Thinking Differently

I shipped an early version of the iOnTV app a few weeks ago now and have had a few bug reports etc. from the early adopters brave enough to try it out.

One thing that’s become clear is that the current setup process is

  1. Not quite robust enough
  2. Not ‘guided enough’

Looking over the logs of users with problems I’ve been quite surprised at how ‘random’ people can behave in attempting to get things to work.

I tried to set out a step by step approach that should give a complete list of all the stations available to iOnTV, however when it fails people step outside of the step by step approach (which is easy to do) and get lost.

What it comes down to I think is a fundamental difference between how programmers think and how non-programmers (users) think :

One of the mental skills that a good programmer develops that becomes a way of life is that we have a linear thought process with branches and that we’re particularly good at back tracking to the last junction and taking a different branch whilst remembering all the other junctions and branches we’ve ever seen (or made) in the past. In other words we’ve programmed ourselves to be just as linear as the machine we’re programming.

‘Users’ on the other hand are not so programmed – in fact they’re far more random in their actions and generally don’t maintain such a linear approach to things. They ‘jump’ from one spot to another without remembering (or paying heed) to where they were.

How can a developer cope with this ?

  1. Work with QA people who are just as random – this is probably one of the fundamentals of QA and why programmers should not do QA and why a QA person should not write code (white box testing etc. is an engineering process not a QA thing). One of the best QA people I ever worked with (Baron Arnold at Be) was also capable of some of the most ‘random’ actions. Infuriating as an engineer to deal with (not personally – BA is one of the nicest folk out there), but definately ‘real world’
  2. Don’t give choices without considering the consequences. For iOnTV this means I need to write a ‘wizard’ (as much as they can be loathsome) that will guide people through the step-by-step setup process to scan all the devices and find all the stations that iOnTV can receive.

Posted under Development

This post was written by awk on December 5, 2007

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