Re: spatial nautilus concerns

On Wed, 20 Oct 2004 08:08:32 -0400, David Feldman
<mailing-lists interfacethis com> wrote:
> But I'm saddened that, given how fundamental this
> particular interaction is to the user's interaction with his computer,
> it appears that no empirical evidence has been gathered to verify this
> decision.

Proper testing is complicated and probably would need some money to
make it happen (just watching your relatives is not proper testing ;).
But I think all involved would be glad if someone could do this.
> One thing overlooked in much of the discussion of this issue is the
> existence (and advisability) of hybrid solutions. The Mac OS X Finder,
> despite Siracusa's claims, adheres to nearly all tenets of his spatial
> metaphor. Icons and windows stay where you put them, and there is a
> one-to-one mapping of folders to windows except as overridden by the
> Open in Same Window preference, the Column View, and explicit user
> changes such as Keep Arranged by Name. Because the Open in Same Window
> preference necessarily implies some of the navigation metaphor, Apple
> also provides small forward/back buttons for users who want to take
> advantage of that. To me this all seems like a good compromise, but my
> opinion doesn't constitute empirical evidence any more than anyone
> else's does. The point is simply that it's simply not a black-and-white
> issue, and numerous in-between options are possible that mix and match
> based on the value of certain trade-offs.
> Trade-offs are, in fact, the main issue. Most of the spatial metaphor
> seems to make sense in a vacuum, but every change has multiple
> consequences for usability, and is made at the expense of some other
> option. If strict one-to-one mappings of folders to windows is easier
> to learn (something I haven't actually seen hard evidence of yet), is
> it worth the drop in efficiency that might result from having so many
> windows onscreen?

This is the usual "screen cluttering" argument, which is the result of
putting a non-hierarchial browsing system on top of a hierarchial
filing system. To be really spatial, one would need to have a smarter
filing system (like Storage), which does not categorize files based on

To make spatial work with a hierarchial filing system, it must be kept
shallow and organized (by hand for now).

> A couple additional things:
> - Without far more drastic changes to the GUI experience, I don't think
> we're ever going to get to a pure spatial metaphor. For example, the
> File Open dialog currently still uses the open-in-same-window scheme,
> and presents the user with her folders in a window other than the one
> shown by Nautilus.

The file open dialog can be pretty much ignored as drag and drop from
a nautilus window (or just clicking) provides that functionality.
Removing it from some point release "by accident" would be fun ;)

There are intresting ideas for using dnd for saving too, but they
would need some work to be nice enough.

> Sure, it's a different app, but that's not
> necessarily important to (or understood by) the user.

Nor should it be required from the user.

> - One common argument in favor of the spatial metaphor is that most
> people don't find file paths natural. Yet people often put things in
> folders, or categorize them according to nested hierarchies.

But folders are not the only thing modelled in the spatial metaphor,
it's just the only thing that the old style is modelling. Spatial
makes "folders" into "containers". Real-life folders certainly are
categorized by their location (usually determined by their name) and
searched by following the path, but spatial containers are more like
what happens with your grandmothers food closet. There's lots of jars
with different sizes, colours and even shapes. Searching happens by
location, size, colour and shape, of which the three last ones are the
most effective. And if you suffle the food closet, it's still pretty
easy to spot the right jar from there.

> Maybe that's out of necessity, but maybe it's a natural way for people
> to classify things. If the latter, file paths may be natural for
> people, and (for example) it may just be that many users aren't always
> comfortable with the textual representations of those paths, and/or
> with hierarchies that they themselves have not constructed.

I tried to think of a tree-like hierarchy from real life, but came up
only with shallow (1-2) examples (closet->socks, closet->underpants
etc) with the exception of organizing people (chain of command so to
speack), but I don't know how well that fits with anything other than
categorizing people.
Oh, and these are only my opinions and as such are not (probably)
verified by any data.

Kalle Vahlman, zuh iki fi

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