back to article Software is listening for the options you want it to offer, and it's about time

A fortnight ago my Apple Watch automatically updated to WatchOS 10 and ever since it's taken me twice as many taps to perform basic tasks like telling the device to stop tracking exercise sessions. I've grown used to the redesign but I can also feel in my gut that Steve Jobs would have critiqued it by pointedly asking "Why is …

  1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Plea to Microsoft UI teams

    Go do something else - solve hunger, find cures for disease, find a solution to the middle east etc, but please don't tinker with the UI

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: Plea to Microsoft UI teams

      Because what the world really needs is Clippy popping up saying "Hi! You look like you're trying to implement a two-state solution! Want a hand with that?"

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Plea to Microsoft UI teams

        This sort of thing is why the major antagonist in Roberts' You Can Be a Cyborg When You're Older1 is pretty much a Clippy allegory. LLM-enhanced Clippy is just that much worse.

        1Frankly one of the best cyberpunk novels I've read, perhaps only behind Effinger's When Gravity Fails.

  2. that one in the corner Silver badge

    A great creative opportunity.

    > effectively removing the bar between an idea for an AI chatbot and its realization as a GPT

    Great. Remove the barrier between a half-arsed "idea" for yet another chatbot and dumping the useless thing on the world.

    Also, I note in the glowing uncritical approval of this article, no consideration of how to check that your marvellous creation actually bears any resemblance to what you think you wanted: with no knowledge or understanding of the options available when creating a new GPT, the proud new chatbot owner has no idea what has been assembled in their name even if they bother to examine it (are they even given the opportunity to read the set of chosen options?)

    The Computer spat out a chatbot, put it into service. By the time it has been running long enough to be demonstrably useless[1] the creative person has moved onto something else and forgotten what they even said when they "set up" their montrosity.

    Blindly trusting one LLM to create another! What a concept.

    [1] and you will be lucky if it only turns out to be useless!

    1. Zack Mollusc

      Re: A great creative opportunity.

      "Hi there, I am OptionGPT and I am here to help set up the myriad possibilites of this complex software to be optimal with your unique use case, despite having zero understanding of either."

      Seems legit.

  3. that one in the corner Silver badge

    Maybe this article is more subtle than I first thought

    On first reading, this article seemed to be approving of this whole idea, and I reacted (somewhat negatively, cough) to that view.

    But now I am thinking, in that last paragraph:

    > instead, we move from complexity into ambiguity

    That *is* just a carefully worded subtle jibe, designed to turn around the whole meaning of the article and show the author's worry about and contempt for the concept, isn't it? Reassure me that this is the correct way to interpret that last paragraph.

    Please, please, don't let it be the case that this last parahraph is meant to be taken at face value and that Mark Pesce wants us to accept that knowingly introducing ambiguity into an end-user's interface is merely something we have have to shrug our shoulders about and accept as the price of improving things for - well, of improving things for the person who wants to foist a new chatbot on said end-user and do so without having to bother their pretty little creative head with anything as dull and dreary as a "developer", or an "analyst" or, worse yet, a "programmer".

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Linux

    Not just Apple

    My new LG TV is a PITA when it comes to changing the input device. I did it once and it took seventeen clicks and four menu traverses.

    The old... make that ancient Sony that it replaces could do it in one click, a list traverse and a click.

    I simply won't bother to do it in software in the future. I'll just swap the HDMI cables.

    In general, I find that software designers are doing their best to make using their product a PITA.

    Gone are the days when 'Ease of Use' was measured and if it got too hard then the design was changed to make it easier.

    I kinda miss those days.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Not just Apple

      The more awkward something is to use, the more likely you are to throw it away and buy a new one. It might not be from the same company, but that doesn't matter because they get the customer churn from all the other companies being abandoned.

      1) Invent something

      2) Make it impossible to use

      3) $$$

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'll just swap the HDMI cables.

      I learned recently that apparently HDMI cables shouldn't be swapped when appliances are powered on, which I have to say was news to me. Especially, it turns out, if one of those things connected is an xbox1x. :-/

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'll just swap the HDMI cables.

        HDMI specs support hot swapping. So either it was a dodgy cable or a poorly implemented port from microsoft or your tv manufacturer.

