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Tooltips and taking things away

I don't know how I stumbled across it but I read a post on Mark Shuttleworth's blog about tooltips on the panel being removed in the next version of Ubuntu. There's been a bit of an outcry on a related bug and elsewhere.

Like many users I use the tooltips all the time - hover over the system monitor, hover over the time to check the date, etc etc. It's a bit tenuous saying 'less is more' when it means that something that was afforded by a simple hover now requires multiple clicks (especially on something as sluggish as Gnome, but that's another story...) Less has now become more (effort).

It's just annoying, and it happens often with free software (and for all I know, proprietary software) where someone makes a decision where removing a useful feature is done in a way that seems arbitrary or ill-considered. There was once a feature in Eclipse which allowed you to disable the 'Insert' key so that you didn't accidentally go into overwrite mode, a mode used (I suspect) by about 3 human beings on the planet and is nothing but a headache for every other developer out there. It was removed a few versions ago and when someone opened a bug to say 'hey, what's happened to this feature?' a developer replied saying, in effect, 'I asked around my colleagues and nobody used it, so we took it out, now run along'. I remember it well because it was one in a line of 'changes' that left me generally thinking that Eclipse sucks, no matter how many other cool features it's added since.

Missing tooltips and disabled insert keys aren't the kind of thing you're going to switch distributions or operating systems or IDEs over, but it leaves you feeling done in, and when enough frustrations add up, you do switch. Switching software isn't always a rational, coldly-considered decision, it's often just someone saying 'Sod this, I've had enough', when they'll barely remember all of the things that've gotten them so annoyed in the first place.

The moral of the story, really, and it applies everywhere, is that people are a lot unhappier when you take something away from them than if you'd never given it to them in the first place.

{2010.03.28 - 10:26}

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