person, and I behave like a person. That means that 99% of all mistakes, errors and harebrained methods are proudly mine.


The machine is not perfect; LC has its peccadillos. But I would never have the temerity to accuse the machine being the source of my woes.


Craig Newman



-----Original Message-----
From: Bob Sneidar <[hidden email]>
To: How to use LiveCode <[hidden email]>
Sent: Sun, May 11, 2014 4:49 pm
Subject: Re: Error Messages Are Evil


Call me a naysayer, but I think the premise is nonsense. Only a perfect machine
could conform to those standards, and there is no perfect machine. All will have
or develop problems, and to not inform the user when that happens is
irresponsible at best, and disastrous at worse. And it doesn’t help to exclude
error banners (like some red text in a web page) as being error dialogs. The
issue is confrontation, and an error banner is every bit a confrontation towards
the user that a mistake has been made.

Here is a common scenario: I need the user to enter his full address in order to
ship the product to him. The end user neglects to enter his street address, or
perhaps enters the wrong credit card number, and clicks submit. God forbid I
should punish the poor end user for (dare I say it) making a mistake! Better
that I just allow the order to go through, and perhaps pick an address in the
concentric center of what information I have, or just ship the product anyway,
even though no actual payment has been made, but by all means I MUST NOT present
the end user with a judgmental ERROR DIALOG, or offend against his frail ego by
alerting him to any oversight he may have inadvertently made! If the machine
cannot discern the missing information, then it cannot be human error. It MUST
be the machine!

Pure tripe.

Bob S


On May 11, 2014, at 08:48 , Alejandro Tejada <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Recent article published by Don Norman.
> http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/error_messages_are_e.html
>
> "Error messages punish people for not behaving like machines.
> It is time we let people behave like people. When a problem
> arises, we should call it machine error, not human error:
>
> the machine was designed wrong, demanding that we conform
> to its peculiar requirements. It is time to design and build
> machines that conform to our requirements.
>
> Stop confronting us: Collaborate with us."
>
>
>
> --
> View this message in context: http://runtime-revolution.278305.n4.nabble.com/Error-Messages-Are-Evil-tp4679382.html
> Sent from the Revolution - User mailing list archive at Nabble.com.
>
> _______________________________________________
> use-livecode mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Please visit this url to subscribe, unsubscribe and manage your subscription
preferences:
> http://lists.runrev.com/mailman/listinfo/use-livecode


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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

J. Landman Gay
In reply to this post by Dar Scott
I'm interested.  Can I get an example? I know Apple discourages error dialogs now.  

On May 11, 2014 5:44:47 PM CDT, Dar Scott <[hidden email]> wrote:
>Often I design communications without error responses to commands.
>Instead there is state information while the underlying system is
>working doggedly to make what you wanted work.  

--
Jacqueline Landman Gay         |     [hidden email]
HyperActive Software           |     http://www.hyperactivesw.com

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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

Peter Haworth
In reply to this post by Alejandro Tejada
Perfect example - signing up for an account online and getting an error
because your password didn't meet the site 's rules which they didn't
reveal to start with.  That's evil!

Pete
lcSQL Software
On May 11, 2014 2:24 PM, "Alejandro Tejada" <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Probably, the point of Mr. Donald Norman is:
>
> Reduce as much as possible the chance of
> human error... (Richmond wrote about this
> key concept in a previous message: affordance)
> http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html
>
> "A truly collaborative system would tell me the requirements
> before I did the work. If there are special ways you want
> stuff entered, tell me before I enter it, not afterwards.
>
> How many times must we endure the indignity of typing in
> a long strong only to be told afterwards that it doesn't fit
> the machine's whims (more accurately, doesn't fit the
> whims of the programmer)?"
>
> Yes, that is the point: The program should guide the users
> and collaborate with them... effectively stopping them
> of making ineffective or potentially dangerous actions
> and guiding users in a smart way.
>
> This sounds really difficult to do. It's very difficult to stop
> users from doing what they want, but not impossible.
>
> It's possible, but... it's wise?
>
> and that is another difficult question
> to answer...
>
> Al
>
>
>
>
> --
> View this message in context:
> http://runtime-revolution.278305.n4.nabble.com/Error-Messages-Are-Evil-tp4679382p4679389.html
> Sent from the Revolution - User mailing list archive at Nabble.com.
>
> _______________________________________________
> use-livecode mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Please visit this url to subscribe, unsubscribe and manage your
> subscription preferences:
> http://lists.runrev.com/mailman/listinfo/use-livecode
>
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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

Dar Scott
In reply to this post by J. Landman Gay
Sure.  Here is a belabored example of my style of tenacious I/O.

