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BS: Computerized directions

GUEST,Celtic Soul 17 Jul 01 - 01:45 PM
katlaughing 17 Jul 01 - 02:03 PM
Susie 17 Jul 01 - 02:43 PM
Allan C. 17 Jul 01 - 04:39 PM
GUEST 17 Jul 01 - 05:08 PM
Amos 17 Jul 01 - 06:11 PM
GUEST 17 Jul 01 - 06:23 PM
Amos 17 Jul 01 - 09:35 PM
Cappuccino 18 Jul 01 - 03:24 AM
A Wandering Minstrel 18 Jul 01 - 08:47 AM
Mrrzy 18 Jul 01 - 11:07 AM
MMario 18 Jul 01 - 11:16 AM
GUEST,Karen 18 Jul 01 - 11:26 AM
Wolfgang 18 Jul 01 - 11:57 AM
Amos 18 Jul 01 - 01:29 PM
Wolfgang 18 Jul 01 - 02:09 PM
Gareth 18 Jul 01 - 02:53 PM
Grab 18 Jul 01 - 04:57 PM
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Subject: Computerized directions
From: GUEST,Celtic Soul
Date: 17 Jul 01 - 01:45 PM

I'm new here and have been refraining from beginning any BS threads, but this just had me in stitches so I thought I would share.

I recently decided to check out a movie theater website that listed what films were playing and where in your area you could see it. You list your zip code, and it offers you some choices on where you could go. There was a tab marked "directions", so I looked into that while I was there. It asked me where I would be coming from, and then listed some of the different places it could map it out from.

Keep in mind that I live in Virginia, USA, and asked for a local theater not 3 miles from where I live.

It offered me directions from Europe. ::::GUFFAW!!!::::

I don't know if it would have offered me airfare, or simply map the bottom of the Atlantic for me, as I lost it completely and had to leave to catch the show.

Anyone on that side of the pond want to catch a movie with me? :D


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Subject: RE: BS: Computerized directions
From: katlaughing
Date: 17 Jul 01 - 02:03 PM

Does this mean computers won't take over the world? **BG**


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Subject: RE: BS: Computerized directions
From: Susie
Date: 17 Jul 01 - 02:43 PM

Similar . . . but not "directions" - I have been looking to find some music sessions around Keswick to help John J on his holiday and Keswick Tourist Association web site gave me 9 "hits" on music for the dates I asked for - wonderful! Excuse me . . . music at the Teapottery??, at the Cars of the Stars Museum???? Absolutely none of the hits had anything whatsoever to do with folk music. How do they manage to be so wide of the mark? The word "music" is surely not so obscure for a search facility? Susie


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Subject: RE: BS: Computerized directions
From: Allan C.
Date: 17 Jul 01 - 04:39 PM

Recently a truck (lorry) driver followed computerized directions in order to deliver the contents of his eighteen wheeler to the town of Moorefield, West Virginia. The program had, indeed, plotted the shortest route. Unfortunately for the trucker, the route put him onto a narrow mountain road. After he had gone less than a mile, he found he had passed the only spot for the next fifteen miles where he might have been able to turn around and go back to the main road. He had no choice but to continue.

As he made his way up and over the mountain, the truck scraped guard rails and tore the bark from some of the trees that lined the road. The driver braved tight turns and switch-backs that would challenge the driving skills of a driver of an automoblile. The trucker later described turns that were so steep that he had to let air out of his tires in order to keep from tipping.

I, myself, have driven the route many times in much smaller vehicles. The trip over the mountain usually takes only a half an hour. It took the trucker three nerve-racking hours!


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Subject: RE: BS: Computerized directions
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Jul 01 - 05:08 PM

Susie,

Search Engines (generally) search for the words that you type into them - not what you have at the back of your mind.

You typed 'music' into the Keswick site - it brought up all of the pages in which the word 'music' was included.

I'd simply ask: was the search engine the stupid one?


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Subject: RE: BS: Computerized directions
From: Amos
Date: 17 Jul 01 - 06:11 PM

The truth is the computer was the sub-idiot in the equation. The toughest thing for a user to learn is how to be as moronic as software, since the user is accustomed to trillions of discriminations and shades of value where the computer can barely master a thousand or two.

The impersonation of intelligence by being able to come up with seemingly coherent strings written by a UI designer disguises the fact that all the so-called intelligence behind those human-designed screens is of the lowest possible grade -- literal, undifferentiating, unable to adapt, and unable to perceive. So your anonymous and unkindly comment is not only unbecoming, it is likewise short-sighted, misanthropic and insensitive. Or do you think it is intelligent to associate "Cars of the Stars" with music without any consultation?

