straw-man 3.2 default preferences

Joshua 'Schwa' Gargus schwa at
Sat Apr 20 02:45:17 UTC 2002

On Fri, Apr 19, 2002 at 09:55:54AM -0700, Brian T. Rice wrote:
> Hi, I can't believe I have to post this.
> On Friday, April 19, 2002, at 09:30 AM, Joshua 'Schwa' Gargus wrote:
> > On Fri, Apr 19, 2002 at 10:34:14AM -0400, Jon Hylands wrote:
> >> At Friday, 19 April 2002, you wrote:
> >> I guess what I'm trying to get at here is to point out that there
> >> are differences in what people prefer, and we might want to make
> >> the mechanism for changing certain things like the window color and
> >> scroll bar locations much more obvious for a new user.
> >
> > I am in complete agreement with you here.  If someone doesn't like the
> > default colored windows, they should be able to easily determine that
> > the colors can be changed and how to do it.
> >
> > Joshua
> I think there's a totally different point possible here though, which is 
> that preferences don't matter at all, 

Of course they do.  Unless you mean that having the ability to set
preferences doesn't excuse laziness in UI design.

> and neither does "making Squeak 
> stand apart". Squeak has *thousands* of things to make it stand apart, 
> why pick an item which obviously detracts from usability? 

Which item are we talking about here?

Are you talking about the solid-colored windows?  I'm talking about
the ones with brightly-colored borders and pale-colored panes.  I just
downloaded a fresh image and verified that this is the default as of

If you are talking about the solid-colored windows, I don't dispute that
they provide a low contrast with the text.  I got used to it at the time,
but the alternate look that Andreas coded is far superior.

Are you referring to the panes being lightly colored instead of white?
If so, I don't perceive that is being "low-contrast" at all.  I admit
the possibility that my perception is abnormal, and that what I
perceive to be perfectly comfortable contrast might be very annoying to
others.  Personally, I find pure white to be rather harsh and glaring;
that's the reason I submitted the changeset that resulted in the current
lightly-colored pane color.

> There's a 
> famous quote that says that "the medium is the message". Well, if my 
> medium for Squeak to new users is that they should have *low-contrast* 
> Squeak text-editing page, then it's obvious to me that my message to the 
> user is that they should have to do something, anything, extra in order 
> to have a productive environment, because it's more important to me that 
> the whole window be the same color. 

This whole passage assumes that the current default is incompatible with
having a "productive environment".  As I argued above, I don't believe this
to be the case.

> I don't believe that I should have 
> to make the point again that users often have Squeak for months before 
> they ever discover the Preferences, let alone get up the nerve to go 
> through the whole list to find something relevant and know what it is 
> and fix it.

Well, it is clear that one of us misunderstood the point that Jon was
making (possibly me).  I do not think that he was advocating having
unusable default preferences, and having users figure out how to change
them, or just give up.

I think that he was advocating improving the _usability_ of the current
preference system by making it more visible to new users.  It was this
sentiment that I was agreeing with.

> This argument should start and stop at usability. Back in the early 80's 
> in Apple's Lisa and Macintosh research, no prototypes ever came out with 
> colored backgrounds, and partly for this very type of reason.

And partly because the early Macintoshs were monochrome ;-)

> There, that's my finally poke at the "strawman"; now I'm going to return 
> to doing something productive.


> Brian Rice
> ~

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