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Are More Choices Really Better?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 7 years ago | from the how-to-hit-the-off-switch-let-me-count-the-ways dept.


A. Bosch writes to mention that Joel Spolsky of Fog Creek software has a commentary that examines the need for choices in software. From the article: "This highlights a style of software design shared by Microsoft and the open source movement, in both cases driven by a desire for consensus and for 'Making Everybody Happy,' but it's based on the misconceived notion that lots of choices make people happy, which we really need to rethink." With software steadily becoming more sophisticated, are more choices really necessarily better?

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no u (1)

r3st2 (987153) | more than 7 years ago | (#16953860)

i for one like it

God loves you! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16954494)


                                                          Mark E. Petersen
                                                Council of the 12 Apostles

                    Be assured that you can be cured of your difficulty. Many have been,
      both male and female, and you can be also if you determine that it must be so.

                    This determination is the first step. That is where we begin. You
      must decide that you will end this practice, and when you make that decision,
      the problem will be greatly reduced at once.

                    But it must be more than a hope or a whish, more than knowing that it
      is good for you. It must be actually a DECISION. If you truly make up your
      mind that you will be cured, then you will have the strength to resist any
      tendencies which you may have and any temptations which may come to you.

                    After you have made this decision, then observe the following specific

                                                  A Guide to Self-Control:

            1. Never touch the intimate parts of your body except during
                    normal toilet processes.

            2. Avoid being alone as much as possible. Find good company
                    and stay in this good company.

            3. If you are associated with other persons having this same
                    problem, YOU MUST BREAK OFF THEIR FRIENDSHIP. Never
                    associate with other people having the same weakness. Don't
                    suppose that two of you will quit together, you never will.
                    You must get away from people of that kind. Just to be in
                    their presence will keep your problem foremost in your mind.
                    The problem must be taken OUT OF YOUR MIND for that is where
                    it really exists. Your mind must be on other and more
                    wholesome things.

            4. When you bathe, do not admire yourself in a mirror. Never
                    stay in the bath more than five or six minutes -- just long
                    enough to bathe and dry and dress AND THEN GET OUT OF THE
                    BATHROOM into a room where you will have some member of your
                    family present.

            5. When in bed, if that is where you have your problem for the
                    most part, dress yourself for the night so securely that you
                    cannot easily touch your vital parts, and so that it would
                    be difficult and time consuming for you to remove those
                    clothes. By the time you started to remove protective
                    clothing you would have sufficiently controlled your
                    thinking that the temptation would leave you.

            6. If the temptation seems overpowering while you are in bed,
                    SNACK, even if it is in the middle of the night, and even if
                    you are not hungry, and despite your fears of gaining
                    weight. The purpose behind this suggestion is that you GET
                    YOUR MIND ON SOMETHING ELSE. You are the subject of your
                    thoughts, so to speak.

            7. Never read pornographic material. Never read about your
                    problem. Keep it out of mind. Remember -- "First a
                    thought, then an act."
                                    The thought pattern must be changed. You must not
                    allow this problem to remain in your mid. When you
                    accomplish that, you soon will be free of the act.

            8. Put wholesome thoughts into your mind at all times. Read
                    good books -- Church books -- Scriptures -- Sermons of the
                    Brethern [sic, Cistern too?]. Make a daily habit of reading
                    at least one chapter of Scripture, preferably from one of the
                    four Gospels in the New Testament, or the Book of Mormon. The
                    four Gospels -- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John -- above
                    anything else in the Bible can be helpful because of their
                    uplifting qualities.

            9. Pray. But when you pray, don't pray about this problem, for
                    that will tend to keep [it] in your mind more than ever. Pray
                    for faith, pray for understanding of the Scriptures, pray
                    for the Missionaries, the General Authorities, your friends,
                    your families, BUT KEEP THE PROBLEM OUT OF YOUR MIND BY NOT
                    IN YOUR PRAYERS. KEEP IT OUT of your mind!

                    The attitude of a person toward his problem has an affect [sic] on how
      easy it is to overcome. It is essential that a firm commitment be made to
      control the habit. As a person understands his reasons for the behavior, and
      is sensitive to the conditions or situations that may trigger a desire for the
      act, he develops the power to control it.

                    We are taught that our bodies are temples of God, and are to be clean
      so that the Holy Ghost may dwell within us. Masturbation is a sinful habit
      that robs one of the Spirit and creates guilt and emotional stress. It is not
      physically harmful unless practiced in the extreme. It is a habit that is
      totally self-centered, and secretive, and in no way expresses the proper use of
      the procreative power given to man to fulfill eternal purposes. It therefore
      separates a person from God and defeats the gospel plan.

                    This self-gratifying activity will cause one to lose his self-respect
      testimony becomes weak, and missionary work and other Church callings become
      burdensome, offerins.

                    To help in planning an effective program to overcome the problem a
      brieation is given of how the reproductive organs in a young man function.

                    The testes in your body are continually producing hundreds of millions
      of reproductive cells call spermatozoa. These are moved up a tube called the
      vas deferens to a place called the ampulla where they are mixed with fluids
      from two membranous pouches called seminal vesicles and the prostate gland.
      The resultant fluid is calleeminal vesicles are full a signa to the _central
      nervous system_ indicating they are ready to benother, depending on such
      thingsexercise, state of health, etc. everal times a week, for others
                    It is normal for the vesicles to be emptied occasionally at night
      durise the emptying come from the cetral nervous system. Often an erotic dream
      is experienced at the same time, and is a part of this normal process. nstead
      ourse, the reproductive system is operating at a more rapid pace, trying to
      keep up with the loss of semen. When he stops the habit, the body will
      continue to produce ahis increased rate, for an indefese are not harmful and
      are to be endured until the normal central nervous system pathway of rel
                    During this period of control several things can be done to make the pr
                  As one meets with his Priesthood Leader, a program for overcoming
      masturbation can be implemented using some of t Remember it is essential that a
      regur report program be agreed on, so progress can be recognized and failures
      understood and eliminated.


            1. Pray daily, ask for the gifts of the Spirit, that which will
                    strengthen you against temptation. Pray fervently and out
                    lout when the temptations are the strongest.

            2. Follow a program of vigorous daily exercise. The exercises
                    reduce emotional tension and depression and are absolutely
                    basic to the solution of this problem. Double your physical
                    activity when you feel stress increasing.

            3. When the temptation to masturbate is strong, yell STOP to
                    those thoughts as loudly as you can in your mind and then
                    recite a prechosen Scripture or sing an inspirational hymn.
                    It is important to turn your thoughts away from the selfish
                    need to indulge.

            4. Set goals of abstinence, begin with a day, then a week,
                    month, year and finally commit to never doing it again.
                    Until you commit yourself to never again you will always be
                    open to temptation.

