Error Messages Are Evil

Richard Gaskin ambassador at
Tue May 13 09:58:23 EDT 2014

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
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