Regards,

A


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Subject: RE: BS: Computerized directions
From: GUEST
Date: 17 Jul 01 - 06:23 PM

Amos,

I totally agree with what you say, and won't insult you with the latest UI reserch, getting it right is a real problem!

However, Susie's expectation of typing 'music' into the site's search index and getting details of local folk clubs was (without being rude) somewhat naive...

Just a bit annoyed that some people think that websites should be perfect, straight away


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Subject: RE: BS: Computerized directions
From: Amos
Date: 17 Jul 01 - 09:35 PM

Well, that gracious response certainly turned my damper down! :>) Thanks. Of course it is more than current art can deliver to expect that kind of discrimination, and it is the kind of user-misjudgement a beginner often makes especially if they are not technologically inclined. Gradually they discover how dumb computers actually are no matter how fast and persistant they are!

I started writing friendly, intelligible error-trapping messages in 1983, and it has constantly amazed me how far away from the notion of live communication some UIs get. But it is a tough bridge to cross, as you say.

Regards,

A


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Subject: RE: BS: Computerized directions
From: Cappuccino
Date: 18 Jul 01 - 03:24 AM

Sorry, gents - what does UI stand for?

- Ian


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Subject: RE: BS: Computerized directions
From: A Wandering Minstrel
Date: 18 Jul 01 - 08:47 AM

Unexpectedly Irritating

Unusually Insensitive

Universally Idiotic

and

User Interface


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Subject: RE: BS: Computerized directions
From: Mrrzy
Date: 18 Jul 01 - 11:07 AM

But back to the thread. Has anyone had the fun I've had with Mapquest? It tends to send you the long way around, whereas directions from people go straight through (I think this may be because in VA, so many roads have the same name when they aren't the same road, or change names when they ARE the same road, so the computer tries to follow the road names and gets led astray). Ive' been sent to the far end of roads that are miles and miles and MILES long, so when you hit the road# you think you're there, and you're not, because that road number in another county is a totally other road.

And my latest adventure: I've gotten from the Internet interesting details about a town with my family name, that (as it turns out) doesn't exist, or at least isn't a town. Mapquest calls it a town, and will map to it, and give very detailed directions. And there is a city website for it that locates it in a particular county. But I tried to get its Zip code, the USPS denied all ken, and when I contacted the state directly, there is no such town, it isn't a town, it apparently never was. It may have been a railroad station at some point (the Mapquest star is on the railroad line), but was never incorporated or whatever one does to make something a town or a city. Municipated? Anyway, it's been a real challenge. I plan to drive there anyway, and look in phone books... but who made a website for it when it doesn't exist, and how did it get onto Mapquest if it has no location? The USGS recognizes the "locality" name is the closest I've gotten, but who feeds this info onto the Web? I assume at least that it's the same thing that got it into Mapquest and to the people who build city sites...


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Subject: RE: BS: Computerized directions
From: MMario
Date: 18 Jul 01 - 11:16 AM

Mrzzy - there are many many many places in the US that have no "official" status as towns and villages - they are not recognized by the Postal Orifice, they do not appear on lists of towns, etc. However they may well appear on maps,(or not. depends on how anal the mapmaker is) and people frequently will use them in their addresses, etc. All it takes for such a place to have a web presence is for someone to put one up. They will then likely distribute its URL to search engines.


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Subject: RE: BS: Computerized directions
From: GUEST,Karen
Date: 18 Jul 01 - 11:26 AM

As it happens, I work at a map-making company (what are the odds?). While the majority of our products are produced on paper we do offer a fairly basic digital edition of our street guides and, as of yet, have not attempted to join the Mapquests of the Internet.
Believe me, there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes in order to bring a map up on computer let alone route you to your destination. Routing is a major headache as you have to keep track of one-way roads, road construction, height limitation on underpasses, truck restrictions, speed limits and the like. In the state of California alone, our database houses almost two million arcs (or street segments). Every arc contains over 30 attributes (pieces of information). Maintaining an up-to-date nationwide street database is a difficult and never-ending process.
But I can appreciate the humor at being advised to go to a movie theater 3000 miles away....especially when it comes from a potential competitor! ;-)


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Subject: RE: BS: Computerized directions
From: Wolfgang
Date: 18 Jul 01 - 11:57 AM

If I stood in my library looked at my dictionary and said, "Do you happen to know what 'user interface' is in German?", and would get no response would you call the book dumb?

As with all other aids, you have to know first how to ask questions and it may take some time to learn.

