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Old 01-22-2005, 05:39 PM   #1
djgerbavore
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Question Ethic Question:Do we have an obligation to make our technology easier


Hello all,

I was at my computer ethic class and we were talking about "Do we have an obligation to make our technology easier" I was pondering this idea for awhile and was wondering.....I mean we try to make technology and software easy to use, but is it just easier for other programers????

If we try to make software easy, then why is there is big jump for help and support in computers? Why are we stil having people having so much trouble? Is it because some of the mainstream software being made actually isn't that good to use? Or are people just not computer literate? If they aren't computer literate, then is it our job to make programs easier even for non computer literate people. Or are people always going to complain that it isn't easy. However more people that use your software usually means more money.

Also this brings up another issue about the digital line....Are there people actually on the other side of this digital line???? With more and more software coming out, are these people falling back more form this digital line that seperates our society???


What is your opinion about this topic of: "Do we have an obligation to make our technology easier"???????????


Just a idea to think about....


djgerbavor3
 
Old 01-22-2005, 06:03 PM   #2
Dark_Helmet
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That seems to be an odd question in an ethics class. When I took ethics, the questions were about morality. I don't think the level of usability for software is an issue in terms of morality ("right" or "wrong"). It's just software. There's well designed software and poorly designed software. Would a new coder be considered "evil" or "morally questionable" for writing a program that isn't easy to use? Of course not. That's just stupid. The only way I can see morality entering the picture is if a coder is intentionally making a program more difficult to use for some reason (e.g. hates the boss/customer, feels they aren't being paid enough, etc.)

Should software developers make their software easier to use? That's up to the developer(s). It's the same thing as asking "should people be nice to each other". Nobody has to be nice to anybody else. Most people prefer to deal with others that have mutual respect for each other and a certain amount of politeness, but that doesn't mean people must be nice to each other. This is most definitely the case for free (as in beer) software. The developer is creating the software on his/her own terms with no external expectations. If the developer is getting paid to write the software, and there's a clause in the agreement that the software be "easy to use", then that's different. The developer has an obligation to fulfill that part of the agreement.

Personal preference aside, the goal of the developer has to be taken into consideration. If this developer wants the software to gain widespread use, then common sense would suggest it needs to be easy to use. Failure to do so might allow an equivalent piece of software to gain dominance.

In short: No, I don't believe software developers have any ethical obligation to make software anymore usable than the developer personally deems appropriate.
 
Old 01-22-2005, 08:43 PM   #3
sharper
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The original poster might be talking about IT ethics. Where I'm taking my classes there is a required course Information Technology Ethics for everybody studying networking. Mostly on how ethics and honesty come into play with some of the decisions you may have to make.

Having said that, by easy to use do you mean easy for somebody who has never seen the program before to sit down and use it? or easy to fix if something doesn't work the way you want? Most of the time the automagic stuff works pretty well. But when it doesn't you can tear your hair out trying to figure what what went south on you. This make computers more available to people who haven't studied them, a good thing in my mind. But at the same time that means when something goes wrong they are completely lost.

My own opinion is that programs should be easy to use with a sane set of defaults. And there should be easily available understndable documentation on how to change the defaults is desired.
 
Old 01-22-2005, 09:28 PM   #4
Dark_Helmet
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Quote:
Originally posted by sharper
The original poster might be talking about IT ethics. Where I'm taking my classes there is a required course Information Technology Ethics for everybody studying networking. Mostly on how ethics and honesty come into play with some of the decisions you may have to make.
Yeah, I figured that's what he was talking about. I took engineering ethics which, for my degree, was a combination of engineering (in general) and computer technology ethics. I still think the point I made is valid. The field of ethics (for any specific discipline you choose) is guided by morality. Morality is our own personal sense of "right" and "wrong." Ethics courses are an attempt to encourage future professionals to hold a common foundation for what is ethical or not. I'm still not sold on the idea that software ease-of-use falls into that realm.
 
Old 01-22-2005, 10:35 PM   #5
djgerbavore
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Quote:
The original poster might be talking about IT ethics. Where I'm taking my classes there is a required course Information Technology Ethics for everybody studying networking. Mostly on how ethics and honesty come into play with some of the decisions you may have to make.
No this is for my computer science course. Nothing to do with Networking or IT strictly software developing. Every CS major must take this class. Its called Social Implications of Computing Technology. Last week we talked about how difficult technology can be, and ethics behead making software.... our professor proposed the question about our obligation to make are software easy. I just want to know if we should.

both points are very sound and valid.


thanks for feedback and input.


djgerbavor3

Last edited by djgerbavore; 01-22-2005 at 10:38 PM.
 
Old 01-23-2005, 07:00 AM   #6
XavierP
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Moved: This thread is more suitable in General and has been moved accordingly to help your thread/question get the exposure it deserves.
 
Old 01-23-2005, 07:11 AM   #7
frob23
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I think it depends on how a person defines easy. I know... I sound like a certain ex-President trying to redefine my way out of an issue but I am serious. I find Windows very hard to use for example. It goes against my computing paradigm. I find simple commands with one function (or a few well defined functions) easier to use then huge bloated menu systems.

I find vi (often criticised for being a "hard" editor) to actually be easier for me now then using a standard editor. The ease of use is different from how easy it was to learn to use. And that is an important issue to be considered.

Often that which is easy to use for a person completely new to the concept is harder for a person, properly educated, to use to get real work done. I think the ethical question is more along the lines of "what are we doing to educate the digital have-nots so that they might take full advantage of technology?"

