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Helping your users

Posted by daniel on March 10, 2005 at 7:31 AM PST

But not too much

Did you ever use software that reports back that a file can not be
found when you can see it right there on your desktop? How about
software that thinks it is helping you by formatting your quotes or
your text in ways that you thought you had turned off? In the first
case your software isn't being helpful enough and in the second case
it is being too helpful. How do you strike the right balance?

In Also
in Java Today
, knowing when two items are the same can be
difficult for a small desktop application. The problem, as Brent
Simmons writes, is that users complain href="http://inessential.com/?comments=1&postid=3035"> But I can tell
that it's about the same thing. In his case, he is talking
about the grouping of news items by his RSS reader NetNewsWire. This
essay is a good look at the other side of "but can't you just . . ."
suggestions. It's also a good example of not adding a feature until
you can get it right. Finally, the comments at the bottom of the page are as much a part of the post as Brent's initial observations.

Sometimes it seems to me that Google has reached this level of
knowing what I really mean. Early this morning I was following up on
last night's talk at the Cleveland JavaSIG and needed to search for
more information on metadata. Somehow Google knew that I wasn't ready
to deal with this yet.

CoffeeSearch.jpg

In the other "Also in Java Today" item, Cedric Beust writes about what
he considers to be href="http://beust.com/weblog/archives/000252.html">The "Call super"
antipattern. His example is taken from the use of JUnit where your
code and third party code needs to remember to call

super.setUp()
at the beginning of the setUp()
method. He asks "How come your test methods need to follow a certain
naming pattern in order to be picked up by JUnit, but the rule is
different for setUp/tearDown?" A lengthy discussion of both sides of
the issue follows in the talkback.


Yesterday I suggested "We could probably put together a pretty cool
conference built from talks rejected by JavaOne." I've watched a lot
of conversation on this and one of my favorite non-confrontational
suggestions was "what about a java.net stage or room at JavaOne where
we could host 15 minute talks made up from those rejected this year."
We could let the community manage the program through online
forums. All we need is the space and the permission.

Fifteen minutes
doesn't seem like a lot of time, but that is often the time allotted
at professional meetings to present a year's worth of research. The
goal isn't to cover everything, but to cover enough that others want
to follow up later. We could set up a project that could hold the
presentations and facilitate a conversation around them. Just thinking
out loud.


In his blog entry href="http://weblogs.java.net/blog/joconner/archive/2005/03/finding_the_bes.html">
The Best Language for I18n John O'Connor is asking an honest to
goodness question. In today's
Weblogs
he asks you to "magine that internationalization and
localization are one of the top priorities of your new development
project. Can a specific programming language and platform make it easy
to solve i18n problems such as user interface translation, date and
number formatting, and character set conversions? If so, what would
that platform be?"

Ed Burns stirs up a reaction in his post on href="http://weblogs.java.net/blog/edburns/archive/2005/03/article_thought.html">
Dick Grimes's .NET Farewell. He argues that Microsofts move to
VB.Net " was marketing driven, and resulted in the creation of a
backwards incompatible language, with an implementation of
inconsistent quality, that is marketed as being backwards compatible
with VB. "


In Projects and
Communities
, from the href="http://community.java.net/jini/">Jini Community: the
transcript from the January 11 online chat with Jini technology
architect Bob Scheifler and marketing manager Jennifer Kotzen is href="http://java.sun.com/developer/community/chat/JavaLive/2005/jl0111.html">now
available. In it, they discuss new features in starter kit 2.0,
using Jini with J2ME, and Jini's open-source future.

The Wired article href="http://www.wired.com/news/games/0,2101,66834,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_5">Wireless
Gaming Held Hostage describes the coming boom in mobile gaming in
the U.S., and the challenges posed by inconsistent billing systems and
carriers largely unwilling to work with independent game developers.


In today's href="http://forums.java.net/jive/index.jspa">Forums Zixle
writes "Thankfully GridBagLayout has recently been optimized! It's in
the 1.6 builds now. As to examples, yes, we need to ship better
examples that more closely match that of how we want people to use our
apis. It's something we see as very important and hope to do it in
1.6."

In the Eight years thread
MThornton writes "That JSR-203 [ More New I/O APIs for the JavaTM Platform (NIO.2)] is slipping yet again to Dolphin is extremely disappointing. Is it really that hard or is it just lack of priority?"


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But not too much