I typically start one each of a communications “machine" with <prefix>Start command and stop it with <prefix>Stop.  The status is available though a status function and notification of the status change by a callback.  

A very simple example is a TCP service.  

Almost always present is the part of the status that says the machine is on or off.  That is, the start handler has been called.

A fundamental part of the status for such a service is whether a listening port is set up correctly.  That part of the status might have values “listening” or “can’t listen (<latest reason>)”.  The callback allows this to be displayed as a green light or a red light, or it might never get to the user.  

If the machine gets an error on accept (usually because you left a test standalone running or forgot to shut down some OS service) that status will remain “can’t listen”.  The machine keeps trying every half second or so, depending on the need.  It doesn’t block in the start.  I use 'send … in … seconds’.

Quit that offending application and this one has a green light indicator immediately.

This same thing applies to a gadget that looks like a serial adaptor.  “Oh.  It’s not plugged in.”  Plug it in and everything starts working.  Want to move it to the front?  Unplug it, the light goes red, plug it back in and the light turns green.  All is working.  

Now, think of something more complicated, such a machine that allows you to pass an array from one app to the other.  In that case write errors might mean trying again, even trying to take things down and building them again.  The machine keeps trying everything, kicking and biting, to do what you want.  Heartbeat messages back and forth let your code and perhaps the user know what the current state of affairs is:  communicating.

You can see the current state in the status.  

So, a status for array sender might be “on, receiver open, sender open, receiving, sending, high error rates”.  

So, in my communications modules, I say, “Don’t tell me you can’t, just let me know how well you are doing.  Just keep at it.  Wen’t down a bunny trail?  Then backtrack or start over if you have to.”  

This is also important when there are lots of components to a complex system and I expect the system to work no matter the order the components got started or got past hurdles.

If you have an application blocking a network port you wanted to use, you want to shut it down and everything start working.  You don’t want to say, “OK, I think I found the problem, everybody shut your systems down and then bring them come up when I say.  We should be able to grab an early breakfast within the hour or so.”  

The important goal is if everything is in the right state and in the right environment, it works.  It doesn’t matter how it got there.  

I call this tenacious I/O.  Some have called it Dar’s badger programming.  

This does not apply to isolated request-response situations, such as making a REST query with LiveCode URL.  But it might apply to a simple REST server.  It might apply to some higher level function that needs to work doggedly at getting something done that includes making REST queries.  

Most of what I do with this is for control, but it also applies to physical security and distributed systems.

I also design protocols are are highly resistant to errors.  

Dar


On May 11, 2014, at 5:21 PM, J. Landman Gay <[hidden email]> wrote:

> I'm interested.  Can I get an example? I know Apple discourages error dialogs now.  
>
> On May 11, 2014 5:44:47 PM CDT, Dar Scott <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> Often I design communications without error responses to commands.
>> Instead there is state information while the underlying system is
>> working doggedly to make what you wanted work.  
>
> --
> Jacqueline Landman Gay         |     [hidden email]
> HyperActive Software           |     http://www.hyperactivesw.com
>
> _______________________________________________
> use-livecode mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Please visit this url to subscribe, unsubscribe and manage your subscription preferences:
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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

mwieder
In reply to this post by Dar Scott
Dar-

Do not go gently into that good night.

--
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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

Dar Scott
In reply to this post by Alejandro Tejada
Long ago, deep in a previous century, I set up a Cromemco or MITS Altair for my secretary to do some word processing while I was out.  

When I came back, she was in tears.  The computer told her, “Invalid!  Jump to!”

I looked at the screen.  At the bottom was the line “Invalid jump to 0000.”  

I hadn’t emphasized that programs crash and what the crash might look like.  I had neglected to say that if something goes wrong is was unlikely to be her fault.  

We have come a long way, computers and I.  

