> Although software isn't human it engages our human emotions but > because it has complex behavior like humans. So, it's really too bad > that it follows its own machine logic... wouldn't it be nice if > sometimes computers followed human logic? That would be refreshing.
They can't. They aren't human. Thus they have to be designed to present
themselves as though they had human motivations and behaviors. One way
of doing this is via metaphor. "Dialog" boxes pop up to ask you
questions. The computer "saves" your work. You "send" email. In
reality, the computer isn't doing any of these things: it's
manipulating ones and zeros.
> >> What's important is how its behavior is presented to the user: in the >> way it communicates. And that this communication matches the mental >> model of how the user thinks the software *should* work. > > Yes, but this becomes self-fulfilling. My mental model of how most > software works is really screwy, and most software delivers! Is that > good? If my mental model is (in part) driven by my previous experience > using software, then what is the role of innovation?
I agree you should break with convention and users' likely mental
models when something significantly better presents itself.
> >> Metaphor can be a crucial component of that communication. I think a >> digital folder should hold files like a physical one does...and >> voila! it does. > > But it doesn't, it just pretends to.
All of the digital world is pretend then. Nothing we're seeing is
really what is going on. You are not reading words in an email right
now. Ce n'est pas une pipe.
We need means of representing what is going on inside our complex
digital devices. We simply cannot understand them without metaphor.
They are too complex: from their physical components, to the code we
use to program them, to their complex behaviors. We can't help but use
it to describe and reason about it.
> >> Granted, there are problems with this, My digital folder can do a lot >> of things my physical one can't, like be in two places at once and >> duplicate itself. But the metaphor is strong enough that this >> additional functionality doesn't break it. > > That's the positive spin ... but it also DOESN'T do a lot of things > that a physical folder does. When you add up all the differences, it's > amazing little a digital folder is like a physical one, and how fast > the metaphor simply becomes limiting.
Are you really limited by using a digital file folder?
> >> While using metaphor has many traps, it's also very powerful. Think >> of the massive cognitive leap and subsequent adoption of computers >> that happened when the desktop metaphor was introduced. > > Yes, this was helpful when people used computers to do calculations > and create documents at work. And think about how useless a metaphor > it is for most of what most people use computers for today: > communication and entertainment. >
But neither does the metaphor hinder us from doing those things. But
the desktop metaphor is likely going to be replaced by another
metaphor. Why? To give an otherwise formless digital materials some
shape so we can understand it and reason about it.