Ever notice when a user seems to enjoy and even revel in the sense of achievement when overcoming a particularly difficult interface? Sometimes it’s a difficult interface because it facilitates a craft like 3-D Modeling or playing a piano (which Tom Chi dubs Mastery Interfaces). Other times, the interface is designed with challenge in mind as computer games are. Worse yet, some were never intentionally hard to use but just about act as the poster child for unusable applications. Are these people Technomasochists? Can something actually be too easy to use?
The instinctive reaction to such a claim is to say it is preposterous. If a person was told they would need hours of training to use a new application, the barrier to entry would be too high. In an ideal world, all users should be able to achieve all their goals with just a thought. However, there are instances where user pain does seem acceptable and even welcome.
When working on this comic I got a completely different sense of what it was about. This means that either the comic is a rich tapestry of layered meaning, or that KC and I don’t really communicate well before the digital ink goes to the page. Instead of technomaschoism, I saw the dad as someone like myself, beset on all sides by waves of new technology.
Eventually you get wiped out by a particular technology wave and its difficult to move on. I feel this way all the time. After I learned applesoft BASIC I thought I had the skillz — then it was LOGO, then Pascal (with TCL OO library), then Fortran, C, C++, HTML, CGI, Java, JSPs, blah blah blah. With each new technology I felt I was in the zone for a bit, but within a couple years, there was invariably an entirely new thing to learn. Even with all this work, I already feel myself slipping– lax on learning the ins and outs of CSS, PHP, Perl, XML, and numerous DB technologies.
How can any sane person keep up?