Dar


On May 11, 2014, at 12:48 PM, Alejandro Tejada <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Recent article published by Don Norman.
> http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/error_messages_are_e.html
>
> "Error messages punish people for not behaving like machines.
> It is time we let people behave like people. When a problem
> arises, we should call it machine error, not human error:
>
> the machine was designed wrong, demanding that we conform
> to its peculiar requirements. It is time to design and build
> machines that conform to our requirements.
>
> Stop confronting us: Collaborate with us."
>
>
>
> --
> View this message in context: http://runtime-revolution.278305.n4.nabble.com/Error-Messages-Are-Evil-tp4679382.html
> Sent from the Revolution - User mailing list archive at Nabble.com.
>
> _______________________________________________
> use-livecode mailing list
> [hidden email]
> Please visit this url to subscribe, unsubscribe and manage your subscription preferences:
> http://lists.runrev.com/mailman/listinfo/use-livecode


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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

Richmond Mathewson-2
In reply to this post by Dar Scott

On 05/12/2014 01:41 AM, Dar Scott wrote:
> Ah, I have much to learn.
>
> I said, “The house was painted red.”
>
> I should have said, “The house was painted redly.”

LOL!

You made my Monday a thousand times more cheerful.

Thanks so much.

Richmond.

>
> Dar
>
>
> On May 11, 2014, at 1:43 PM, Richmond <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>> On 11/05/14 21:48, Alejandro Tejada wrote:
>>> Recent article published by Don Norman.
>>> http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/error_messages_are_e.html
>>>
>>> "Error messages punish people for not behaving like machines.
>>> It is time we let people behave like people. When a problem
>>> arises, we should call it machine error, not human error:
>>>
>>> the machine was designed wrong, demanding that we conform
>>> to its peculiar requirements. It is time to design and build
>>> machines that conform to our requirements.
>> Indeed: but how?
>>
>> Mind you, if Donald Norman (who has been banging on about Usability theory and 'affordance'
>> for years) wants to write about machine errors, he should at least correct his human error and
>> get his English grammar sorted out:
>>
>> "the machine was designed wrong"
>>
>> is a simple grammatical error any person who wants to be taken seriously, and has any academic
>> pretensions, should not make.
>>
>> "the machine was designed wrongly"
>>
>> Obviously Donald Norman doesn't know that verbs are modified by adverbs, not adjectives:
>> that is HUMAN ERROR.
>>
>> ---------------------------------------------------------
>>
>> "It is time to design and build machines that conform to our requirements"
>>
>> Well, oddly enough, all machines that I know of are designed by humans, and are very rarely,
>> if ever, designed to annoy the people who use them, but in conformance to their requirements.
>>
>> --------------------------------------------------------
>>
>> Donald Norman started his career years ago by making some blindingly obvious remarks about
>> door handles being put on the wrong way round, or on the wrong sides of door . . . and he did
>> have a point; now he, as a "one trick pony" has extended that into areas which do not connect
>> with door handles.
>>
>> -------------------------------------------------------
>>
>> What Norman might have done is criticise GUI, and in very many cases the criticism would be valid.
>>
>> What Norman conveniently overlooks is that millions of people use computers with
>> "badly designed" interfaces, "badly designed" keyboards (he had a right royal rant about the QWERTY
>> keyboard) and don't seem to feel an urge to get up from their collective bottom and radically
>> redesign everything.
>>
>> The same could be said for the efforts of the late Jeff Raskin.
>>
>> --------------------------------
>>
>> Error messages are a necessity, not because computer systems are designed badly, but because
>> humans and computers are completely different things that work in completely different ways.
>>
>> If babies had error messages parenting would be 1000 times easier.
>>
>> All an error message is is a computer's way of telling us it doesn't understand; because a computer
>> is, frankly, a very stupid mathematical calculator, and we humans are not. If a computer did not
>> throw up error messages we would never know when we were failing to get a machine to do what we wanted it to do: that would make life far more difficult than any error message.
>>> Stop confronting us: Collaborate with us."
>>>
>>>
>> Computers never "confront" us; they are not capable of that. All a computer does is tell you it does
>> not understand what you have told it to do.
>>
>> Accusing a computer of "confronting us" is a socking great anthropomorphism which only serves to show that Norman has very little understanding of what a computer is and what it can do.
>>
>> The fact is that a computer can ONLY do what we tell it to; and it ONLY "understands" a load of electronic pulses. Clever people have made our lives easier by designing graphical representations
>> of what goes on inside a computer and nicer ways of getting a computer to do what you want it
>> to. Some people are not quite as clever as other people, and they have designed less effective
>> ways of getting a computer to do something.
>>
>> ------------------
>>
>> "Error messages punish people"
>>
>> "punish" ; utter rubbish.
>>
>> Error messages are more important than Norman realises.
>>
>> Before he makes any further pronouncements of this sort Donald Norman needs to do the
>> following to things:
>>
>> 1. Go on holiday to a country where he doesn't speak the language and nobody there speaks his.
>>
>> 2. Get time allotted to himself on a VAX machine (if there are any left) and learn a spot of
>> Assembler language, and then try and type an e-mail message to his best friend using only
>> Assembler language on the VAX.
>>
>> ---------------------
>>
>> It's amazing how purified I feel after a rant of that sort.
>>
>> But, having had to read about 3 of Norman's book and attend interminable lectures on
>> Usability theory at the "University" of Abertay I feel very strongly indeed about what he says, and
>> have given it some considerable thought.
>>
>> Richmond.
>>
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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