            5. Change in behavior and attitude is most easily achieved
                    through a changed self-image. Spend time every day
                    imagining yourself strong and in control, easily overcoming
                    tempting situations.

            6. Begin to work daily on a self-improvement program. Relate
                    this plan to improving your Church service, to improving your
                    relationships with your family, God and others. Strive to
                    enhance your strengths and talents.

            7. Be outgoing and friendly. Force yourself to be with others
                    and learn to enjoy working and talking to them. Use
                    principles of developing friendships found in books such as
                    How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

            8. Be aware of situations that depress you or that cause you to
                    feel lonely, bored, frustrated or discouraged. These
                    emotional states can trigger the desire to masturbate as a
                    way of escape. Plan in advance to counter these low periods
                    through various activities, such as reading a book, visiting
                    a friend, doing something athletic, etc.

            9. Make a pocket calendar for a month on a small card. Carry
                    it with you, but show it to no one. If you have a lapse of
                    self control, color the day black. Your goal will be to
                    have no black days. The calendar becomes a strong visual
                    reminder of self control and should be looked at when you
                    are tempted to add another black day. Keep your calendar up
                    until you have at least three clear months.

          10. A careful study will indicate you have had the problem at
                    certain times and under certain conditions. Try and recall,
                    in detail, what your particular times and conditions were.
                    Now that you understand how it happens, plan to break the
                    pattern through counter activities.

          11. In the field of psychotherapy there is a very effective
                    technique called aversion therapy. When we associate
                    or think of something very distasteful with something which has
                    been pleasurable, but undesirable, the distasteful thought
                    and feeling will begin to cancel out that which was
                    pleasurable. If you associate something very distasteful
                    with your loss of self-control it will help you to stop the
                    act. For example, if you are tempted to masturbate, think
                    of having to bathe in a tub of worms, and eat several of
                    them as you do the act.

          12. During your toileting and shower activities leave the
                    bathroom door or shower curtain partly open, to discourage
                    being alone in total privacy. Take cool brief showers.

          13. Arise immediately in the mornings. Do not lie in bed awake,
                    no matter what time of day it is. Get up and do something.
                    Start each day with an enthusiastic activity.

          14. Keep your bladder empty. Refrain from drinking large
                    amounts of fluids before retiring.

          15. Reduce the amount of spices and condiments in your food.
                    Eat as lightly as possible at night.

          16. Wear pajamas that are difficult to open, yet loose and
                    not binding.

          17. Avoid people, situations, pictures or reading materials that
                    might create sexual excitement.

          18. It is sometimes helpful to have a physical object to use
                    in overcoming this problem. A Book of Mormon, firmly held in
                    hand, even in bed at night has proven helpful in extreme

          19. In very severe cases it may be necessary to tie a hand to
                    the bed frame with a tie in order that the habit of
                    masturbating in a semi-sleep condition can be broken. This
                    can also be accomplished by wearing several layers of
                    clothing which would be difficult to remove while half

          20. Set up a reward system for your successes. It does not have
                    to be a big reward. A quarter in a receptacle each time you
                    overcome or reach a goal. Spend it on something which
                    delights you and will be a continuing reminder of your

          21. Do not let yourself return to any past habit or attitude
                    patterns which were part of your problem. _Satan Never Gives
                    Up_. Be calmly and confidently on guard. Keep a positive
                    mental attitude. You can win this fight! The joy and
                    strength you will feel when you do will give your whole life
                    a radiant and spiritual glow of satisfaction and fulfillment.

Yes. (5, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16953894)

Next question?

Seriously though, yes, more choices are always better. However, the additional choices don't have to be easy to get to.

For example, practically everything in Windows is configurable. However, in most cases the configuration is not exposed via a GUI. It's set to some default and you need to tweak the registry.

The same is true of Unix, of course; you often need to go to the config file directly to accomplish something, even where a GUI is available. You can accomplish all kinds of wacky things editing Xresources files.

But in both of these cases the full complexity is not directly exposed, so the user doesn't have to deal with it. On one hand this makes the software more complex and typically leads to bloat. On the other hand, this lets one tool accomplish many tasks without bothering people who don't use the functionality with its presence.

Delta thinking (5, Insightful)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954006)"I'm sure glad I don't have to solve all those hard problems like alphas and betas do..."

The problem - if any really exists - is not the number of choices, it is the manner in which the choices are presented to the user. ( For an example of good presentation, look at the average browser's bookmark function. You can have a well organized database of thousands of URLs, all of which are easy to find. Yet if they were one long list, it would be incomprehensible. )

The solution is not to obsess about the number of choices, but to think about the best way of presenting choices.

Re:Delta thinking (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954940)

For an example of good presentation, look at the average browser's bookmark function. You can have a well organized database of thousands of URLs, all of which are easy to find. Yet if they were one long list, it would be incomprehensible.

This is kind of OT, but I think bookmarks are an example of a shitty presentation, because I reached a point where I couldn't easily find my bookmarks. I had too many of them. The problem is that "good" organization of disparate content cannot be maintained in a simple hierarchy - you need categorization, aka free tagging. So now I use for all but my private bookmarks (which are maintained by google browser sync... It's not like they have passwords in the URL or anything.)

The solution is not to obsess about the number of choices, but to think about the best way of presenting choices.

Yes and no. At the point where an application has nineteen pages of config GUI, you have to think about whether all this really needs to be exposed to the user in the GUI, or if it's enough to have them edit the ini file. It's not that less is more, it's that more is also more confusing.

Re:Yes. (1)

TheWoozle (984500) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954008)

Seriously though, yes, more choices are always better.

O RLY? How would you like to die today? We have a lovely selection of slow, painful ways to die. Nobody has a wider selection!

Re:Yes. (5, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954060)

> > Seriously though, yes, more choices are always better.
>O RLY? How would you like to die today? We have a lovely selection of slow, painful ways to die. Nobody has a wider selection!

Slashdot Poll
How would you like to die today?

. Drowning
. Burnination
. Decapitation
. Breasts!
* Snu-Snu
. Snu-Snu with CowboyNeal

Re:Yes. (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954374)

Breasts is an option, yet Tackhead votes for Snu-Snu. Go figure...

Re:Yes. (1)

diersing (679767) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954342)

Changing the punch line doesn't change the answer. Considering we all have to die, having the choice between slow plainful ways sure beats having someone else make the selection for you.

Re:Yes. (1)

Palshife (60519) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954572)

O RLY? How would you like to die today? We have a lovely selection of slow, painful ways to die. Nobody has a wider selection!

See, if I had more choices I'd choose not to die at all. Better!

No (4, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954028)

Seriously though, yes, more choices are always better

False. It has been shown in numerous studies that more choices often cause information overload, and result in poor choices being made. I will cite two examples:

1) Gov't Health Care - During the Clinton years, the idea of nationalized health care was bandied about. A majority of Americans agreed with the notion. How did the Republicans get it mired down and defeat. Besides Hillary leading the effort, the way it got shot down was brining three or four different models into the picture. Americans got overwhelmed, and opted for (f) None of the above.

2) 401(k) plans. Want to reduce your participation rates? Add more investment options. Sure, your sophisticated investors might like it, but Joe Sixpack gets eyes like saucers when he sees forty-five options that he must pick from. Study after study has shown more options = lower participation.

Re:No (3, Informative)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954264)

Research [] has shown it to also hold true in sales.

If you present users with too many choices, they're more likely to not buy anything. (one experiment was done by offering jams for sale, with either a limited number of choices, or a whole lot).

The theory is that when people can't decide which is best, they'd prefer not to risk making a non-optimal choice, and so decide not to buy anything at all. (as opposed to software sales, which try to get people to not make the choice by buying the most expensive 'enterprise' version, so they don't have to decide which features they might need).

That depends upon the severity of mistakes. (3, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954316)

If you choose the "wrong" health plan, you may not be covered for a critical operation. Too bad. You die.

If you choose the wrong investment you may be broke when you retire. Too bad. You eat dog food and live in a box.

If you make the wrong choice (and the more choices there are, the more likely that you'll choose one that is not the "best").

If you choose the wrong pair of jeans, you take them back and get a different pair.

If you choose the wrong pizza place, you complain and get your money back and go to a different pizza place.

But none of that is applicable to TFA which just discusses the many ways you can tell your computer that you no longer need its services for the time being. Should it "sleep" or "hibernate" or "shutdown" or "lock"? Who cares as long as it is ready to operate when I come back?

Re:No (1)

toddbu (748790) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954354)

For those that are not able to figure it out for themselves, there is almost always professional advice. I don't disagree that choice can be overwhelming, but there are times when I'm willing to ask somebody else for their opinion. I, for one, am happy that there are many options when it comes to health care. If I need something as simple as pain reliever, I pick the one that works best for my symptoms (Advil for muscle pain, Tylenol for just about everything else). What you're suggesting is that we just have aspirin and nothing else. Sorry, but I like having options, and if I can't pick then I'll ask a friend or call a doctor.

Re:No (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954766)

You know, I've seen those studies, plus the one a sibling poster gave about retail, and I really don't think they prove what people think they prove. It seems they're more showing the harm of choice presentation. Do you think, for example, that that "low-choice" 401(k) would revert back to the low participation of the "many-choice" 401(k) if they put a little note in it that said "Experienced investors my request access to additional options by talking to $PERSON in HR." ? Seems this "overload" problem of "too many choices" can be solved simply by stuffing away the choices so that you have to specifically request that they be shown. It's for this reason that most software programs have a button for "advanced" options or can run in "simple" mode.

All I know is, if you removed the domestic stock index from my 401(k) (the only stock fund worth buying in it), I definitely would put less in. Luckily, the amount I put in is about the amount I would want to put in anyway (and is already maxed). And if my only choice were company stock? No way in hell I would put a dime in.

Long story short, the occam's razor in me says to reject the "more choices is better" only as a last resort. I mean, worse comes to worst, you can just ignore choices, right? So it just seems that the "poor presentation of choices" alternative is a better explanation for these.

Re:Yes. (1)

holistah (1002858) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954166)

out of the way is good, hard to get to is bad. I hate having to learn some secret code to change something, but I also hate having to make a million choices to get anything to work... Choices should be available, and easy to get to, if you are trying to get to them. Sensible defaults should be set but you should be able to change just about everything, and the documentation should exist to explain how, as well as how each change effects the overall program.

Re:Yes.... and what about support? (1)

skiflyer (716312) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954738)

But it's not just a software question. Sure maybe I can flip a setting in my config file so all my text is ROT13'd, including the config file... but then do I help them when they call for support? Software is not just a product put out by engineers, it's also a product which must be supported by someone, sold by someone, packaged, run on a computer (obviously infinite choices wouldn't run very quickly).

Extra choices can add significant complexity, both to the code and sometimes to the usability... consistency across machines is often important for example, the last thing you want to do in such a program is to provide so many choices that the interface doesn't even look familiar any more.

Dogshit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16954870)

Yes, more choices are generally better, but not when all the choices are fairly similar. If you had a choice of three piles of dogshit to step in would it better if you could choose between seven piles of dogshit? Or since nobody really wants to choose to step in dogshit would it be better if there were only two piles to choose from? Maybe it would if some were smaller or drier or browner or whatever, but if they were all pretty much the same, having more choices would not be better.

Absolutely. (0, Offtopic)

dbc001 (541033) | more than 7 years ago | (#16953912)

Each different software is like a branch of the evolutionary tree. The more branches, the more options. The good software flourishes and encourages imitators, the bad software dies off.

That's not what the article was about (1)

bunions (970377) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954314)

No one is (I hope) arguing that lots of different software is good to have. The article was about the fact that the UI presented 15 different ways to turn your laptop off, and made the argument that this is a bad thing.

Re:Absolutely. (2, Funny)

SuperMog2002 (702837) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954610)

Then why is Windows still around?

What does this have to do with anything? (3, Interesting)

0racle (667029) | more than 7 years ago | (#16953914)

With software steadily becoming more sophisticated, are more choices really necessarily better?
What does one have to do with the other? Choices are only good when all your options are simple? It's better to have one that works in a very complex, impressive manner then several that work better for different people?

Conversely (2, Insightful)

tsanth (619234) | more than 7 years ago | (#16953916)

Fewer choices are not necessarily better.

Re:Conversely (1)

toddbu (748790) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954156)

I agree. I like how the author says that reboot could be gotten rid of and that you'd just flip the power switch. Obviously he has never remotely managed a machine.

Re:Conversely (1)

drpimp (900837) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954858)

More Choices in software is like more choices with Women. More choices are typically better. In comparison to women ...

Some software is free, some women are free.
Some software is expensive, some women are expensive.
Some software has bugs, some women bug.
Sometimes you get fucked by software, sometimes you get fucked by women (in more than one way).

The point is with more choices, there is a better chance that there will be something that suits your need for the current project / sexual conquest.

Good Question, Wrong People To Ask (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#16953918)

With software steadily becoming more sophisticated, are more choices really necessarily better?
This shouldn't be an "Ask Slashdot," this should be an "Ask Your Customer" question. Because, like a lot of things, it depends. I'd imagine your average Slashdot user would love more choices, which is why the Slashdot interface is slowly expanding for subscribers--and also why Linux is so popular on this site. Seriously, name me one software project with more options than Linux. Hell, the number of distros alone should tip you off.

That said, let's take the average American. Their head would explode if you started explaining all they could do with Linux. They'd probably rather be trapped in the movie Deliverance than be faced with building and configuring Linux from scratch.

So don't ask me if more options are better because it depends on the case. I don't want my text editor to have all the bells and whistles known to man although I expect my process management suite that I use at my company to be able to interface with web services. Even though I prefer Emacs over MS Word, the next person my prefer them flipped.

To recap, ask your customer. Ask your end user. Ask your mother if she'd be able to user your software (provided it's meant for the general public). But the last people you should be asking are members of the Slashdot community.

Recursion (4, Funny)

DragonHawk (21256) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954334)

"this should be an 'Ask Your Customer' question"

So... people should be given a choice when it comes to the question of how much choice they should get.

My brain hurts now. ;-)

Eclipse & Meta-Choices (2, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954456)

So... people should be given a choice when it comes to the question of how much choice they should get.
If your brain hurts after thinking about that, software developer might not be the best profession for you.

One of the most successful pieces of software (in my opinion) out there is the Eclipse [] project. It's all about "meta" choices--that is, the choice to have more choices. Out of the box Eclipse is great for your average Java developer. I recommend it to novice freshman developers. Now, if you want it to do more or integrate it with a server, that requires a plug-in. In fact, you can make it work for any language with the right plug-in. You don't get that functionality right off the bat but if you know what you're doing, you can plug it in. The problem is that a lot of development must be done to satisfy the unique choices your end user might have--that is, it requires a lot of support unless you let your community do it for you like Eclipse has.

Re:Good Question, Wrong People To Ask (1)

uuilly (746301) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954368)

I totally agree with you. Engineers often judge products by the sum of the features / options rather than how well they are put together. I have this fight all the time w/ people on my team. They outsource too many decisions to the user that he / she probably doesn't care about, and often isn't even qualified to make the decision. When the users are confronted with these decisions and they don't know what the pros and cons are and they back off and find something else. I think we loose lots of users for this reason.

Re:Good Question, Wrong People To Ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16954998)

This shouldn't be an "Ask Slashdot," this should be an "Ask Your Customer" question.

Don't ask. People don't know what they want.
Do market research - apparently they have ways to find out what people really prefer.

Given the choice, they will claim to want to have more ways to use the gadget.
But give them a product that is simple to use, and they will pay more for it.
It works every time for Apple.

Survey Says.... (2, Funny)

antirelic (1030688) | more than 7 years ago | (#16953932)

YES. More choices is always better. Competition is always better than no competition. Unless of course you are talking about operating systems, which we all know Micr$oft is the only solution. For everything else, competition/choices is good.

Re:Survey Says.... (1)

webrunner (108849) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954152)

There are a few situations where more choices is worse. Format wars, for instance, where both formats are more or less equivalent but just driven by different companies.

Re:Survey Says.... (1)

antirelic (1030688) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954328)

Good point, but as you point out, format wars are the exception to the rule. I wonder how "formats" can be fit into other aspects of the economy to therefore make other "formats of cars" a non-viable solution... ;-)

Re:Survey Says.... (1)

miyako (632510) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954570)

Even in this case, more choices can be better. Take the BluRay/HD-DVD format war. Both formats are more or less equivilent functionally, so consumers in this choice get to pick the company (companies) they hate less to support. Sometimes choices isn't about choice in products, but in who supplies the products.

The next dvorak? (1, Flamebait)

RingDev (879105) | more than 7 years ago | (#16953974)

Joel is a smart guy. Scratch that. Joel is an incredibly smart guy. But must every single post he makes on his own web site be headlined on /.? It's not like his ego isn't big enough already. No need to stoke the flames of that fire.


Re:The next dvorak? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16954032)

Joel's an idiot....

so maybe he is the next Dvorak

Re:The next dvorak? (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954474)

Joel's an idiot....

I disagree. Joel is a very, very smart man. He just lets his ego get in his way to often. His ideas and concepts are often full of great insight and design, but they need to be de-Joelified before they can be applied out side of Fog Creek.


Re:The next dvorak? (1)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954222)

Yeah, and he didn't mention Ruby on Rails even once.

Re:The next dvorak? (2, Interesting)

jo42 (227475) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954656)

What's a "Joel" and why should anyone, other than a very few people, give a wet fart?

Re:The next dvorak? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16954732)

Joel Spolsky is a smart guy? Are people on /. really such sheeple to actually believe that? Joel Spolsky is outspoken and has done a good job promoting himself. That's about it folks. He's all about generating business. Period.

Joel Spolsky is renowned for rehashing the previously existing tech debates and paraphrasing what has been said a million times before for his own goals. You don't see any thing new or truly unique coming out of his writing. Oh and we can't forget what else he is known for, his ego.

And for such a "smart guy" he sure delivers some uninspiring software.

Flamebait? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16954752)

Why was this modded flamebait? He is a smart guy, but he's an aggressive self-promoter, too. It's not like the world doesn't already have too many of those. These postings amount to advertisting for him. (I understand that others already get the same treatment on Slashd0t.)

To clarify... (4, Informative)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16953992)

Since no one will bother to RTFA -- the "choices" he's criticizing aren't configuration choices (which is also a valid debate), but redundant (or basically redundant) ways of performing the same action via multiple routes.

That said, the KDE and GNOME guys can return to ranting at each other...

Re:To clarify... (2, Informative)

arun_s (877518) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954434)

Right. The example he gives is of a dozen different options to hibernate/logout/shut down a computer in Vista. The screenshot really does say it all.
I'm thinking of other places where his reasoning holds true, but I'm coming up with blanks here. I mean, I can close a tab in firefox by middle-clicking it, pressing Ctrl+W, clicking on the small X, or with File->Close Tab. They're all redundant ways of doing something but it involves different input devices and shortcuts, and each is equally useful for different people. Information overload? Hmmm.. can't think of any other example where its such a waste as in TFA, really.

well I like the Microsoft way of (1)

BrentRJones (68067) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954968)

1 Menu for everything feature
2 Keyboard shortcuts for frequent tasks I would die without Ctrl A Ctrl C and Ctrl V
3 Function key Did you know F12 brings up Save As dialog in most all MS apps
4 Right click context sensitive menu

By the way can you move a window if your mouse locks up? Alt SpaceBar

I'm just surprised (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16954046)

That this isn't a poll with a lame Cowboy Neil reference attached.

as a software developer... (2, Interesting) (874015) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954074)

If companies could work together developing cool apps then that would be cool, because then they could share ideas and integrate software. really is there a need to have thousands of different CMS tools out there that all do pretty much the same thing? And if they're using a standardised language like PHP, or Java then the platform support is wider. I think the reality is that while some companies are looking after their own interests this probably not going to happen. But they are starting to realise the user matters. But how can we design software that fits every ones needs? We just possibly can't? Its about writing good, clear documentation that users understand and they just bite the bullet in terms of adhering to the software... cheers

Ecconomics 101 (1, Interesting)

HappySqurriel (1010623) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954078)

In my first year ecconomics class (years ago) my professor when into a rant on the comparison between Capatalism and Communism; this usually went on for 10-15 minutes (depending on the class) and one section of the rant was about choice.

Essentially, his example in the difference in choice was the breakfast isle in most shopping markets; in a Communist country you'll have one choice "Communist O's" regardles of whether you like them or not whereas in a capatalist society there will be boxes of every shape colour and size. The end result is that the choice capatalism provides makes it very difficult to find what you like, but unlike communism you can actually find what you like.

Personally, I would rather have confusing choice rather than have to eat a bunch of bland tasting Communist O's that have a picture of Stalin on the box.

Re:Ecconomics 101 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16954532)

The fact that all the countries that have attempted to implement socialist economies as of yet have had severely restricted opportunities for consumer choices does not mean that this is an intrinsic feature of the socialist/communist ideologies; these were merely things that were rationalized away(unwisely, you might say) to save resources. Obviously choice arises "naturally" in capitalist economies when there is active competition, but there is no intrinsic reason that that particular feature of a free market can't be emulated in a planned economy.

Re:Ecconomics 101 (1)

bmajik (96670) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954578)

Plus, in the capitalist model, you can pay someone else to figure out what you like for you, since choice can be Hard Work.

Congratulations, you've grown the economy!

Re:Ecconomics 101 (2, Funny)

giafly (926567) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954702)

Personally, I would rather have confusing choice rather than have to eat a bunch of bland tasting Communist O's that have a picture of Stalin on the box.
Unfortunately capitalism gives you those same bland-tasting O's, except with added sugar frosting and a huge choice of cartoon characters on the box.

For genuinely informed choice, they should decorate each supermarket aisle with a different life-size photo of a someone in their underclothes, demonstrating how you'll look if you mainly eat the food sold in that aisle.

Choice... (1)

Eberlin (570874) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954092)

"Choice is an illusion created between those with power and those without." -- Merv

Choice is only good for those who CARE to have a choice. Unfortunately, most people don't really want choice -- it takes too much time, thought, and effort to weigh choices. Most people would rather have someone else decide for them. This much is true in the software industry. They'll usually use what is given to them (by OEMs, usually, or if they're lucky, well-informed friends).

After a while, choice blends into competition, and that's usually a good thing. Everyone else tries to emulate virtues/features of the most popular products. Those that don't tend to go by the wayside.

In the end, choice is good...even though only a few people really take the time to choose.

Need Logoff. (2, Interesting)

Jawood (1024129) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954102)

FTFA: Once you've merged Switch User and Lock, do you really need Log Off? The only thing Log Off gets you is that it exits all running programs.

I have multiple user accounts on this machine that I'm on now. One for my wife, one for me, and the admin account. Having different user accounts makes it much easier for keeping our documents, mail, and other progams that we use separate. It makes both of our lives easier if all she has to do is logon into her account and her email and other stuff is right there without having to dig around my shit.

And, thanks to /. users for posting the importance of having user accounts for general use, this machine hasn't had any viruses in a couple of years.

Re:Need Logoff. (2, Informative)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954594)

Read it again, he's not arguing against multiple accounts. He's saying that if you can log in as a new user when the screen is locked, then you don't need to have an explicit "log off" button, you can just lock the screen.

Re:Need Logoff. (1)

AnEmbodiedMind (612071) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954774)

He's not suggesting to get rid of switch user functionality - just that it would be available from the one generic option to get to the login window. Hammer (0, Redundant)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954114)

Of course we need choices.

Just like a rachet set has every size from 1/8" to 2", every situation in life is different and requires a different size tool.

Why should we have choices in clothing sizes? It would be so much better if all shoes were size 12 and all clothes had 38" waists.

And we only have *two* software choices apparently? Microsoft and Open source? There are a LOT more choices than that. Hammer (1)

toddbu (748790) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954486)

Just like a rachet set has every size from 1/8" to 2"...

I think you forgot the metric choices. :-) Hammer (1)

Techguy666 (759128) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954716)

Of course we need choices.

Just like a rachet set has every size from 1/8" to 2", every situation in life is different and requires a different size tool

The question is not as simple as it seems.

From TFA, it's not that you have only a hammer and multiple screws. It's a matter of "you have one single screw, and you have an appropriate screwdriver, an appropriate screwdriver with a blue handle, an appropriate automatic screwdriver, and a screwdriver bit for your drill..." The question is, do we really need that many choices for screwing a screw? In his example, how many people actually use the "standby" option over "hibernate" on their Windows desktops - or "standby"/"hibernate" at all when "logoff" and "shutdown" exist.

Microsoft OSes tend to give users an extraordinary amount of choice to do any one given task. That creates bloated software for them; security issues and training nightmares for us. Is it worth it for the extra "freedom" the developers give to their customers? I'd argue yes if your userbase is large enough where there is great diversity of needs and expertise, but no if your userbase is small and/or has a frequent turnover to simplify training and startup time for the new employees. Not having more choices, for the small business, can be similar to establishing "standards". If the option doesn't exist, the user can't stray off task or get themselves stuck (in theory).

Again, not a simple question. Fewer choices can be better!

Not Necessarily... (1)

Deinhard (644412) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954116)

I'll take this away from software and say that it really depends on the situation. Must I really decide between 15 different types of bran cereal, 20 types of toilet paper, 5 bathroom cleansers or 25 versions Office? Okay, the last one was back to software again.

Just because we can produce multiple types of this-or-that doesn't mean we must.

Where did he pull this out from? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16954146)

While Microsoft has some esoteric choices that they've added into their software for various reasons (White on Blue mode,) isn't the thing they keep getting in trouble for is the inability to choose? Isn't that why search engines, anti-virus companies and browser developers are constantly complaining and initiating anti-trust lawsuits? Wasn't it not too long ago that people were up in arms about the inability to turn off the Vista startup sound? Furthermore, JWZ's opinion aside, the ability to theme your desktop is a huge deal to many users. Even though Microsoft locked this down, partly due to it being encapsulated in a dll, the number of users that frequent theme sites is overwhelming.

The real issue here is, are you providing so much functionality as to be confusing or to cause a glut of misuse in your software? This is what wizards, defaults, and advanced settings are meant to tackle, and I think they work relatively well.

It's not the choice that matters. (1)

WidescreenFreak (830043) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954180)

What kind of a question is this? Yes, having more choices is better! The real problem comes down to how proprietary each choice is!

In my many years of IT, I can't tell you how many times the place that I worked at was effectively forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade to the newest version of Microsoft Office because the other companies with which we dealt all upgraded to the newest version of Microsoft Office. Why? Because Microsoft's proprietary format prevented us from reading the newer Office files and there was no incentive for the other companies to save their files as previous versions. In fact, if they were going to do that anyway, why would they have bothered with a new version of Office?

I'm certain that there are lots of other examples of this type of scenario where, yes, other choices were available, but they all ended up with some kind of proprietary mechanism that locked the users into that application. Only recently has the ability for people to choose and still be compatible with other applications (e.g.: really come into the forefront. But what that will do (hopefully) is then put an emphasiss on useability and functionality. After all, if there is no longer any locking of users into a proprietary format, the ability to use the application efficiently will be the major, competitive factor.

So, hell, yes! Bring on the choice! Just leave the proprietary sh!t at the door, thankyouverymuch.

More crap choices is bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16954196)

Having many choice of a few good solutions is better than having many choices of a lot of bad solutions.

That's nothing! (4, Insightful)

JoeWalsh (32530) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954202)

I'm still waiting for the computer with one button: "Do What I Mean"

Everything else is an abject design failure.

Re:That's nothing! (1)

penguinrenegade (651460) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954988)

I used up my mod points yesterday - mod parent up funny!

It depends on the choices (2, Interesting)

dosquatch (924618) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954206)

Choices play into one's sense of individuality, be it choice of car, clothing, phone, wallpaper, whatever. To the extent that the choice makes a fashion statement relevant to the individual, it is good to have these choices available.

Standardization makes things functional. We expect a phone to work more or less a certain way, regardless of any fashion statement it might make, because every phone we've used before it was worked more or less that same certain way. When fashion choices start impacting the functionality of an established standard, they are bad.

So when a user, new to linux, is presented with a thousand different distros, 4 different window managers skinned 30 different ways each, and is informed that there can be no correct choice because no matter what, they will end up with some piece of software that cannot be convinced to play nicely on some particular setup, it is bad. Very, very bad.

I suggest, for a moment, the community step back from "FOSS as a way of life", and consider how such a product from a corporation would be received because this is how people outside of your community view your product.

Always leave it running - really? (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954236)

Why do you want the power off? If you're concerned about power usage, let the power management software worry about that.

4 reasons:
- Services that might decide to wake up (this can mess up power management)
- "Sleeping" still draws more power than no power; grab a "Kill-o-Watt" or similar device to try it yourself.
- Heat. If you have any sort of ventilation problem (i.e., you're a home user), the excess heat can be noticable in the summer.
- It's a laptop. Enough said?

The alternative is bloatware (2, Insightful)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954244)

Software such as MS Word exemplifies the one-choice-for-all model of software. The result is bloatware when a single piece of software must support a diversity of users.

We all agree that Word is 90% bloatware, but we can't agree on which 10% of functionality to keep.

Re:The alternative is bloatware (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954608)

The answer is simple. Don't try to make one program fit every-one's needs.
If you tried to make a single car that fit everyone needs you would have an SUV with a pickup bed on the back and it would have a thousand hp motor.
It would do nothing well and cost way too much.
Sort of like a lot of software.

To reverse it... (1)

Cinder6 (894572) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954300)

Are more choices necessarily bad?

I think the answer is dependent on the variety and differences between the choice. If there is little difference between the choices, they are likely superfluous and only confuse the matter. On the other hand, if there are clear differences (take KDE, Gnome, Enlightenment, XfCE, Fluxbox, etc.), then choice is a Good Thing. I know if my only choice for a desktop GUI in Linux was KDE, I would still be on Windows right now.

And to those who say "how would you like to die" is bad, well, most people would appreciate being given the choice (though upset to have to have to make the decision), rather than have it made for them. I bet Socrates was glad he was allowed to pick hemlock rather than forced to drink a cup of boiling gold.

Microsoft Bob (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954302)

There's your answer. What if that was all there was? Of course more choices are better.

I don't have time to find the article right now (3, Interesting)

jgalun (8930) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954350)

Just enough time to post about it. :) Harvard Business Review carried an article within the last year which talked about the difficulty of designing simple products for consumers. One of the problems they found was that consumers always SAY that they want more features, but then IN PRACTICE are happier with products that are simple to use and do a few features well.

This may seem common sense, but there was actually a study done to confirm this bias, and, frankly, common sense isn't always so common. That goes a long way to explaining why Apple is doing well again - Jobs is basically dictating how you use the computer, and although that does not seem like a good thing, most users actually appreciate the elimination of the extra complexity they don't need.

Re:I don't have time to find the article right now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16954534)

It's simple enough really. Everyone wants straightforward devices with limited functionality that doesn't require lots of extra choices to be made. However the functionality that everyone wants is different. So if you're trying to appeal to a large number of people you either pack all the functionality that any of them will want in or you dictate which subset of functionality you will provide.

Are more choices better? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16954352)

Only when one of them is "Cowboy Neil".

It's not about the number of choices (3, Insightful)

ibbieta (31756) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954360)

I'm surprised that Joel does not reference one of his earlier rants about people wanting to feel in control. When the results of each decision is unknown then people start to feel like they are losing control and seek happier pastures elsewhere. When people fully understand the implications of a choice, they feel in control and are happier.

A choice between "sleep" and "hibernate" is great when the person making the choice knows what each option does. Most people do not care and do not want to care. This choice is useless to them and even lowers their sense of control over their computer and thus their satisfaction with it.

The trick is not taking away all the choices, like Joel is suggesting, but giving users control over what they want to control. Those that care can select their options, those that don't care get a fairly basic guess at what they want. Joel's guess for the power-off problem with laptops is fine but does not always work for me and probably lots of geeks. Hell, I want my laptop to suspend but keep the 3G network connection and there is no way to do that.

Re:It's not about the number of choices (1)

bunions (970377) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954466)

Joel is a good writer, but has a knack for avoiding the thorny details.

sorry, but.... (1)

jdcope (932508) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954362)

Microsoft isnt around to "make people happy". They are in it to make money, period.
Case in point- Vista Utimate edition is $400. Thats $100 more than the whole base system Dell was selling a while back, with XP installed. Granted, most Slashdot readers arent buying those base systems. But I bet a lot of them are running Linux systems they built for less than Vista Ultimate.

Depends (2, Insightful)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954370)

From the end user perspective, no. More choices are not better. The fewer the better. In fact, you will notice that an application that "just works" is highly sought after, instead of one that gives the user a never ending parade of choices.

From a middle tier perspective, more choices are good; Let me, the admin, make the choices for my end users. Give me all the options in the world. Just hide them from the end user so they aren't confused by them.

In a non-corporate environment, the vendors themselves have to play this role. But really, I don't see a problem with that.

Re:Depends (1)

MS-06FZ (832329) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954734)

From the end user perspective, no. More choices are not better. The fewer the better. In fact, you will notice that an application that "just works" is highly sought after, instead of one that gives the user a never ending parade of choices.

Oh, sure... it starts that way - but then they discover mailing lists and want multiple boxes and filters, they start getting spammed and want a good spam filter, or they want to type up a newsletter and put it into three-column format, or whatever - the desire for simplicity does not survive the desire for functionality.

Not the best endorsement of FogPilot software? (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954376)

I quote...
If you're in college, we also have a very cool paid internship program (last year's interns developed Copilot in one summer)
Solid, well-designed stuff, eh? ("Copilot" is one of FogPilot's products)

Re:Not the best endorsement of FogPilot software? (1)

gigne (990887) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954746)

Don't like Copilot, eh?
While not a fan of their Copilot software, it is available though GPL. []

If you don't like it, do something about it, you have the code.

I like choice! (1)

tetrasanyu1 (1030814) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954404)

I like choice. As an admin I appreciate that I can customize what my users have access to and that I can coerce these machines to be treated the way I want them treated. Keep the choice!

No. Scientific America on choice- Article (3, Informative)

acomj (20611) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954436)

This scientic American Mind (an off shoot of scientific American Magazine) had an article by the Barry Schwartz, the man who's book if referenced in the article.

The Tyranny of Choice
Logic suggests that having options allows people to select precisely what makes them happiest. But, as studies show, abundant choice often makes for misery 56941-1933-1196-906983414B7F0000&pageNumber=1 []


You'd be surprised (4, Informative)

killmenow (184444) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954440)

Actually, more choice isn't always better. Sheena S. Iyengar [] is a professor at Columbia University who studies choice and in particular, challenges the notion that more choice is always better. A list of her publications [] is available on her site. For those who believe more choice is always better, I recommend you read a few. In fact, I recommend you start here [] (pdf).

Not it is not better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16954454)

Having a single choice is better. Far more stable and people will be happier.

In fact making linux,Unix,BSD and OSX illegal is a good step in the right direction to making the world a better place.
NExt step after that is making any Open office and productivity suites that are not Microsoft Office illegal.

Yours truly,

Steve Ballmer CEO Microsoft Corporation.

Ironic (5, Insightful)

ruserious (910291) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954472)

Ironic, given that the screenshot he is showing has exactly two easily accessible options (lock and power down) and hides the rest away. Most users may or may not take a look at the other tucked away options in the drop-down/pop-up-box, and probably not worry about it again if they feel scared. So, for users who want less complexity there is already a very reduced choice of options. Is he then suggesting taking away options from power users? Really? B the same logic shouldn't notepad bet better than any IDE for doing programming, because it has less choice? And we probably want to do away with the command line for good, because there's clearly waaay to many options there. And the large majority of people already favoured the one-button mouse from apple very strongle, so much in fact, that apple never was asked for mice with more buttons, and most pc-users today buy and use one-button mouses.

Now, clearly Joel (and me here) have oversimplified the topic so much, that the dogma "less is more" has led to absurd suggestions. The key for successfully applying "less is more", is to properly look at the context. For a computer that is used as an internetkiosk, "log off" is the only button you need, there reducing choice is helpful. For a laptop user it would be extremely annoying not being able to choose sleep or hibernate, because it is going to waste energy and reduce the time I'll be able to work on it. Automatic powermanagement is not an option, because it can't read my mind. The computer will always be in hibernate when I just don't have the time to wait for it to power back on, or it will waste energy in sleep, when I know I'll be away.

I like to compare those options with my clothing options as a human. How would you like it, if somebody wanted to simplify things for you, and you only had two choices: naked (for sleeping), and fully dressed (for work). Want to take of the sweater because you have a shirt underneath? Tough luck, it was "optimized" away so you wouldn't have to worry about choices. Want to take off your shoes on the plane? Nope, either naked or fully dressed are your only options. Pretty silly - for most people, now of course there will be some people (those you are stressed out by clothing choices) that may feel a binary choice is progress, and good for them, yet that doesn't justify taking away the options from those who feel very comfortable partially taking some clothes off.

The funny thing is, that Joel even acknowledges tht there are good reasons why people who are comfortable with the choices, and why they are necessary for some, yet he somehow implicitly argues that those people are overridden by the ones that get scared by the options. He never explains why, though. Which IMHO makes his argument/position look very weak.

Re:Ironic (1)

MostAwesomeDude (980382) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954648)

I'm going to expand on a point you brought up.

I use Notepad for programming. I write PHP, HTML, CSS, Javascript, Python, and occasionally C and Perl using Notepad. On Linux, I use vi. The reason has nothing to do with choice and everything to do with efficiency. There's little need for an IDE when I know the entire HTML 4.01 library in my head. Tools like Dreamweaver might help sketch ideas, but in the end typing it out by hand is actually faster than fucking around with a GUI.

Joel is under the (false) impression that choices in GUI design are functionally equivalent. Certainly, the advent of new tools, like the digital mouse, has required GUIs to change immensely. However, he's probably forgotten that Windows was originally designed to be completely navigable without a mouse, and that the Close Window button is just a shortcut for the traditional Alt + F4. Every choice on that Start Menu is there for a reason.

I think it all depends... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954484)

...on the situation. In keeping on topic with the article, in regards to software the same answer stands.

I LOVE having my choice of operating system. Do I want a fully customizable experience? Linux. Do I want something that looks slick and polished and runs smoothly? OSX. Do I want something that has out of the box functionality and a large amount of commercial software available for it? Windows.

The above applies to office software, database software, games, everything. By having more choices, I can get not only what I want, but what I NEED. The only time more choices become a BAD thing is when the uninformed/technophobe/technomoron makes a decision in what to go with..."I'm going to buy a mac because it looks slick!" Now he can't get the software or games that he wants. "I'm going to get Linux because it's free! Crap, why won't my wireless thingy work?" Now he doesn't know about Linux-specific drivers or even how to access his old data. "I'll get windows because it is readily available! Wait...whats this spyware thing..." Now he loses his bank account.

The problem isn't so much that there are too many choices, it's that people don't know what they are choosing, why they are choosing it, and what to do after they have chosen.

Impossible to say - use economic principles (5, Insightful)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954504)

This is an unanswerable question, like "is more production really better?" Like every other rational question, it becomes a matter of marginal costs and benefits.

Additional options are always better until the marginal cost (in researching/comprehending the option) becomes greater than the marginal benefit provided by the option. Thus, options with low marginal benefits and/or high research costs are not better, and other options are. For example:

Which windowing system do you want?
a. KDE
b. Gnome
c. Fluxbox

This is an example where more options are probably bad, because each additional option has huge research costs associated with them - that is, it takes a lot of effort to find out exactly why a person would prefer one or the other.

Which background color do you prefer:
a. Light gray
b. Dark gray
c. Gray

Here, more options is probably still not better because while the research costs are low, the marginal benefit to being able to choose a slightly different shade of gray are so tiny as to be outweighed by the effort of having to even answer the question.