We can design all the "point and drool" interfaces we want but if we don't teach the users to actually use the computer then we are wasting our effort.
 
Old 01-23-2005, 07:52 AM   #8
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The only "obligation" , progammers have in regards to software is to make it LOGICAL AND CONSISTANT.
For example(and it's becoming quite a beef , I have with *nix) : With different commands , different options are used/required for (basically) the same function.
That's NOT consistant.
And quite annoying.
 
Old 01-23-2005, 01:03 PM   #9
djgerbavore
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Thanks for all the feedback and input,



also, what does everyone about the digital divide??
people that aren't computer literate, are they becoming further and further behind, or is software making it easy for non-comp literate to learn about computers??????????????



thanks,

djgeravor3
 
Old 01-23-2005, 06:24 PM   #10
twilli227
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Quote:
I was at my computer ethic class and we were talking about "Do we have an obligation to make our technology easier"
As the others have said, I don't think there is a moral obligation to make technology easier.
Quote:
Or are people just not computer literate? If they aren't computer literate, then is it our job to make programs easier even for non computer literate people. Or are people always going to complain that it isn't easy.
How easy do you have to make it? Is point and click not easy enough?
Quote:
Last week we talked about how difficult technology can be, and ethics behead making software.... our professor proposed the question about our obligation to make are software easy. I just want to know if we should.
What "difficult technology" are you talking about? Are you asking about grandma using the computer to play some games, using e-mail, or writing something in a word processor, or are you talking about business applications? Some people have a hard time using their computer as grandma would, but how much easier can it be made? I know from experience, because my parents have problems using a computer, and it does not matter how many times I explain to them, they will always call me with some basic question or another.
Quote:
people that aren't computer literate, are they becoming further and further behind, or is software making it easy for non-comp literate to learn about computers??????????????
Again, has the technology advanced that much for the basic user? E-mail, basic gaming, getting online?
If you are talking about business apps., then it is up to that company to teach their employees how to use the apps. No matter how easy you make something, there will always be people that cannot or will not grasp the concept.
 
Old 01-23-2005, 06:51 PM   #11
SciYro
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im like frob23, windows=hard pain in the a**, and vi and Linux is a sweet relief.

i say don't make it "easier" as in a rat can use it .... when that start happening (look at gnome or kde) people will then have to start learning 2 or more ways of doing things, the systems way, and your "easier" programs way, in the end, it makes people who couldn't use it to begin with, still unable to use it, and makes the software harder to use for people that know the systems way

software should be made easy in that there is a consistent logical way to things (in each program, as Megamieuwsel pointed out, some commands aren't consistent with each other, this is mainly because those core commands are meant to be UNIX-like, and changing them could break programs/scripts that use them, hurting the system in the end .. there are commands like "alias" to help tho) ..... and a helpful interface, not one that goes "0100a325f exit code, error code 133" ... and how are we supposed to know what error code 133 is? ............

point being, don't make software dumber, make it "easy" to use from a usability standpoint, allow the user to fine tune things if needed (and allow it be done easily, not hiding how its done), but keep good defaults for users that don't know what else to do. software should help people with what needs to be done, software doesn't need to think for people without there permission or them knowing it

Last edited by SciYro; 01-23-2005 at 06:52 PM.
 
Old 01-24-2005, 05:53 PM   #12
floppywhopper
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When I studied Accounting
We had to do manual accounting
double entry stuff etc on paper
before we could be taught
MYOB, Quicken and other computerised packages
because we had to understand
how and why and what the package was doing
behind the GUI

I think therfore
there is some software that simply can't be dumbed down
you just have to understand what it is doing

floppy
 
Old 01-24-2005, 06:31 PM   #13
Tinkster
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And picking up frob's and floppywhoppers thoughts.
That's exactly it...


Another analogy:
If computers were languages, what Linux does is it
teaches you the alphabet, it teaches you grammar,
it gives you a great vocabulary based on a broad
variety of books, and it's unforgiving towards misspellings.
And it expects you to think before you write.

Windows gives you a fisher-price tape player with
a one button interface and makes you listen to
Dr Seuss books (mind you, I quite like Horton the
Elephant) all day. That's all good and well, you won't
feel pressured and may actually enjoy the "lesson".

But now go and write a letter ;)

And in response to the original poster: I don't think
you should be delivering fisher-price tapes.


Cheers,
Tink
 
Old 01-24-2005, 07:31 PM   #14
floppywhopper
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Oooh Aaah Tink
thats a bit rough on Dr Seuss

How about those little plastic bath books
with the squeaker thing

floppy
 
Old 01-24-2005, 09:17 PM   #15
Timothy Miller
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In response to the original question:

Are we ETHICALLY required to? No, not in the least.
But we are FINANCIALLY required to. In order to survive, modern software companies must do 1 of 2 things. 1. Find a niche market that they're the only ones in, so people have to either do without or learn the software, or 2. Make it easy. Even if it's not as stable as the competition, the masses will almost always choose the easier program. Therefore anyone who doesn't strive to make it easier, will be weeded out because they simply won't sell.
M$ is the perfect example of this. When windows was first realeased, there were other OS's that were arguably better, more stable, and faster. But they weren't as easy to use. Which of these OS's is still in existence today? windows didn't become the dominant OS because of it's stabiility, or deditcation to security, or speed. It became dominant for 1 reason. It appealed to the uneducated masses who just wanted to use the computer without having to learn a lot.
 
  


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