Did you miss me? It seems like I’ve been gone forever and a day. What drug me out of my self imposed retirement? Was it Alexis with a two week flu? Nah. Was it Ron and his eye surgery? Nah.
What is it? I’m mad as hell and I can’t take it anymore. Apple legend Bruce “Tog” Tognazzini is to blame. Tog’s blog is the latest place for old Apple folks to take root and verbally urinate on the company that Jobs built and rebuilt.
It’s embarassing. First, co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs takes an extended leave of absence to attend to highlly publicized health matters, and then all hell breaks loose.
The other Steve and the other co-founder, Steve Wozniak, decides to take his portly self on national television in Dancing with the Stars. It’s enough to bring Kirstie Alley out of her retirement home (hint: it’s made of ginger bread and icing).
Tog, as he’s known, is a usability expert who worked for many years at Apple back in the early days (he claims to be Apple employee #66). He’s also worked for Sun Microsystems and WebMD, and he’s written extensively on interface and software design.
In other words, Tog is an expert of sorts, which means, when his former boss, Steve Jobs, is down and out, it’s a good time to kick sand on the baby. Alright, I’m mixing too many metaphors, but hear me out.
The latest criticism is that, according to Tog, “Appleland is becoming progressively flatter and, at the same time less usable.”
Oh? Appleland? He calls them revolutionary products, from OS X to the iPhone, and describes them as Herculean software efforts. That’s not an accolade. That’s the beginning of a ‘kick ‘em while they’re rich and successful’ syndrome.
Bruce seems to think that Apple’s software starts off slow, with missing features, but with basic usability, then scales upward to attract more of the masses, then fails because, ostensibly, perfection is elusive, and maybe because Apple doesn’t need him any more.
But Bruce the Tog is a usability expert, right? They’re supposed to take the complex and make it simple. Well, he says Apple has taken a simple idea and it’s causing complexity.
He says “Apple seems to subscribe to the belief that visual simplicity equals actual simplicity.” Think Cover Flow. It’s easy and attractive and simple for a few documents (or, songs, or web pages, or files, or whatever) but not for thousands.
I’ll buy that. It makes sense. My car is easier to drive than the Space Shuttle, too. But my abilities to master one do not put me on a road to master the other. At least, not without a little Dramamine.
Tog says this: “Properly-designed interfaces scale, so that they support the new user as well as the expert.” Uh, so, if it doesn’t scale, then it’s not properly designed, right?
And therein is the rub that rubbed me the wrong way. Tog then rails against the Mac’s Dock because, while it’s apparently decent for displaying eye candy and easy enough to learn, it doesn’t scale to fit his needs, so it isn’t properly designed.
Doesn’t that assume that the Dock was designed to fit Tog’s Law (properly designed interfaces scale… properly)?
There are other criticizms, too. Safari. iPhoto. Next month he promises to diss the iPod and the iPhone. Why? Obviously, they won’t scale, either.
Here’s the problem I have with all this. Complaining is cheap and easy. I do it all the time, but it doesn’t change the world. What changes the world is doing something about that which causes the complaint in the first place.
If something on the Mac doesn’t scale properly, then give me some examples of alternatives that do. Or would. Or will. It can’t be that hard, can it? Can it? Tog mentions DragThing, one of my favorite Mac utilities.
DragThing is a floating “dock” which lets you easily get to your (his) 461 applications and utilities, and your 8,000 documents, all with a click or two. That’s much better than the Dock, right? Uh, not quite. Different. But not necessarily better.
Why? Because the universe of Mac users, software users, and Cover Flow flippers, do not scale, either. Tog, you’re a great guy, a legend, and you brought us plenty in the early years of Apple’s history.
But that was then and this is now. What have you done for us lately? Not enough, apparently.
Alright, so the Dock is flat and DragThing is not. The Dock doesn’t scale beyond a few dozen apps and utilities, while DragThing scales to hundreds. But not to thousands?
So, I kept looking through Tog’s blog to find out what he’s designed for the Mac that would be oh so cool and delicious that Apple would buy it and use it. Alas, apparently properly designed ideas don’t scale, either.
Instead, what we get from the crown prince of usability is a long list of complaints about Apple’s ineptness of usability, and a short list of personal recommendations to overcome. That’s the long and short of it.
Tog says, “Apple needs to take a fresh look at all of their products across the board…” and “Go for visual and behavioral simplicity where it works, but be prepared to back off.”
Whatever that means.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m willing to poke Apple in the eye from time to time. It’s good for the soul, though I’ve often broken a nail doing so. I would prefer a criticism be backed up with some substance, rather than with theory and more criticism.
Oh, and along the way, give me a few graphic examples. Do this. Don’t do that. Otherwise, Tog has become pretty much what Steve Wozniak already is. History.