Bob Sneidar-2
In reply to this post by Bob Sneidar-2
I also meant to say that to imagine one could predict every kind of erroneous user input or machine fault and program around it is easy, but it’s just our imagination. In reality, it is a great deal more difficult to do. I remember articles written when Hypercard was rolled out, about how much work it took in a commercial product to program around the possible user input errors. Some were saying that a full 2/3 to 3/4 of code in a commercial product was dedicated to error detection. My own experience bears this out. How often do we encounter a dialog that reports an “unknown error”?

Perhaps I should revise my estimate of this article, referring to it as “tripe”. Perhaps that was too harsh. It’s probably just a product of the author’s imagination. How nice it would be if we could write software that never generated an error dialog? And have bacon that cooks itself, and dishes that never got dirty, and clothes that put themselves on our bodies when we called for them? Well, that WOULD be nice indeed!

Bob S


On May 11, 2014, at 10:48 , Bob Sneidar <[hidden email]<mailto:[hidden email]>> wrote:

Call me a naysayer, but I think the premise is nonsense.

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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

Peter Bogdanoff
I've been having a horrible experience with the United States Internal Revenue Service website--trying just to set up an account in order to download a pdf of a previous year's return.

Every attempt (at least 6) over two days ended somewhere along the process with:
        "A technical problem has occurred. Please try your request again later."
followed by the options "Close your browser" and a button "Continue" (????).

The time I actually did get to the part where I was able to set a user name and password, there was no explanation what was an acceptable user name or password until I had entered one in. I pushed on through this and the security questions and answers until the final "Create account" where I got again the "A technical problem has occurred. Please try your request again later."

(I was trying to avoid the 2 hour wait time on the phone and the 60 mile drive to the nearest IRS office.)

Idiot programmers. Maybe the same ones who did the Obamacare website. Grrrrrr.

Peter Bogdanoff
UCLA



On May 11, 2014, at 10:19 PM, Bob Sneidar <[hidden email]> wrote:

> I also meant to say that to imagine one could predict every kind of erroneous user input or machine fault and program around it is easy, but it’s just our imagination. In reality, it is a great deal more difficult to do. I remember articles written when Hypercard was rolled out, about how much work it took in a commercial product to program around the possible user input errors. Some were saying that a full 2/3 to 3/4 of code in a commercial product was dedicated to error detection. My own experience bears this out. How often do we encounter a dialog that reports an “unknown error”?
>
> Perhaps I should revise my estimate of this article, referring to it as “tripe”. Perhaps that was too harsh. It’s probably just a product of the author’s imagination. How nice it would be if we could write software that never generated an error dialog? And have bacon that cooks itself, and dishes that never got dirty, and clothes that put themselves on our bodies when we called for them? Well, that WOULD be nice indeed!
>
> Bob S
>
>
> On May 11, 2014, at 10:48 , Bob Sneidar <[hidden email]<mailto:[hidden email]>> wrote:
>
> Call me a naysayer, but I think the premise is nonsense.
>
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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

Richmond Mathewson-2
<snip>


Idiot programmers. Maybe the same ones who did the Obamacare website. Grrrrrr.

Peter Bogdanoff
UCLA


Yes; a program is only so good as its programmers have made it; so Donald Norman's anthropomorphic heresy
piling all the blame on some machine is ridiculous.

Nowadays we don't have bad computers; we only have bad programmers.

And, to be honest the bad programmers are not the ones we have to be worried about, as bad programs
can normally be seen a mile off and avoided.

What we have to be worried about MOST are the programmers, who might as such be very good programmers, who
don't have a clue how end-users might respond to their program's interface.

Richmond.


<snip>

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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

J. Landman Gay
In reply to this post by Dar Scott
On 5/11/14, 7:49 PM, Dar Scott wrote:
> Sure.  Here is a belabored example of my style of tenacious I/O.

