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Re: [ontolog-forum] How long to useful?

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 31 May 2012 10:01:59 -0400
Message-id: <4FC779D7.7020409@xxxxxxxxxxx>
On 5/31/2012 3:07 AM, Matthew West wrote:
> The most common problem is that what you have done is considered “too
> complicated” and people vow to produce something “simpler”. This of
> course does not work because the problem is not as simple as you would
> like. If you are fortunate, after several cycles you have built up
> enough material that it is  not really possible to ignore it and start
> again, though you still have people trying to simplify beyond what is
> realistic.    (01)

I agree with the general views, but I'd like to comment on the idea
of simplicity.  The are many different things that can be simplified,
and many different people who play different roles.  A simple-minded
view of simplicity won't make anything simpler.    (02)

For example, just look at the iPad.  People who have been used to
the way their PC worked are amazed at the "simplicity" of the iPad.
But underneath that simplicity is an astonishing amount of highly
sophisticated complexity.    (03)

That is simplicity for the end user, who can start using an iPad
without reading a manual or taking a course.    (04)

As another example of simplicity, look at the old Macintosh,
which was far simpler than the PC back in 1984.  But internally,
it was a mass of spaghetti code.  The underlying OS was better
than DOS, but that wasn't saying much.  For the CPU, the Mac
used the Motorola 68000, which was a good, clean conventional
hardware architecture instead of the kludge called X86.  But
the OS wasn't as good as Unix or other well-designed systems.    (05)

After Steve Jobs left Apple, he founded the NeXT company, and
adopted a decent OS as the foundation:  BSD Unix.  Then he
hired some great programmers who took the latest work on object-
oriented languages and put them together to build a better
user-interface than the Mac, but with a *simpler* method of
relating it to the underlying OS.    (06)

To appreciate the power of simplicity in the foundation, compare
two major rewrites of their entire systems:  Microsoft doing
a total overhaul of Windows XP to build Vista, and Apple doing
a similar overhaul to build OS X.    (07)

Bill Gates said that the cost of producing Vista was greater than
the amount of money the US spent on the Apollo project to the moon.
But by building on top of a good OS (BSD Unix), Apple built a far
better user interface than Vista at a much, much lower cost.    (08)

Note the two kinds of simplicity:    (09)

  1. A clean, simple, but powerful core such as Unix (with variants
     such as BSD or Linux).  Geeks love those systems, but ordinary
     humans hate them because they can't do anything useful with them.    (010)

  2. A simple, easy to learn and easy to use human interface, which
     Apple is famous for producing.    (011)

The power of Mac OS X, iPhone, and iPad come from using the same
simple, but powerful OS with some well-designed but powerful
tools that only a Geek could love.  As a result, the end users
love the simplicity that they see, but the Geeks also love the
ability to dig beneath the covers and add new features at the core.    (012)

Linux has the same kinds of virtues, and its version of Unix is
close enough to the Apple version to make it easy to move most
of the low-level code from one to the other.  Google adopted Linux
for the Android phones, for which they developed a user interface
with the same kinds of virtues as the iPhone.    (013)

Moral of the story:  Simplicity for the Geeks is totally different
from simplicity for the end users.  But to develop a truly simple
interface for the end users, you must provide a simple, but powerful
system with sufficient scaffolding to enable the Geeks to build the
"simple" user interface.    (014)

John    (015)

PS:  The reason why I keep making nasty comments about the current
tools for the SW is that they aren't simple at the core.  I compare
RDF + OWL to the Intel X86 + MS DOS.  To answer the question in the
subject line, just look at the two different ways that Apple and
Microsoft replaced DOS.  Which ways is better or faster?  For whom?    (016)

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