Part IV. Bad Design (24) Bad Information Design in Scholarly Books I often read scholarly books, that being part of my job. And most scholarly books come with endnotes. This "scholarly apparatus" is indispensible if you are trying to map a new field, and so I spend much time referring back and forth between the text and endnotes. (I don't care about the choice between footnotes and endnotes, and I understand the publishers' concern that footnotes depress sales.) Now, properly designed books make this flipping-back-and-forth easy by printing things like "Endnotes for pages 137-144" at the top of each endnote page. What pisses me off is the majority of publishers that don't do this. In fact it's doubly annoying: they make you flip around to remember what number chapter you're reading, which makes you feel stupid because you can't remember the number from one minute to the next, or else you have to exercise great cognitive effort in order to keep the number in mind when you'd rather be trying to understand what's in the book, and then they make you flip around in the endnotes to find the endnotes for that chapter number. Ack! There are plenty of other ways to present scholarly notes, as designers of more arts-oriented scholarly books have shown for years. But publishers, well, publishers have their habits.
posted by M C 14:28
(9) The Language of the Staff in Computer Stores
People who work in computer stores are a different breed. The level of product knowledge that they require is so great that management can't also require them to act like salespeople in other stores. So when you go to Fry's, you have to adapt yourself to a different kind of interaction. It's not rude, exactly, but rough, as if Wal-Mart were staffed by cowboys. But okay. If you can find the right gear then it's not so bad. Except for one thing. It pisses me off when computer store workers ask people questions they couldn't possibly answer. Say, for example, a customer comes in looking for a scanner for a Macintosh. The store workers are liable to say something like, "Do you have FireWire?". I can't quite tell whether they are being clueless or lazy, or whether they are actually being sadistic. The average human being has no idea even what sort of question that is, or what sort of thing FireWire is, or whether having FireWire is a good thing or a bad thing, or how they would possibly know whether they have it. The customers who get asked this question all go into a little dance. You've seen it. It's a slight bow, a slight twist off to the side, and a sort of recoil. Then they stammer. Not only can't they answer the question; not only can't they come up with a suitable way to explain that they...
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