usable in any place a human can be used


perception is _not_ reality

Perception is reality. This is a sentiment that has taken hold in the modern age, and it's easy to see why. We live in a world of constant spin, it's not that this spin didn't exist in the past, it's just that we are bombarded with it. The thing people weren't prepared for was that the information age was to be accompanied by the misinformation age. We have unfettered access to mountains of data, so many voices, look I'm one more.

So the question in this new age is, how do we separate perception from reality? And then someone said it, really thousands if not millions of people said it.

Perception is Reality

With the air of a Matrix quote and with about as much meaning, it is a seductive little phrase. It has a simple elegance about it, it says just enough to sound deep without saying anything at all. It's also a sort of self proving maxim, since the only thing we experience is our own perception, it makes sense, that is our reality. Another aspect of it's seductive power is that it is oddly freeing, it says, there is no reality that you don't make. It takes you from an observer of reality to the actor and center, it is your perceptions that form reality.

And this is why it's an intellectually dishonest concept. It is easy to look up at the Sun and perceive that it is circling the Earth, but that doesn't make it real. It is simple to look at a table and feel the surface and perceive that it is solid, the reality is that it's mostly empty space. Perception is that first attempt to understand reality, not the end of understanding.

Perception is not reality. This does not stop people from believing this foolishness.

Did you spend weeks writing that application, fine tuning it to run fast and work reliably? Great. Ship it off and the user that's running AOL 6.0 with BearShare in the background and clicking away with Comet Cursor (because they want their mouse pointer to look like a fluffy kitty) is going to fire up your application and think that you are a terrible programmer because its slow as molasses on their overworked machine. Didn't you perform compatibility tests with the unpatched pirated version of Norton Web Defender 0.8beta that the user is running, what in the hell is wrong with you?!

The problem is that in a complex enough system people's ability to make reasoned and rational evaluations break down. The cognitive load of the person using your application is normally completely saturated with whatever task the application is intended to perform. This is why troubleshooting from a user's perspective is frustrating and magical. And why as a developer you have to take everything the user tells you with the understanding that they have no idea how a computer functions.

It is frustrating to be on the wrong end of the blame stick for something that BearShare did, but it happens. The best we can hope to do is educate the user, patch up our software, and keep plugging away.

Perception is reality to the user, and that is a reality that we as developers have to come to grips with.

I'm working on a multipart series that should begin to see the light of day this week, I was going to start today but wanted to have a little bit more meat before publishing. Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. I've disliked that phrase for a long time and I think you've written a good explanation as to why!