    3. 43300 Silver badge

      Re: Not just Apple

      Even basic monitors are as bad. The latest Dell ones have the power button on the back, where you can't see it when sitting in front of the monitor, and the menus controlled by this weird little joystick thing (also on the back). Classic example of form over function - a row of buttons along the bottom edge at the front was far easier to use.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Not just Apple

        The monitor I'm typing this on turns off when the computer it's attached to does. Only then it turns itself on to display a cheery little message about how it no longer has an input, so it's going to go to sleep, and then finally it goes to sleep.

        I swear you can't do that sort of idiocy by accident.

    4. Annihilator

      Re: Not just Apple

      My Samsung TV came with a "magic" remote that has about 6 buttons on it. Doing anything on it is a multi-click nightmare.

      LG is better in that it has 30+ buttons, but it's also a wavy magic wand remote that moves a cursor (badly) on screen.

      1. druck Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Not just Apple

        That's for putting in the drawer and never using again, as luckily they still supply a proper remote with lots of buttons on it.

        HOWEVER, my Samsung Q90 puts up a message asking why aren't you using the magic remote about 20 seconds after switching on, and during the 10 seconds it is on screen, you can't use the standard remote - WTF?

    5. Aleph0

      Re: Not just Apple

      On the other hand, on the 3-year old LG TV that I gifted to my elderly parents it's altogether too easy to switch sources. Every few months I receive a call from them telling me "the TV has broken down" because my father inadvertently sat on the remote and it takes only a single butt-press to switch source from the TV aerial to the AV1 input, and now the TV only displays a "no input signal" message and they have no clue what it means...

      Perhaps LG has made it more involved to switch sources because it was too easy to do inadvertently and with faded legends on the remote keys it wasn't obvious how to revert the change?

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just Apple

      My Sony rear projection (which gives you an idea of the age of it) has a dedicated button just for that. Honestly, for that TV, I could manage with 4 buttons:

      Power, Input, Volume up, Volume down.

      Why, oh why, would they take AWAY such an easy, obvious interface?

      (At least our TCL Roku TV makes it easy to pick an input when first powered on.)

    7. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

      Re: Not just Apple

      I tend to think that these misfeatures are about making sure that the tick-box features you "have to have" (like multiple inputs) are present, but you don't use them - instead using the manufacturer's store/channel/service to give them (or their "partners") more moolah. In other words, it's a "nudge".

      Thy can't monetise HDMI, but they can monetise viewing choices made through the TV UI, be it channel selection or streaming content viewing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not just Apple

        I tend to use monitors or projectors for my home entertainment needs (with separate sound systems)

        My screens are as smart (or dumb) as the device I plug into them.

  5. hfo1

    Who do we trust

    The problem with adding an ambiguous layer between you and what you want to do is whether you trust the AI (or rather the organisation implementing the AI) to do what is right for you or right for them? So if I ask to call someone, will it choose the cheapest option or the one that makes them the most money?

  6. trevorde Silver badge

    Too many options

    Worked on a fiendishly complicated MCAD software product. It had options for *everything* and then some. By the time I left in 2005, there were over 220 options! The kicker was that some options were interrelated ie changing one setting silently changed others.

    We did one release where product management were trying to optimise an 'Out Of the Box' configuration for the settings. These optimal settings were tweaked at least 3-4 times per day during the dev cycle which showed that nobody really knew what was going on.

  7. AMBxx Silver badge

    Getting too old for this

    If a gadget doesn't do something to make my life simpler, it's off to the bin.

    If my PC software doesn't make me more productive, uninstalled.

    Smart TVs are on my 'never buy' list.

  8. SundogUK Silver badge

    "Whatever your opinion about AI, it's obvious that using a linguistic interface to configure something as complex as a chatbot represents a triumph of usability." Why would I ever want to configure a chatbot?

  9. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Why do I need

    an AI chatbot to tell me what I already know

    Keep

    It

    Simple

    Stupid

    And just remember that 95% of all work done with MS office is done with 10% of the options.

    And why I'll always ask users what they want on the interface..... because they dont care how clever your multi-tasking multi-threaded application is.

    Button for the destination... a file selector. and a big red 'Send' button and they'll be happy as anything.

  10. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    The list of dreadful user-interface mechanisms

    ... goes something like this, from less horrible to more horrible:

    - WIMP

    - touchscreen

    - VR

    - natural language

    Adding a chat-mode LLM to a system is close to the worst idea we've come up with yet for human-computer interaction.

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