Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Computer Scientist's Defense

Good afternoon my cheering crowd of nonexistent followers. I know it has been some time since I posted this frequently. In fact I can't seem to remember the last time I had two posts in one week (never), however, something happened this past Tuesday that compelled me to leave my life long blogging hiatus. To go in, this Tuesday was an oddity because I was joining, for the first time ever, my College Writing 2 course. I had taken other college writing courses but this one was different because it took place in a nicer class than my last course. Upon entering, I found what was more of a computer lab than a classroom. When the class began, the professor discussed why he chose this class room, what he expects of us, what he hopes we get out of that class, the normal first day syllabus class. However he then went on to discuss why successful people became successful. His favorite example being Steve Jobs. Being a computer science major, I join most of that community in my distaste of Apple and its products, finding windows and linux to be superior. However, the professor then stated something that struck a nerve. "Steve Jobs asked himself how can we make this easy to use for consumers. This questions was mind blowing. No one ever thought of what a company could to make their products easier to use. they simply made it and handed it to the consumer. I can guarantee you that no one at Microsoft thought of that. As writers that's what our goal is. how can I make my work appealing to readers? I can bet you that no computer scientist cares about what the consumer wants. They just give you a product and say 'Here, use it!' "
And that last line was the nail that hammered it home for me. I could understand his hero worship of Steve Jobs and bashing of Microsoft. It made sense to pick a side and degrade the other. What bothered me first was his claim that no one in Microsoft would have ever thought of making a product that was meant to be easy to use. I kept quiet accepting that my professor, while tech savvy, probably didn't know much about actual programming. However, his comment that no computer scientist ever thought about how to make easy to use programs made me genuinely angry. Past frustrated or annoyed straight into anger. I was angry because he thought that being a computer scientist takes no creativity or finesse and that computer scientist are sellouts that write a few lines of code and send them out for the public. He then asks around the room, "Who here is a computer science major?" I immediately shoot my hand up and he asks, "Do you ever ask yourself that question: how can I make this easy to use?"
"Every day I say."
"Because that's how I think when righting code."
"Ah, That's what you think," he said, cutting me off. He then continued to lecture and I have yet to hear the end of how great a man Steve Jobs was.

Forgetting anything about Apple, I want to now focus on why I have such a huge problem with this. What he said was that computer scientist don't care about making people's lives easier. That, in it's very root, is wrong. He claims that computer scientist never ask how they can make programs easier to use. How is it possible that computer scientist, working with a machine that is meant to do tasks people don't want to do in ways that are more accurate, are faster, are cheaper, are meant to make people lives easier, not ever once think about how they can make their product easier? Steve Jobs thinking about how they can make lives easier, may be revolutionary to societies that always say not to take shortcuts such as our own. However, for computer scientists, that is all we think about. That is all we see when we interact a new piece of software. How could I make this better, easier, and faster. In fact, I would argue that this is more present in the minds of computer scientist than writers: this though of how to make something better or easier or faster. To argue my point, I'll use the saying "don't judge a book by its cover" more literally. Writers and readers are supposed to know that the cover of a book is not enough information to get a true grasp of what the book is about. In the same way, the splash art or presentation of a program should not be enough to show how well or how poorly the program functions. the user or reader must then open the contents. On the inside of a book, there two parts that I would like to differentiate: legal notes and the rest of the book. the legal notes can be found on one or two pages in the very beginning listing publication information, ISBN numbers, and any other pieces of information necessary to show that the book has been published. The rest of the book is what a reader may be interested in. This includes the table of contents, author's notes, dedication page, the actual book, etc. The rest of the book is decidedly how a book should be judged. The book may be good, bad, good with bad parts, or bad with good parts. Whatever the case may be, the author has as many pages as they want to write as long as it rests within the norm of its genre. Each book becomes in investment on the readers part as it takes time to read a book of any length, and so even if the book ends up being terrible 3/4 the way through, the reader continues reading to the end feeling the obligation to finish what they started. Programs are very similar with exception that the lengths of these parts are inverted where the background stuff that no one cares about, the legal note or in this case the code, takes up the majority of the space and the part that the reader or user cares about is only a page or two long. Any impression to be made must be good and instantly gratifying. As users are impulse prone, a few design flaws can ruin any chance a program has. If the program is easy to use, clean, and friendly, a user is very likely to stay even if the program lack the functionality of other superior programs. It is for this reason that I would say that a computer scientist take this all important question, "How can I make this easier?", closer to heart than any writer.

First Class Questions

Having never understood what a blog is or the purpose of one, the question of "what are the responsibilities of bloggers?" catches me off guard. As far as I know, a blog is essentially a large public journal that is available to anyone else who would be interested. Any sense of security that comes from animosity or internet privacy is, unlike the common thought of middle school-ers, lost because of the medium, the internet, on which a blog is presented on. thus, I can only  guess that a blog is not a place for personal thoughts and emotions as would a diary, but rather, a place for the free exchange of ideas and words. A simple medium in which writers, both amateur and professional, of all backgrounds may practice their writing and share thoughts and ideas. To answer what is the responsibility then of all bloggers would be to actively post. That's it. To just post. It is entirely up to the blogger when, what, how, and why they blog. Any ideas a blogger may have are just as relevant and important to them as another blogger's so it ultimately doesn't what they post. As to why they must post, that is simple, because if bloggers don't blog, then they are not bloggers. That's not to say that some one who only blogs once may instantly consider themselves a blogger which is why I include actively. If someone were to blog on average once a week, even if not in a timely fashion, would be justified in considering themselves a blogger.

This next question, responsibilities when communicating, is an interesting one as this forces me to put the social contract of communication into words from abstract rules. The immediate response would that came to mind are to be attentive and active when communicating, however, these seem more part of the definition of communication rather than the responsibilities when communicating. At this point, I find no responsibilities at all when communicating. If one was not being attentive while communicating, it is no longer communication, just one sided dialog of some sort. Any "responsibilities" that I could come up with if removed changed what was actually happening in each scenario which is why I claimed they represented the definition of communication rather than a responsibility.