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Comment Physical Bias (Score 1) 352

This poll is a great example of the physical bias that people, and particularly technology geeks, tend to have. The areas needing the greatest study (in my estimation) are organizational in nature: governance, economics, society. These all potentially address the question, 'How do we efficiently employ the time of humanity for the greatest sustained good?'. None of the options the survey provides seriously engage this question except in extremely weak, speculative ways. If we don't figure out how to make the world more peaceful, cooperative, and sustainably prosperous, our explorations into and application of all of the survey's areas are going to be stunted.

Comment Re:Actually Measured (Score 2) 409

Actually, it is ridiculously terrible. All it shows is that geolocated timestamped messages can be searched, but either their search criteria was awful or there aren't enough people creating these things to draw any conclusions about a meaningful population. The fact that they then tried to draw state-level conclusions on this dataset shows a feeble grasp of statistics.

Comment Give it up already (Score 1) 487

Most of the world is not going to care about this complete non-issue. I'm sure most /. readers wouldn't even know about it if Soulskill didn't keep bringing it up every few months. I have been hearing claims that GUIs are going to escape from the bonds of skeuomorphic design as people become more tech-savvy, but somehow we have to continue to tolerate the whining. Apple has always tried to appeal to the fountain-pen-never-used-on-the-desk market and has embraced that asthetic in its GUI decorations. If anything, this is an asthetic which is seeing a resurgence with the rise of 'hipsters' who want to make digital pictures look like 70s era polaroids. Non-skeuomorphic designs are available to replace pretty much everything on any of these devices, so if you want it so bad, go get it and incentivise people to cater to your whims, but please stop cluttering /. with this long, pretentious word.

Comment here is a shot without using metaphor (Score 2) 383

Metaphor can be useful, but it can also cause problems. Here is a shot at a simple explanation without metaphor.

A version control system maintains a log of all changes that are made to the source code of a piece of software. When a problem arises in a piece of software, the version control system can help find out what code was changed, when it was changed, and who changed it. Without this information, tracking down the piece of code causing the new bug can take a lot longer. This log can also be used to undo changes which prove to be problematic.

Explaining how version control helps developers recognize conflicting commits is a specific example and likely lost on lay folk without quite a lot of explaining.

Comment a drop in the ocean (Score 3, Informative) 589

No time to dig up the figures, but I encourage folks to actually look at the useage rates of helium. The military is far and away the greatest consumer followed by medicine and commercial uses. Party baloons are a small fraction of use and loss of helium in the economy. This doesn't even mention how much helium is lost due to non-capture from hydrocarbon gas deposits simply because it isn't economical to do so. This is the same sort of small-minded thinking which makes people think that if we all just recycle our home waste and set the thermostat a few degrees lower than we will solve environmental problems. Please stop busying people with activities which reduce demand for actual solutions.

Comment Spot on! (Score 1) 290

He is right, if we have Do Not Track legislation the economy is going to crash just like after recordable tapes destroyed the film industry and Napster eliminated all musicians.

Comment Re:And designers are never wrong (Score 3, Insightful) 484

Yeah, like those awesome sorted grids of icons which make finding that one thing you want dead simple.

Or those application docks which make it obvious to users how to open a second instance of an open application or switch between multiple open instances.

Perhaps you were referring to media library organizers which use a completely different set of metaphors and visual cues from the file system and are essentially incompatible making it less difficult when users want to interact with their file browser... somehow.

Comment Soulskill's crusade against skeuomorphism (Score 2) 484

http://ask.slashdot.org/story/12/08/29/0138234/ask-slashdot-is-the-rise-of-skeuomorphic-user-interfaces-a-problem

This is just a pet peeve of an editor and not of general interest. Skeuomorphic design isn't inherently evil for users, it's just that a lot of UI designers get annoyed when people ask for it and they can't try their less constrained designs. I sympathize with backlash against the plebian scum of the business world, but they are also their customers. This is an attempt to convince people that these designs are more objectively bad in order to have more firepower to resist them when they are requested.

Comment Re:Doesn't matter in the end (Score 1) 472

Oh the ire of the to comment/not to comment controversy. Confusing uncommented code is frustrating, but so is confusing overcommented code. The no-comments side is trying to fight the very real specter of those programmers who think that writing big, bad code is acceptable if you comment the hell out of it. An overly complicated function with a lot of comments is now two problems, the code, and the maintenance of the in-source documentation of that code.

I will admit I think that ideological objection to comments is too extreme for my taste, but there is validity in their concerns. If you can't explain an entire function in a couple of lines, then that function is likely going to be difficult to maintain. If you write something hacky (which is sometimes legitimate, but don't let the youngins hear you say it) then you had better document the hell out of it. When there is the ability to choose the language for a project, consider how readable the code is going to be so that less effort needs to go into creating and maintaining the comments.

In the end, the argument shouldn't be to comment or not to comment, but how can we write code--including comments--which is easier to understand and maintain.

Comment Re:Shit Editors (Score 2) 311

The problem might be that if it was defined it would be fairly obvious that the entire argument is hollow.

For those who missed the other posts, skeuomorphic designs are those which incorporate anachronistic aspects of other (usually previous) designs. The premise is that user interfaces which incorporate these concepts are 'on the rise' when it is fairly clear that they are an ever-present aspect of user design. The use of typewriter-style keyboards, the filing cabinet metaphor, the 10-key dial pad, the 'window'. Selling people something new has always been difficult, so incorporating aspects of what they already know into their interfaces is one way to reduce the shock for potential customers. Any perception of a 'rise' in this is simply a function of the lowering of restrictions to adding these features and the increased conservative non-technical consumer focus.

It's an all-too-common tactic to use fancy words to alter the initial perception of an idea allowing it to be accepted more easily. This applies to truely innovative ideas as well as complete bunk. I'd classify this in the latter pile.

Comment Re:How do we, as consumers, benefit from all this? (Score 1) 354

In theory, consumers are supposed to benefit from patent protections by creating increased incentive to innovate. An Apple attorney would say that they spend a lot of money on R&D figuring out what is going to be appealing to consumers and they should have protections to ensure that they are appropriately rewarded for doing a good job at that. If their competitors were permitted to sit around and wait for success, and then produce a copy without having to pay that price, Apple would lose incentive to create these innovations, preventing these choices from even coming to market. Setting aside the generally wildly successful marketing campaigns pushed by Jobs which create rabid fans, they do have a bit of a point. Electronics design is generally abysmal, and while I would argue at length about many design choices Apple has made, I couldn't do it from a position that their competition has pioneered much in the way of alternatives. The emphasis on simplicity and coherent design are qualities which electronics firms continually fail to achieve.

You should be applauded as should everyone who, like you, remembers that the ultimate purpose of patent and copyright law is to improve outcomes for the consumer. Somewhere along the line, the conversation has switched from this purpose to a conversation of natural rights of creators. This results in rules which are written or interpreted as increasingly benificial to those seeking patent and copyright and increasingly harmful to the greater community. Finding the balance where we create appropriate incentives for those seeking to invent while also ensuring that the public gains the benefit of market competition isn't an easy thing to do, but it starts by ensuring that both sides of that balance are understood.

Comment Re:Single Sign-On (Score 1) 446

This is a red herring. The OP already said that he or she uses the 'forgot password' feature in proxy of remembering these passwords. This is a de-facto single sign-on via the email authentication. Breach the e-mail and yo have breached the security in a single source. What's worse, now you have two independent routes where security can be breached, your e-mail and the other site. Additionally, since one frequent method employed in absense of single sign-in is to use similar passwords in multiple locations, that spreads out the problem even more.

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