About

I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 30 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kind of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.

— Robert T. Pirsig



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 8/25/2022

Totals
Posts - 2641
Comments - 2653
Hits - 2,507,660

Averages
Entries/day - 0.38
Comments/entry - 1.00
Hits/day - 356

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 1:29 PM Pacific


  09:42 PM

I am easily frustrated by things that go slow, like many (most) people are, I suppose. Everyone hates a slow computer, of course, but I hate ATM machines and the card-swiper thing at the supermarket. I don't like those U-Scan things ath Home Depot or IKEA, because they're so fussy about the way you swipe stuff that you have to repeat yourself all the time. I hate slow drivers. I don't like watching people over their shoulder while they work on a computer, because inevitably they work slowly.[1] (Probably they use the stupid mouse instead of being on intimate terms with keyboard shortcuts.[2]) There's even a gas station I avoid, in spite of their excellent prices, because the user interface on their frickin'-frackin' pumps is just so-o-o slo-o-o-o-ow.

But sometimes I'm slow myself, of course. In those cases, slow is good! It's proper and correct. Those other people rushing this thing? They should slow down, dammit, they're going too fast.

So. Over at the creating passionate users blog, they've been having a discussion about rhythm, about how rhythm is at the root of everything we do. There's interesting stuff there, but this cite caught my eye in particular:
While latency in responding to a user input is bad manners, creating an unpredictable delay that breaks the perception of rhythm is even worse.

[...] unpredictable delays in response only serve to make the entire experience awful. Passionately bad, in fact.

[F]or a system that requires moment-to-moment interaction, unpredictable response times are the antithesis of flow. Using such an irregularly reacting system takes up lots of cognitive attention just to recognize when the next event is going to happen. The user ends up having to be constantly vigilant to know when the next event’s going to happen. It’s ultimately tiring and a pain to use. Worse of all, the irregularly responding system is generating interruptions ... that’s the one thing we know we really shouldn’t be doing.
Aha. Slow or fast isn't inherently good or bad; what's important is the rhythm. A slow computer breaks your rhythm, so you have to think about your gestures instead of your work. Ditto watching someone else work. A slow ATM machine breaks your rhythm because you have to pay attention to whether you've entered things that are pretty important to get right. Slow drivers break the flow of traffic; as I suppose is pretty well known, one pokey driver going 10 below flow can cause quite a pileup behind them. And what's always nerve-wracking is not going fast, but driving among people who are going different speeds.

Similarly, when we're doing something slowly, methodically, having someone do it quickly breaks the rhythm of that experience. I can hardly watch shooter games, let alone play them, because everything is happening so fast. If you can play a piece of music, playing it really fast can be annoying, because you can't keep the right rhythm -- either you slow down erratically or you make mistakes.

This is quite an insight. (So I'm not so bright, sue me.) I'm going to have to monitor this while I experience frustrations or moments of "slow the hell down!". I doubt that it will make me love slow interfaces any better, but it will give me something to think about while I punch at. the. stupid. keys. to enter my PIN or something.


[1] "The most difficult thing in the world is to know how to do a thing and to watch somebody else doing it wrong, without comment." -- T.H. White

[2] That said, I have worked with some people who are so fast (often in their favorite text editor) that it, like, gives me the vapors.

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