[darcs-users] 5 Year Old Bull in a China Shop

Michael G Schwern schwern at pobox.com
Sun Mar 20 20:56:44 UTC 2005

On Sun, Mar 20, 2005 at 12:41:03PM +0100, Thomas Zander wrote:
> The defaults were picked with great care and with good argumentation, if you 
> feel you need to add some information which makes the darcs team re-view 
> the choices and names, it woul be wise to provide arguments based on facts.
> Are you really sure your arguments are carried by anything other then your 
> opinions?  If so, forgive me, but I fail to find them in your emails.

As mentioned in my introduction to the list, these are nothing more than my 
opinions and experiences as a new user to darcs that I wish to present in as
raw a form as possible before I become too familiar with darcs to be able to
provide insight into the new user experience.  I posted my intentions up front
because they will make me seem loud mouthed, pushy and ungrateful.  

I don't know what sort of facts I can bring to this discussion.  Even for
professional designers human interface design is a pile of heuristics and I
can't afford to set up a full experimental study. :)

But here's some quotes from designers I can bring as to why you should listen
to me.

"...designers are not typical users.  They become so expert in using the
object they have designed that they cannot believe that anyone else might
have problems; only interaction and testing with actual users throughout
the design process can forstall that."
	Donald Norman "The Design of Everyday Things" p 151

"One [typewriter] after another was conceived and developed... each one a
little different from and a little better than the one preceding...  [James
O. Celphane] tried he instruments as no one else had tried them; he destroyed
them, one after another, as fast as they could be made and sent him, til the
patience of [the inventor] was exhausted.  But Mr. Densmore insisted that
this was the very salvation of the enterprise; that it showed the weak spots
and defects, and that the machine must be made so that anybody could use it,
or all efforts might as well be abandoned; that such a test was a blessing
and not a misfortune, for which the enterprise should be thankful."
	G. C. Mares, "The History of the Typewriter" pp 42-43

And there's some good Donald Norman quote about how users typically don't
report their failures because they just assume they're using it wrong
therefore what gets back to the designers often has the "dumb" mistakes
filtered out with two consequences.  For every failure reported there might
be dozens who are encountering the same failure and don't report it.  Some
very common failures don't get reported at all, they're considered too small
by the users or the users all assume its their fault.

This all adds up to my 5 Year Old Bull In A China Shop approach.  I am the
5 year old bull.  darcs is the china shop.  I'm a bull so I'll just plow
through darcs and see what shakes lose.  I'm a 5 year old so I'm going to
keep questioning any decisions that don't make sense to me "Why?  Why?  Why?  
Why?" hopefully finding those decisions which really didn't make much sense 
but everyone's just gotten used to it.  It can get annoying but its very

I've used this approach successfully in the past with other projects, the 
largest being to whack Perl on VMS into shape.

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