This blog has been dormant for a number of weeks, because I’ve been giving higher priority to trying to finish an academic paper on Rationale which is now many weeks overdue.
To write the paper, I’ve been using Google Docs. Compared with Word, it is quite rudimentary. There’s lots you can’t do. But in this context that’s an advantage. I can’t futz around with page layout, footnotes, table formatting, etc.. When in Google Docs, pretty much all I can do is get on with writing the paper.
In this respect, Google Docs and Rationale are similar. Rationale provides a very specific set of functions for building and manipulating maps of various kinds (grouping, reasoning, analysis). That’s it. There’s lots it doesn’t let you do. You can’t use graphics. You can’t even do any text formatting (font, bold, size etc.). Pretty much all you can do is get on with articulating ideas and figuring out how they fit into structures.
So Rationale, like Google Docs, focuses the mind on core tasks. It reduces potential distractions. Less is more, in this case.
In developing Rationale, we’ve been very conscious of this benefit of a limited feature set. At the same time, we constantly feel pulled towards adding features which create futzing opportunities. Many users would like, e.g., text formatting – and for good reasons. We have to choose – do we add the feature, thereby comprising our low-futz environment? Or do we maintain the ascetic purity, frustrating users in other ways?
Just one of the interesting challenges of software development…
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My vote goes to ‘more’. While you can use both Word and GDocs to do simple writing, only in Word can you format what you’ve written into the layout required by conference organisers or whatever. So, as long as you CAN map arguments quickly and simply in Rationale, I’d want to be able to also do more complex stuff (which I hope to specify after I’ve played with Rationale more).
You can’t win when it comes to minimising software for the consumer. At the beginning they want more features or else they simply won’t buy it. Once they are an experienced user they want more features because they want more to fiddle with. It goes against every thing i’m learning about usability.
If you want to read this article in the last issue of interactions by Don Norman, it is reprinted on his website here http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/simplicity_is_highly.html
Yes, mmm, er…, that paper. I’m watching the author’s progress. Closely. That’s one (dis)advantage of GOOGLE Docs. (Did he forget the Google Doc setting, I wonder to myself. Should I say anything, I wonder.)