Making Things Easy

Posted in Personal, Web

I’m missing the first day of SXSW Interactive because I’m in Dallas, Texas, to watch my cousin Eric get married this evening. Tomorrow morning I will wake up whenever the cock crows, run out the door, and get into my car. If the gods smile upon me I’ll be back in Austin in time for the 10am panels.

Last night I was at my aunt and uncle’s for a post‐rehearsal‐dinner party. As the party was winding down, my parents asked me to secure driving directions to the house where we’d be staying. I asked my aunt, who went over to the computer to print out Mapquest directions.

When she sat down, she realized that the mouse was missing. It’s a wireless mouse, and the computer had been showing a photo slideshow of Eric and his bride‐to‐be, so presumably someone just stashed the mouse in a drawer somewhere. “No problem,” I said, “we’ll just use the keyboard.”

We exited the slideshow, ALT‐TABbed over to Outlook, looked up the address in her Contacts list, then plugged it into Google Maps, all using the keyboard. As we were waiting for the directions to print, I had a sudden thought.

I pointed to the Google Maps page showing in her web browser and asked, “Do you ever think about user interface?”

“Interface? What does that mean?”

“How things are laid out on the screen? How easy it is to use?”

“Oh. No, not really.”

“Well, that’s what I do.”

“Oh!” she said. “You make things… easy.”

“Well, in theory.”

She nodded her head, suddenly pleased. “Thank you,” she said.

Whenever I try to explain to people just what it is I do, I feel like they zone out as soon as I get to the word “software.” Or else they feel obligated to tell me, “You know, I’m just not a computer person myself.” Which is just fine, I try to tell them; if everyone on Earth were a computer person, I might not have a job.

It was gratifying for me to be able to explain it to someone and have her get it. Brothers and sisters of SXSWi, I invite you to reflect upon this as you celebrate the first day of our annual geek‐off.