Even today, there are several domains of knowledge/expertise where I prefer the computer to its human alternative, e.g. with railway connections in Germany (we have the choice at most railway stations). But I'd never tell a first user to prefer the computer.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: BS: Computerized directions
From: Amos
Date: 18 Jul 01 - 01:29 PM

Wolfgang:

The important difference is that no-one has ever promoted books as being anything but dumb objects (in their physical nature). There has been tons of hype about "smartness" as an attribute of 'computers'. There is no question of how useful computers are. Marketing them as intelligent has been a disservice to the unindoctrinated public, IMHO. It would be similar to flogging a book by claiming that it can solve your 'x' problems, which happens often enough and leaves trails of disappointed users (readers) who discover that even after reading it they still have to face their own problems!

A


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Subject: RE: BS: Computerized directions
From: Wolfgang
Date: 18 Jul 01 - 02:09 PM

Amos,

I don't have the impression we are very far from each other in this question.

The computer (or the software on it) is basically a tool as any other tool and it should not be promoted as anything else. Only when the expectations are too high to start with, a word like 'dumb' can come to mind.

However, computers mimic several human abilities (the more restricted the area the better) for which we think intelligence is needed in a fascinating way. A cheap chess programm will beat more than 99% of all chess players. And when it comes to describing chess games (I like to read these columns) the reporters obviously cannot write the article without using metaphors from human thinking even if one of the players isn't human: 'wants to give more pressure on the d line', 'intends to give the pawn for a better position of the strong figures', 'sets a trap'. From the way of playing, an average player would not know whether he plays against a computer or a person.

In this context, it makes sense again to speak about 'dumbness' in a computer. I too cannot help thinking of these programs as 'dumb' when it comes to the endgame. But the use of the word 'dumb' as such is an implicit acknowledgement of how close to 'humanness' the computer comes.

The use of the word 'dumb' makes no sense in my book example and nobody would use it. If I read your opinion correctly you should think that your use of the word 'dumb' for a computer is as incorrect as the use of 'intelligent' for its implicit acknowledgement of a property you would not like to assign to a computer.

However, expressing what you have said without the use of words usually describing human intelligence or lack of (moronic, idiotic, dumb) is close to impossible. I do not think that comes from wrong advertising (all things are worse than advertised) the abilities of a computer. It comes from a computer being able to mimic human thinking so convincingly in some areas.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: BS: Computerized directions
From: Gareth
Date: 18 Jul 01 - 02:53 PM

GIGO ?

Gareth


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Subject: RE: BS: Computerized directions
From: Grab
Date: 18 Jul 01 - 04:57 PM

I like Celtic Soul's post - nice one! Like the Microsoft errors where they say "An unknown error has occured in an unknown program..."

As for the others though, clear cases of Garbage In, Garbage Out. Also known as PEBKAC - Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair. Or in more human terms, "Ask a stupid question, you get a stupid answer". More examples of that - well, there was a German who drove off a quayside whilst following a digital map, not the road. Seems he didn't notice that the "road" over a river on the map was actually marked as a ferry crossing! :-)

Suzie, I'm not sure which website you're using, but I went to Google, found www.keswick.org (top hit), that moved me to www.keswickplus.org, and that had a search field (which used Google) to search its site. The search field brought up 2 pages of hits, all of which related to music in Keswick on the site. I couldn't see a search field on www.keswick.org.

Amos, there's certainly problems with some user interfaces. However, you can't say "the customer is always right" - if you don't ask the question then you won't get the right answer. The same thing happens on Mudcat, or any other forum, when someone says "Please send me lyrics to interesting songs". The first thing we'd say (assuming we don't ignore the person) is "be more specific". Search engines effectively say the same thing by hitting you with a million links unrelated to what you actually wanted. However smart you or I or the search engine might be, we can't give you any meaningful results if we're not given a meaningful question. In brief, the problem isn't that humans use thousands of shades of meaning, the problem is that they DON'T, and then they blame their own failings in language on the computer!

This may be "literal" and "undifferentiating", but you at least know where you stand. The first rule of user interfaces is "be consistent" - even if the user interface is crap, anyone can learn it eventually (although the learning curve might put off new users), but a user interface which isn't consistent and doesn't always respond the same way will do nothing but piss ppl off. If a menu option is under Files one day, under View the next day, and isn't on the menus at all the day after, it's not much use. And that's what happens if you try to be "adaptive" and guess what the user wants. Sometimes you'll get it right and that's great, but like weather forecasting, it's the times where you get it wrong and the person has to waste the next hour working out what do that they'll remember. Hands up anyone who actually _likes_ the menus in Office 2K? Thought not.

It may be very intelligent to associate "Cars of the Stars" with music if there's stuff about car audio, or if the author of an article mentions that he's driving along with "The Chain" blasting away at volume. Irrelevant to the main drift of the site, but a sub-feature of it. The fact that Suzie wasn't expecting it is neither here nor there.

Graham.


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Mudcat time: 4 August 11:05 AM EDT

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