UI Design and iPod Movie Conversion
guspaz is working on a Windows program called iPodDrop. I don't run Windows and don't need any such thing, but he was looking for suggestions on how to get more people to use it, since the alternatives apparently suck (which is not really very surprising).
First, drag and drop has largely been a UI failure. Dragging a document from one open folder to another folder - okay, makes sense. Dragging it from an open folder to a folder icon: suspicious, but okay. Dragging it from an open folder to a program: forget it, you've just blown your metaphor and lost 99% of your audience. The problem is that people don't take real-life documents and, say, smack them against a toaster to make them do things. When you have a toaster, you operate the toaster, not the toast.
Try adding an option to the Explorer right-click menu instead. (It's easier than you think.) The nice thing about right-click menus is that there's no real-life metaphor for them at all, which seems to upset Steve Jobs but means that people have an open slot in their minds to absorb the concept (eventually). Now that they've absorbed the idea that "right click = give me a list of actions to do on this object," adding new right-click menu items is the way to go. (Supporting drag-and-drop in addition to that is perfectly okay.) Right-click is a metaphor I'd actually love to extend to real life. Imagine right-clicking your bread and telling it to "toast." Saves me running around looking for my toaster.
Second, Windows users hate programs that have no GUI. Haven't you noticed? Millions of people will need to recode videos for their iPod, but maybe 0.1% of them want to use a command line program to do it. This goes beyond the badness of drag-and-drop; if you want users to be happy, you'll need to pop up a window with a few toggles, go and cancel buttons, and most importantly, a completion bar.
Third, as for getting more users for your software, you should see about getting it bundled with some spyware. Spyware is the new DirectX. People download and install spyware on their systems like crazy for some reason, and all you need to do is tag along by being included in the same installer package. Lots of other popular programs, especially ones dealing with "media sharing," are being distributed the same way.
What Unix does well isn't what people want.
-- Rob Pike
Trancendental Philosophical Musing
wlach: I see the difference between the two views of "idealism" you posted, but they don't seem incompatible, only different. That is, a particular ideal is an idea that (as a philosopher might say) can exist separate from reality; in fact, if ideals are "how things ought to be", reality often doesn't really enter the picture. But there's nothing stopping us from having an idea that is also real, or from having an ideal that can be achieved. The two things aren't identical (not all ideas are ideal), but perhaps one is a subset of the other (are all ideals ideas?).
Anyway, I would argue that the article I linked to earlier is at least relevant to the particular metaphysical goop I was spouting at the time. :)