Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Some reflections about software

Facebook has many, many annoying characteristics.

It also has one single feature, the "block" feature, that makes the entire thing usable - it's exactly equivalent to the Format Painter in Microsoft Word, without which Word would be almost impossible to use at all. Use 'block,' and you never have to see a single word uttered by the online equivalent of the Office Witterer. If only there were an offline version, a sort of selective noise-cancelling headphone.

But Facebook is also the fastest, most usable, most flexible and effective collaborative working system I've ever used in any business. It's genuinely useful in a way that no sharing system I've ever encountered commercially comes close to. It's got document-sharing and discussion that actually works, and I've used it for collaborative video editing and agreeing graphic designs, getting comments on drafts of things, as well as all sorts of on-the-fly organisation and coordination. It's even got search that works, quite well actually. Some sort of task-list feature might be handy, but it's not actually necessary when the basic 'post/comment/repost/comment' concept is so fast and easy.

It's also extremely useful for making a prat of yourself, or for making your life 100% interrupt-driven, if either of those is what your personal demons are up for. I think it takes some skill to get the best out of, and especially a little ruthlessness in deciding when not to use it. And I don't think I would have liked it to be around when I was 14. Now, though, it's just software that does something useful.

People talk about technology a lot, and very often they don't have any realistic concept of how other humans actually use it. It's worth asking the question sometimes.

Anyway I'm REALLY busy and this is the thing that floated to the top of my mind. Sorry.


Elizabeth Brinton said...

Hmm. I was just telling my techie husband how FB was actually the most agile and easy way to do lots of things that are very very difficult if not impossible (for me) to figure out with other methods. It just dawned on me that it works really well. The question of how to make best use of it requires some thought and discipline.

msHedgehog said...

Yes. And it's worth pondering the reasons. Another post, I think. I'm reasonably techie - almost my entire career in the IT business - and there is a clear pattern to what works well.