[lively-kernel] Waving the red flag

Richard Karpinski dickkarpinski at gmail.com
Sun Apr 11 20:08:01 CEST 2010

Hello Dan and everybody,

Smalltalk is wonderful. Making it work in virtually every browser by coding
the base system in Javascript is very clever and could be marvelously
useful. Enriching the current code to make Lively Kernel suitable for
awesome presentations well beyond what PowerPoint could dream of has much
appeal for me. I love neat things that are useful and can be acquired
inexpensively in money and time. When such things have unbounded utility,
Pavlov sets in and I slather and drool. Keep it up, man. I don't mind that
my shirt gets wet.

But wait. How long does it take for someone to be comfortable navigating
around in a Lively Kernel world?

I'm sure it's not one of those things that takes weeks to get into, but I
worry that it might take an hour or two. What I want is a system that
computer experts can become competent with in only a few minutes. It would
be truly great if novices could get there even faster. But who knows how to
build such a system?

Today, I think no one knows how to do that. However, the late Jef Raskin,
father of the Macintosh and author of "The Humane Interface", did. Given a
charter to assist in getting around in a patient's chart which was
impossible to read when fully displayed and awkward to navigate when
magnified to be readable, Jef used zooming to good effect. He wanted to call
it a Flying User Interface, not only because he liked flying and it felt
like that, but especially so he could call it (phonetically) a Phooey. He
was like that.

Anyway, he discussed the system in his book, but he left out some details.
When computer experts were trained to use the system. they became
comfortable and competent in less than TWO minutes. But when utter novices,
who maybe recognized the mouse as a thing to push around, not speak into as
Scotty did, they became fully functional with the system in less than ONE

I really like that. I want that. With such a system I could teach a three
year old to use it, or a 93 year old, or even a college professor. I am NOT
kidding, the first and second examples may have time to spare, but the prof
does not.

Why does it work so well? My theory is that for tens of millions of years,
our ancestors made it back to the nest, or we would not be here today. Thus
the talent for geographic navigation is built into our DNA. We do not forget
where the fridge is or where the couch is. Often we can get to such places
in the dark. If our computer world is so arranged, people won't get lost so
often. If we can follow links by rolling into a thumbnail and can return by
recrossing that border it will seem natural to us.

What would it take to make it easy to construct and navigate such a zoom
world in Lively Kernel?


Richard Karpinski, Nitpicker extraordinaire
148 Sequoia Circle,
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Home: 707-546-6760
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