RE: Jakob Nielsen on Gnutella

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From: Gavin Thomas Nicol (
Date: Tue Jun 20 2000 - 23:10:01 PDT

Is it just me that finds this fellow annoying? He did a lot of
good work early on, but recently has been entirely too self
promotional. should probably be featured in

Narrowness of experience leads to narrowness of imagination.
   - Rob Pike 

> -----Original Message----- > From: Kragen Sitaker [] > Sent: Tuesday, June 20, 2000 11:00 PM > To: > Subject: Jakob Nielsen on Gnutella > > > >From > June 17, 2000 > Gnutella does not meet any established usability criteria > (exception: very easy to install). > > The user interface is totally mysterious and does not guide the > user towards achieving his or her goal. Instead, it exposes too > much technical detail (IP numbers and the like) which will be > totally confusing for the average user. The design is bragging > about its own technical prowess as opposed to helping users do > things easily (the term "user illusion" comes to mind > - would be > an appropriate concept to improve Gnutella). > > Just one example: when you start Gnutella for the > first time, it > doesn't do anything. You are faced with a screen with countless > options that are not explained very well, and clicking on the > buttons does nothing. Only if you know the magic incantation > will anything happen. You have to type the address of a server > in a certain field which is fine if you: > know the name of the server > realize which of the many fields is the magic one you > should tweak before using the system > > Not mainstream software. > > This is a classic example of software designed by programmers > without the involvement of any human factors experts or > technical writers (no help included in Gnutella). It has > obviously been very successful (1.7 million copies downloaded), > and there is a large group of users who are willing to suffer > through the user interface because they want to download free > music. If you are a college student with too much time on your > hands and five nerds in your dorm to help, then Gnutella works > just fine. > > The entire open software movement is run by programmers who are > motivated to bring out advanced code and not motivated to > simplify the user interface to make it approachable by > less-technically inclined mainstream users. If they want > hundreds of millions of users (as opposed to a few million), it > will be necessary to fix the user interface and bring it up to > the standards of usability expected of professional software. > > (Given this critique, I should also say that Gnutella is > revolutionary on a different level than the miserable surface > UI. The deeper analysis is that these new applications > reconceptualize the structure of the Internet from > point-to-point connections to a true network and involve the > individual users more closely in constructing the available > services. Of course, a conceptual breakthrough will count for > nothing if it is presented in such a difficult manner that very > few people can use it.) > > -- > <> Kragen Sitaker <> The Internet stock bubble didn't burst on 1999-11-08. Hurrah! <URL:> The power didn't go out on 2000-01-01 either. :)

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