Good stuff, thanks for writing that up. I need to pay more attention to
this kind of thing. It's way too easy to pop up a dialog and tell the
user they're wrong, and that's not a great approach no matter how kindly
you phrase the prompt.

--
Jacqueline Landman Gay         |     [hidden email]
HyperActive Software           |     http://www.hyperactivesw.com

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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

pmbrig
In reply to this post by Alejandro Tejada
Someone on this list (Richard Gaskin?) once observed that the difference between a tool and a product is that a tool only has to be able to be used properly, whereas a product has to be unable to be used improperly. A well-designed application should anticipate as much as possible users' likely confusion and prevent users from doing things by mistake. Error messages are part of this process -- but they should be more in the form of "in order to do x I must know y and z, please clarify…" or "did you mean a or b?" or "I'm sorry, you can't do x in this context, do you want me to…." Even better, the interface should be designed so that even these messages are encountered rarely -- consistency is a crucial part of this. The earlier Apple OSes used to do a good job on this, mostly. Later versions not so much. Windows has always done a lousy job with consistency -- I don't know how many times I've found that I can't paste into a Windows system window.

Sorry, you got me started….

-- Peter

Peter M. Brigham
[hidden email]
http://home.comcast.net/~pmbrig


On May 11, 2014, at 5:24 PM, Alejandro Tejada wrote:

> Probably, the point of Mr. Donald Norman is:
>
> Reduce as much as possible the chance of
> human error... (Richmond wrote about this
> key concept in a previous message: affordance)
> http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/affordances_and.html
>
> "A truly collaborative system would tell me the requirements
> before I did the work. If there are special ways you want
> stuff entered, tell me before I enter it, not afterwards.
>
> How many times must we endure the indignity of typing in
> a long strong only to be told afterwards that it doesn't fit
> the machine's whims (more accurately, doesn't fit the
> whims of the programmer)?"
>
> Yes, that is the point: The program should guide the users
> and collaborate with them... effectively stopping them
> of making ineffective or potentially dangerous actions
> and guiding users in a smart way.
>
> This sounds really difficult to do. It's very difficult to stop
> users from doing what they want, but not impossible.
>
> It's possible, but... it's wise?
>
> and that is another difficult question
> to answer...
>
> Al
>
>
>
>
> --
> View this message in context: http://runtime-revolution.278305.n4.nabble.com/Error-Messages-Are-Evil-tp4679382p4679389.html
> Sent from the Revolution - User mailing list archive at Nabble.com.
>
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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

Dave Kilroy
In reply to this post by Dar Scott
Thanks for this Dar - I like it very much :)
Dar Scott wrote
Sure.  Here is a belabored example of my style of tenacious I/O.
"The first 90% of the task takes 90% of the time, and the last 10% takes the other 90% of the time."
Peter M. Brigham
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Re: Error Messages Are Evil

Richard Gaskin
In reply to this post by pmbrig
Peter M. Brigham wrote:
 > Someone on this list (Richard Gaskin?) once observed that the
 > difference between a tool and a product is that a tool only has
 > to be able to be used properly, whereas a product has to be unable
 > to be used improperly.

I wish I could take credit for that, but that slice of insight comes
from Steven McConnell, from either "Code Complete" or "Rapid Development".

...
 > Windows has always done a lousy job with consistency...

One thing Windows is consistent about is telling us obvious things that
don't need special notice, like letting me know there are icons on my
desktop or that I've inserted a CD.

Of course I've inserted a CD - I know that because I just did it.  In
fact, I can't think of any other way to insert a CD than by human
intervention, so what new information did they designers of the OS
imagine they were imparting?

It's the opposite of a confidence-builder when the designers of an OS
are so overjoyed at the prospect of a computer simply doing what you
asked it to do that it must be celebrated with an announcement.

Ubuntu had a similar annoyance for many years (thankfully fixes in
recent versions):  when connecting to wifi, it would present a
notification box letting me know, as though the wifi icon wasn't
notification enough.

These are basic tasks we should expect to be done efficiently and
without error.  They require no celebration.  Don't even mention them
unless something goes wrong.  Otherwise, as long as the computer is
doing what we expect it to do, please just shut up and let me focus on
my work.


Thanks for letting me rant....

--
  Richard Gaskin
  Fourth World
  LiveCode training and consulting: http://www.fourthworld.com
  Webzine for LiveCode developers: http://www.LiveCodeJournal.com
  Follow me on Twitter:  http://twitter.com/FourthWorldSys


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