Distracting Embarrassing UI

I’m sure you’ve been in many a meeting were the presenter’s IM client pops up a message “Dude? Had Lunch Yet — sexyGril12”.  Ok, usually it’s LoserFriend3; but still.  It’s facinating how far we need to travel yet before we get this stuff right.  The stupid computer has no idea that it’s owner is standing in front of two hundred people trying to make a good impression.

This stuff is distracting.  Some time ago I was watching a screen cast only to notice, as the author cycled past his email client, that he had a message from me!  I still haven’t figured out why.  Someday advertisers will puzzle out how to dynamicly slip affliation clues like that into their ads; bleck!

Too often I’m ignoring the presentation and watching these distractions.  What is that widget in their menu bar?  Golly they have a lot of apps open, oh wait why are they still using that?

But the most distracting thing by far is the feature in Firefox where it reveals little bits of your browsing history as you type.  I hate that!  It’s amazing how your entire audience will suddenly grow quiet and attentive as you start to type into the URL bar.  I need a firefox plugin.  Like the old unix fortune script it would populate the pull down with on topic aphorisms.  It would amuse the audience while advancing my point.

Someday we will learn how to create user interfaces that aren’t so blind to the context we are working in.  Interfaces that don’t strive to distract us from what we are working on.  That don’t distract our audience.  That don’t leak private, even embarrassing, information all the time.

Meanwhile, somebody must have made a check list of things to do before you give a presentations.  Turn off IM; Set browser.urlbar.maxRichResults to zero, turn off the sound and video …  Better yet there really ought to be a tool.

See also: the Firefox HistoryBlock plugin, Caffeine, RescueTime, productivity

2 thoughts on “Distracting Embarrassing UI

  1. Robert Thau

    The way I banish all that crud is just to log in as a different user (with its own browser history, remembered sound settings, no chat apps running, etc.). Though I suppose it is a bit heavyweight…

  2. bhyde Post author

    Yup, different user identities for each of one’s modalities is a technique. But then what you want is to be able to mix’em; like emacs modes. So I can be logged in as: working on jobs A&B, at home, following friends. The OS account maybe the right place to address the problem. Hm … Mac’s fast user switching.

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