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August 4, 2004 12:21 AM

Broken: Grams software's tip of the day

GRAMS1GRAMS2Alex Nieuwland writes:

Grams is a program commonly used by scientists for data analysis and instrument control. It is well known - at least in my experience - for being buggy. This tip of the day reads: "You can get sick if you don't cook poultry long enough." Clicking the OK button produces the message box: "Who has time to cook? Let's go out for Chinese food instead." Looks to me like they should spend more time fixing the bugs in their program and less time putting in funny messages.


And Excel programmers shouldn't write flight simulators nor should Mozilla have stuff like about:mozilla?

Fact is, adding little easter egg like this takes very little time, but can be fun to the users as well as to the team making the program. And when the team is relaxed and having fun, they will be more efficient, also in fixing bugs.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Posted by: Juha Komulainen at August 4, 2004 06:41 AM

In what way is this broken? A funny little message is trivial to program so it certainly doesn't impinge upon the time used for serious programming.

Posted by: Carlos Gomez at August 4, 2004 09:02 AM

I'd love to know what clicking 'Try It' in the first screenshot does...

Posted by: Mike Dimmick at August 4, 2004 09:07 AM

Clicking 'Try It' probably ties you down in your chair, force-feeds you under-cooked poultry, and then waits to see if you get sick.

Don't look at me like that.

Posted by: vista904 at August 4, 2004 09:27 AM

If the program worked well already, such a tip *would* be fun and enjoyable. But since there are bugs frustrating the user, it's probably not a great idea.

Remember the Microsoft paper clip? So funny, so cute, so... IRRITATING.

Posted by: Mark Hurst at August 4, 2004 09:35 AM

As a programmer, I can say that debugging is a long, irritating process; and the process gets longer and harder for more important and more complex programs (such as something testing for scientific accuracy), and single bugs can take hours or weeks to figure out.

The time to add a new tips card? Seconds. It was probably done while he was thinking of how to solve the real problems.

Posted by: James King at August 4, 2004 11:48 AM

I'm all for programmers blowing off steam and finding a way to relax and get the job done (I've been there myself). But if it ends up harming the user experience, it's a net loss for the product and the company. I just don't think a "cutesy" message is good for frustrated users.

Posted by: Mark Hurst at August 4, 2004 12:40 PM

Yea, I'd have to agree. If they're having a lot of problems with the software (you said it was quite buggy), perhaps it was to raise their morale. I assume this isn't the first "tip of the day"...

Posted by: Michael Giagnocavo at August 5, 2004 12:54 AM

I don't think this is broken at all. Programmers are people... ever take a minute to read a joke send by a friend? No harm, right? Well, this (those) guy(s) who programmed needed a break. I'd find it amusing to see that pop up as a tip of the day. I might actually keep the tip of the day active if something amusing was displayed. Heck, maybe I'M having a bad day and seeing a light-hearted comment like this might break my bad mood.

Posted by: sigh at August 11, 2004 10:45 PM

Some studies have shown that a little humor goes a long way in engaging the user. Users are more likely to smile, laugh, type a joke back if given the chance, and basically attribute a bunch of positive feelings towards computers that make jokes. Even bad jokes. Humor is way under-studied and not very well understood. Some think this may be an untapped area of user interface design.

I enjoyed the comment about the Microsoft paper clip help agent. The agents were designed with the idea that people prefer personalities like their own (especially extraversion vs. introversion.) The paper clip is an example of a dominant extravert. Legend has it that at the last minute before release, they realized they didn't have a default agent. The program manager had to choose one himself. Of course, he picked his favorite - the one most like him - dominant, extraverted, and annoying (like most successful PMs, but unlike the general population)! In general, help agents and online help have cut support costs for Microsoft by a large percentage. Most of their live support is outsourced, now, with less technical staff - but it still gets good customer feedback.

Posted by: Laurie Geodakov at August 12, 2004 06:31 PM

Hey, i heard this today ;-)

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed.

The other guy takes out his phone and calls the emergency services.
He gasps: "My friend is dead! What can I do?"

The operator says: "Calm down, I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead."

There is a silence, then a gunshot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says: "OK, now what?"

Posted by: Jokes Page! at September 29, 2004 05:42 AM

Dude, this comments/posting thing is for comments about the broken thing, not jokes!!! Golly Moses!!!

Posted by: Carly at January 16, 2005 07:28 PM

click "try it"!!!!

Posted by: a;lgkja;lfdh at February 24, 2005 06:08 PM

Carly: Did you switch to decaf coffee today?

a) That's a funny joke.

b) Humor is a major point of this thread. A joke being posted is, in this case, perfectly relevant.

Posted by: Brian at March 21, 2005 01:43 PM

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