[LINK] literacy (not computer literacy) and GUIs
Thu, 15 Nov 2001 16:21:03 +1100
On Thu, Nov 15, 2001 at 03:35:04PM +1100, Nick Smith wrote:
> > an even more telling example is to move all files in the current
> > directory which actually contain the word "foobar" (in the file
> > itself, not in the filename):
> > with a GUI you need to open and examine each file and move it
> > manually.
> ++ no, again, "Find Files" lets you search through the text of each
> file on a global basis. Take a look.
you miss the point here.
can you use the output (i.e. the results) of "Find Files" in *any*
arbitrary command you choose, whether that be "move file", "delete
file", "print file", "edit file and change foobar to barfoo" or "search
the result set for files containing 'quux'" or whatever else you might
need to do at the time?
the answer is no. "Find Files" lets you do some simple searches on a
limited range of selection criteria, and then lets you perform *some*
common operations on them. you can do only what the programmers have
already thought of. if you think of something that the programmer didn't
then you're out of luck.
with CLI tools like "find" you can perform searches as simple or as
complex as you need and use the result of that search in whatever way
> > by using simple & easily learnt tools you can construct commands to
> > perform quite complex tasks - easily and efficiently.
> ++ But here's the rub. And here is where your 20 years experience is
> leading you astray. These are not simple and easily learnt tools or
> commands. On the occasions when I use a CLI for something, it's a
> slowish process to build up functionality.
i've had 20+ years of experience with a huge variety of computers and
programs, not all with just the one environment. like everyone else
i had to start from a position of zero knowledge and build it up by
working and experimenting with the available tools. i've started in
completely new environments and had to throw away everything that i'd
learnt previously on several occasions.
i learn NEW programs all the time. i also learn new things about old
programs i've been using for years, all the time. i expect that this
will continue for as long as i'm using computers (i.e. for the rest
of my life). learning *anything* is a "slowish process to build up
it's an incremental process of learning. i learn as much about a tool
as i need to do my current job (and maybe a little more if i find it
interesting) and move on. later i need to do a similar job and i learn
some new thing about that tool that allows me to do it (e.g. gradually
learning more about regular expressions), or i learn a similar yet more
powerful/flexible tool (e.g. switching from awk to perl). often i learn
something in the course of doing a new task that allows me to improve
the way i perform an old task.
that's probably THE biggest advantage of a CLI. it's something that you
can always get better at using no matter how good you are at it already.
with a GUI, it's easy to reach a level where you can't get any better
because there isn't anything more that it's capable of. a few days at
most is all it takes. then you're stuck, at a level of expertise not
much beyond that of the greenest newbie.
> Then when I don;'t use a CLI for several months or a year, when I come
> back I have to learn it all again. Yes, I appreciate that use of a GUI
> must be learned also but is is *far* easier.
you're making the mistake that a lot of GUI-only users do. you are
equating "ease of learning" with "ease of use". these two things are NOT
see comments above about incremental learning and being stuck at the
level of a newbie.
> > the difference between a CLI and a GUI is analagous to the difference
> > between a) manually editing a document to correct a repeated spelling
> > mistake and b) using a search-and-replace (S&R) function to do it
> > automatically. e.g. to replace all occurences of the american spelling
> > of "color", "neighbor", etc with the english/australian spelling.
> ++ Interesting choice of analogy. The search and replace function that must
> people use is a GUI (eg, in MS Word). Your point is not valid.
read it again. you've missed the point. it's an analogy, not a
comparison of how popular particular tools are.
> Again, there is no reason why the task that you wish to accomplish on
> a global basis cannot be done with a GUI, rather than on a situation
> by situation (manual) basis. All it takes is someone to create that
> global change GUI.
if some programmer has thought of and catered for the exact task you
need to do right now then you're set. if not, then you're stuffed.
with a CLI you don't have to wait for someone to create it, you've
already got the tools to do it yourself.
> > another issue that is glossed over by those who think that GUIs are
> > the solution to all problems is that whichever way a task is done,
> > it still requires some knowledge of the problem domain. you can't
> > manage files without some understanding of how files & directories
> > work, and you can't design a rocket just because you have a GUI tool
> > called "RocketScientist v5.5".
> ++ Well, a GUI file manager *shows* you very clearly how the directory
> structure works, in a way that is simple for the (visually-oriented)
> human mind to understand.
it shows you a *metaphor* for file and directory structures. the
metaphor is not the thing, and it is not a replacement for knowledge -
it is just a metaphor. the metaphor may be intuitively easy to grasp
but there is never any follow-up information on good file management
techniques & principles.
the requirement for these skills has been completely lost in the flash &
sensation over how pretty it looks. the assumption is that because it's
so "easy", people don't need any training on how to make use of it.
a pencil is incredibly easy to use, the principles of operation can be
picked up in a matter of seconds...but simple possession of one doesn't
make someone a graphic designer or an artist.
> > wrong. simplification is NOT always better. some tasks are inherently
> > complex and can not be reduced to a job that can be done by a simplistic
> > tool.
> ++ Is simplifcation inherent in the move to a GUI?
yes. reducing a complex task to that which can be expressed in a GUI
is inherently simplification/reductionism. it can only be achieved by
constraining the available choices...this is reinforced by the major
goal of most GUI designers which is to simplify things for their users.
see the comments on "Find File" above. it's a tool that can be used to
find files. it's functionality is crippled compared to the unix tool
"find" in order to make it simpler for novice users to use.
craig sanders <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Fabricati Diem, PVNC.
-- motto of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch