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12 Rules for Technology

We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.”  – Douglas Adams

In my 30+ years of experience with computers and technology, I have learned to be wary of technology, particularly new and cutting edge technology. I’ve found that the more complex a technology is, the more ways it can fail. I know from experience that not only is failure an option, it is inevitable. At some point, it will fail, often when you need it most. It is not a matter of if technology will fail but when.

  1. The technology must fulfill a genuine need and purpose.
  2. It must work as the user expects and have clear and easy to understand instructions and documentation.
  3. It must perform its intended tasks in a logical and efficient manner from the user’s perspective.
  4. It must not make the tasks it performs more complex for the user.
  5. The user interface must be intuitive and as simple as possible.
  6. It must efficiently use resources such as memory, cpu cycles, and power.
  7. It must not collect any more user or system data than is absolutely necessary for its operation.
  8. It must not be more complex than is necessary and its operation must be transparent to the user.
  9. It must be stable, reliable and durable. It should not prone to ‘planned obsolescence’.
  10. In the event it does fail, it must provide meaningful and helpful error messages. “This error should never occur” is not meaningful nor is it helpful.
  11. Its use must not cause additional stress and frustration for the user.
  12. It must not succumb to feature creep. Every feature should have a definite and pertinent purpose. A device that does one task well is better than a device that does many tasks poorly.


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