[Chicago] Apparently, I hate Ajax

Atul Varma varmaa at gmail.com
Thu Dec 8 21:42:35 CET 2005

On 12/8/05, Michael Tobis <mtobis at gmail.com> wrote:
> If I want to write a little tutorial that explains the greenhouse
> effect with an animation rather than a couple of confusing diagrams
> (see
> http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=212
> for instance. There's a three-part picture in the middle of the page
> that my boss put together that would be much more informative as an
> animation.) I can't ask you to download an application for this
> because 1) you don't know who I am and don't especially trust me and
> 2) you aren't THAT interested.

Well, aside from that, a separate application usually implies a lot
more inconvenience and confusion than something on a web page: telling
a novice user how to download and launch an executable is non-trivial
because it differs depending on their browser and operating system,
and even for experienced users it still involves a lot of steps.  On
top of that, there's usually an installer involved, which itself
requires lots of clicking, and then you've got this separate
application on your computer that you have to figure out how to
launch, use, and subsequently uninstall.

The big advantage of doing everything over the web is that you only
have to learn how to use one application: the web browser.  For
instance, my barely-computer-literate dad doesn't even care if he uses
Linux, OS X, or Windows--he uses all three--because the only app he
uses is a web browser, which works the same way on any platform.  I
don't think my dad actually understands the concept of what an
application even *is*, because he only uses one.  And that's nice for
him, because it means less annoying complexities to learn.

Personally, I don't find desktop GUI's to be all that usable; widgets,
pull-down menus, dialog boxes, and overlapping windows usually add a
lot of complexity to an application and make it more confusing to use.
 In fact, the worst Web 2.0 apps I've seen, usability-wise, are the
ones that try to imitate a standard desktop application.  What I like
about the whole Web 2.0 movement is the fact that it gives web
developers a sort of "blank slate" for making usable, humane
interfaces that don't rely on any kind of UI tradition.  Gmail, for
instance, is called "quirky" by some because it doesn't really work
like a traditional web app, nor does it work like a standard desktop
GUI app--yet it's far more usable than either.

As far as desktop apps go, if I have to make one, I've found that I
prefer creating a custom, non-GUI interface using Pygame.  It's
surprisingly a lot easier than giving myself a refresher course on the
horrible complexities of wxPython and creating an application that
looks prettier but treats the user worse.

- Atul

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