February 20, 2009
John Gruber on reducing friction between thought and expression:
Friction is a problem for software in general, not just programming languages specifically. There’s the stuff you want to do, and there’s the stuff you have to do before you can do what you want to do. People have a natural tendency to skip the have to do stuff to get right to the want to do stuff if they can get away with it. Friction is resistance. Hence untitled document windows containing hours of unsaved work — there’s an idea in your head that you want to express or explore, and the path of least resistance is to hit Command-N and just start working.
I would say that friction in this sense is a problem for a Lot Of Things in general, not just software specifically. But Gruber’s take on “Untitled Document Syndrome” is a really good illustration:
Saving a document for the first time is a minor chore, but it’s a chore nonetheless. The avoidance of such a minor chore is not rational; it is neither particularly complicated nor time consuming to hit Command-S and deal with the Save dialog. But we humans are not perfectly rational. We don’t always floss our teeth. We’ll pick the burger and fries instead of the salad. We’ll have one more beer. And sometimes we just don’t feel like dealing with the Save dialog box yet so we’ll put it off.
Gruber’s post is part of an ongoing “everything buckets” debate in the Mac blogosphere. It kinda boils down to a debate about writing versus reading, users versus programmers, what’s smart for software vs. what’s smart for hardware. In short, the eternal dillemas.