Choose a keyboard layout:
a. US/English
b. UK/English
c. German
d. French
e. Russian

Here is an example or more options are better. It's clear what the differences are, making research costs low, and the benefits to choosing the correct keyboard layout are huge.

Related Material (1)

uberfrank (899496) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954510)

When you think about it, there are truly some times when there are too much choices. Barry Schwartz's talk on IT Conversation really nails it. l []

When you have many options, it will inevitably make your decision more complex. Less choice can be better because it simplifies the decision making process for someone who isn't necessarly qualified to make the call in the first place.

They say "the customer is always right" but I disagree. I think the customer is most likely clueless. In software, it's up to you to simplify the choices for them. Google is a prime example, they made searching simple and it worked.

The answer is yes...with a proviso (1)

Moby Cock (771358) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954542)

More standrds compliant choices are better than fewer standards compiant choices. But if there are many competeing standard then we all lose. The Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD nonsense is indicative of how standards are all but compulsory in modern technolgies.

Yes (1)

Tweekster (949766) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954546)

Most decisions involve only a few choices.

Hundreds of options exist, but in the end, 2-3 realistic options exist and that is what is decided on.
The rest fit a niche. When you need to fill a niche, that is when those extra thousand options are handy, but until then they are irrelevant for major decisions.

There's a 90/10 rule at work here (4, Interesting)

jimfrost (58153) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954622)

I have a friend (this guy [] ) who starts off a class on GUI design by asking for a show of hands from the class.

The question is, "Who here prefers a manual transmission car to an automatic?" I have been in probably a half dozen classes of programmers when he did this, and every time he gets about 50% of the audience to raise their hands. Privately he tells me that it's almost always 50%, give or take a couple of percentage points.

After he gets the count of hands and shows that it's about half of the audience, he points out that the public as a whole (at least in the U.S.) prefers automatics to standards by a margin of at least 9:1.

His point in doing this is to show that the kinds of interfaces that programmers like (lots of knobs for extra control) are not necessarily the kinds of interfaces that most people -- which is to say "the people who buy your software" -- want. The vast majority would prefer simplicity; in fact, they will pay extra for simplicity.

Building in a lot of options makes about one tenth of the audience happy, but annoys or confuses the heck out of the other ninety percent. It is not good software design; it makes for more difficult training and much more difficult technical support. If you feel you must do it, it's best to hide these knobs in an expert mode ... but by and large you're better off by not providing a lot of knobs in the first place. Spend your time carefully designing your software so that you make the right choices so that your users don't have to figure out how to fix what you did wrong.

Choices = Bad Design? (1)

mattwarden (699984) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954650)

Having choices and having a bad design are two completely different things. Use a layered approach to require intent in order to change minor or potentially dangerous options.

Choice vs. Quality (1)

DreadfulGrape (398188) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954674)

In the words of Edina from the great BBC show Absolutely Fabulous:

"I don't want more bloody choice... I just want nicer things!"

I thank you for 7o0r time (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16954744)

This is not about choices... (1)

kosmosik (654958) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954772)

This is not about choices but about poor OS and UI design.

WTF you need a "Restart" button for? You usually do not restart your machine from your own will. In Windows software updates, instalations and other stuff forces restart on you. Get rid of the need of restarting and you don't have need for Restart button. One choice left.

Also the items are poorly organized. Loging out and switching to login screen are not POWER related, these are LOGIN related. The structure should be organised in other way (order does matter):

LOGIN group (with f.e. key icon)
- Login screen (i.e. switch to login screen - lock the session and allow others to login)
- Logout (closes the session)

POWER group (with f.e. plug icon)
- Sleep (put the machine to sleep)
- Hibernate (hibernate the machine)
- Shutdown (shutdown the machine)

You have to be retarded to not get it right in UI. Really. :)

Totally agree with Joel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16954856)

Absolutely not. Introducing choice is the easy way out. It indicates the developer has no connection to the end user and his/her needs.
A software product cannot be everything to everyone. Users love software that feels as if it anticipates their needs. Choices clearly show to a user that the developer has no clue and does not care about them.
On top of that choice increases complexity, the number of bugs and the QA time required.

Ummm (1)

Clark_Griswold (692490) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954872)

If I choose not to decide, will I have still made a choice?

Of course choices are better (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954904)

With Linux I can pick and choose whatever I want and tailor the OS to my specific needs.

Oh, sorry...the article's about Microsoft. No, choices are bad. More choices makes the OS more confusing and bloated.

Is Joel's uncle an expert, or not? (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954924)

Joel eliminates the choices and then cops out with:
Inevitably, you are going to think of a long list of intelligent, defensible reasons why each of these options is absolutely, positively essential. Don't bother. I know. Each additional choice makes complete sense until you find yourself explaining to your uncle that he has to choose between 15 different ways to turn off a laptop.

So the conclusion of the article is that non-geeks want to use computers, and Windows' UI isn't very suitable for such people.

This is news? We already know, just from looking at the size of the anti-virus market, that non-geeks shouldn't be using MS Windows. If your Uncle is a casual computer user, a non-geek, non-rocket-scientist, then why the fuck is he using MS Windows?!

Anyone who is actually capable of safely using MS Windows, is not going to be intimidated or confused by Windows 9 different shutdown options, because they're a computer expert anyway. If they have legacy requirements that make them need Windows, then they have been using computers for many years and have accumulated some expertise. If they need Windows because they play games, then they obviously have plenty of free time in which to learn things and waste time with Windows' clumsiness.

If your uncle doesn't fit into any of these groups, then your uncle is probably the kind of person who should be using a different OS. If you are your uncle's computer advisor, then instead of spending lots of time training him on how to use Windows, spend your time more efficiently by nipping the problem in the bud: advise him on what OS to get. If you screwed up your job as the family computer advisor, then quit bitching about the consequences of your mistake.

It depends (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 7 years ago | (#16954938)

Once again a universal answer is sought for, this time on the idea of choice. Sort of ironic. Or not.

One place where choice has become Real Stoopid is with watch-type batteries. Why are there, like, 9000 types of watch battery? Some of them you need to take out a pair of calipers to measure a difference. Can't they standardize like their bigger cousins (AAA, AA, C, D)?

And car headlight bulbs. I bought a 2005 Mustang last year, and went out to get a couple bulbs to have on hand. The specific bulb for the car was not in the auto parts stores yet. When it did come out, it was visually indistinguishable from many of the older bulb models, but different enough that the older one would not fit in the socket. WTF is that? Is that extra 2 mm of plastic performing some critical function? Meanwhile I can screw a 2006 compact fluorescent bulb into a lamp from 1960.

The need for less choice/more standardization is dependent on the individual situation.

And example of too little choice? Political candidates. It's either candidate from the Big Two Idiot Parties or one from a smattering of folks from little Parties even further from the realm of rational thought.

Example of just right: cars. There's something for everyone.

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