: Ah, you must be Greg Corrin, eh?
: Greg can shush me and Arlo when we start giving away corporate secrets
: sullivan: there are no corporate secrets
: Hi Arlo
: Hey John. :-)
Linux.com: Hey, Arlo, what's your full name and title?
Arlo Rose: Arlo Rose, Pixel Hacker (Nautilus UI Lead)
Linux.com: Arlo: Tell me about the regular day at Eazel for you.
John Sullivan: I wonder if the silence means that Arlo has no regular days at Eazel...
Arlo Rose: Well, it's usually me walking into the office, with my heart set on finishing up a specific task I've wanted to get done for weeks, and ends up with me having to help an engineer through some design issue that I think will only take a few minutes, but ends up taking all day. :-)
Linux.com: What's the latest chunk of implementation hell? :)
John Sullivan: We're nearing a preview release
John Sullivan: We want it to look and act good for customers
John Sullivan: So the latest implementation hell is all the little details for this release
Arlo Rose: Oh dear... .the latest chunk is the visual and usable state of our Services component.
Linux.com: Tell me about all about the preview release! :)
John Sullivan: that's rather a lot...
John Sullivan: We've had one preview release so far
John Sullivan: This will be the second
John Sullivan: It's sorta like a "beta" release
John Sullivan: Almost all the features are in there and should be working
Arlo Rose: This release will focus on getting our interested customers a chance to play with Services.
John Sullivan: But we still have a lot of polishing between this release and the final one
John Sullivan: like Arlo said, getting the Services working is an important component of this release
John Sullivan: The previous preview release did not have Services at all
Linux.com: What services will be in this release?
Arlo Rose: We're really excited about letting people see this stufff, and right now, I'm thrashing to make sure it looks and works as good as it can.
John Sullivan: There's a software installer...
Arlo Rose: Our online storage, a catalog of software to install...
John Sullivan: a web storage area (we call it the "vault")
Linux.com: What's the Vault all about?
Arlo Rose: .It's not called the vault to the outside world. :-)
John Sullivan: Oh, it used to be.
John Sullivan: It's a place where each user can have a shared web storage area
John Sullivan: the UI is just the normal file-browsing UI
Arlo Rose: The "Vault" (Eazel Online Strorage) is a place where users can store data offline.
Arlo Rose: But what's cool about it is that we've integrated it into Nautilus, so you can see it via the browser.
Linux.com: So if I want to back up my mp3's, I can just use the service and store them in the vault?
John Sullivan: sure
Arlo Rose: But also via a web page if you're on a Mac, in another city.
Arlo Rose: yup
Linux.com: How much will it cost me to back up my insanely huge collection?
Greg Corrin: 25MB free, but all of our sevices are free for a trial
Greg Corrin: : )
Linux.com: Okay. Have you guys done any user-testing yet, and if so, how is it going?
John Sullivan: we've done a little so far, but only a little
John Sullivan: I'll let Arlo fill you in on more details
Arlo Rose: Yeah, I've started a mini test lab over here... It's going really well, and we've gotten back some important data.
Arlo Rose: Our first round was all about basics...
Arlo Rose: File browsing...
Arlo Rose: Copying...
Arlo Rose: Moving..
Arlo Rose: Etc.
Arlo Rose: And we made some interesting discoveries
Arlo Rose: And tuned our software to make sure that what we were doing fit with what our "novice" users were expecting.
Arlo Rose: Well, we went into this project thinking that novice users would grasp a single click to open items... thinking about the file browser as a cousin to a web browser...
Arlo Rose: And one of the *first* things that was obviously clear was that we were wrong. :-)
John Sullivan: We had implemented both single-click and double-click, as a preference.
Arlo Rose: I've never seen a more sad and angry group of people trying to use a computer in my life.
John Sullivan: But the default was single-click.
John Sullivan: Now, the default is double-click. : )
Arlo Rose: That's just a tiny example...
Arlo Rose: User testing also unearths things you never expect...
Arlo Rose: Like users trying to use the location bar to change a file name.
Arlo Rose: Or our side bar...
Arlo Rose: Looking at the tree view, and thinking that their home directory is the root of the drive.
Arlo Rose: One I'm still worried about is the single window setting.
Arlo Rose: No one got that.
Linux.com: What happened?
John Sullivan: That's another preference, using a single window when navigating a la web browsing, vs. using a window for each directory
Arlo Rose: I tried to get people to copy files from one folder to another, and the result was a disaster... Advanced and Novice users alike didn't know what to do.
John Sullivan: Users couldn't figure out *how* to open multiple windows (though there are ways, even in single-window mode)
John Sullivan: Without opening multiple windows, you can't drag a file from one directory to another
Arlo Rose: I fully expected the "emergency action" to be to drag the file to the desktop, and then back into the destination window.
Arlo Rose: But they never even did that.
John Sullivan: An interesting (and well-known) UI lesson this emphasizes is:
John Sullivan: Preferences are fine, but the default setting is incredibly important
John Sullivan: Many, many people never change the preferences
Arlo Rose: Yup, and this is what the first study was all about... "Default Settings"
John Sullivan: So if you don't have the defaults right, you're really ruining peoples' experiences
John Sullivan: The Linux community is very enamored of preferences
Arlo Rose: I can think of a few apps I use where they really need to get their default settings correct. :-)
John Sullivan: And to some extent, many people in the community don't realize how important this basic UI lesson is.
John Sullivan: Many Linux apps have a zillion preferences.
Linux.com: Will Nautilus?
John Sullivan: And you have to be an expert at that app to understand which combinations make sense.
Arlo Rose: And they don't have the best set by default.
John Sullivan: We want to strike the right balance.
John Sullivan: Of customizability vs. usability.
Arlo Rose: (best, meaning most simple for a basic user)
John Sullivan: They aren't always on the same side.
John Sullivan: Nautilus will have quite a few preferences, but hopefully we will minimize or eliminate preferences that the user can "get wrong"
Arlo Rose: Sometimes you can go overboard... and make it *too* customizable...
John Sullivan: And hopefully we will have the defaults set well.
Linux.com: Where did you guys work before you were at Eazel?
John Sullivan: I've been at a few companies
John Sullivan: My first computer job was at Apple, where I did UI design
John Sullivan: then I went to General Magic, where I did UI design and programming
John Sullivan: then I went to Electric Communities, where I did UI design and programming
John Sullivan: then I consulted for awhile with WebTV, then on to Eazel
Linux.com: You worked with Andy at General Magic?
John Sullivan: yes
Linux.com: And Susan?
John Sullivan: yes, Susan and Andy and a few more
Linux.com: What did you work on at Apple?
John Sullivan: Darin Adler and Pavel Cisler, who are at Eazel, were both at General Magic
John Sullivan: System 7 for the most part
John Sullivan: But lots of odds and ends too
John Sullivan: At the time, System 7 was the biggest software project in Apple's history
John Sullivan: Darin Adler, who is technical lead for Eazel, had that same role for System 7, by the way
Linux.com: How about you, Arlo?
Arlo Rose: I've been a few places, and have done consulting for some biggies.
Arlo Rose: I started off working on a museum exhibit at the Tech in San Jose... from there, went into advertising for two years...
Arlo Rose: My first [official] tech job was designing sofware projects for Scholastic.
Arlo Rose: I did all the design and UI work, and had a team of engineers to make it all work. :-)
Arlo Rose: From there I did consulting for companies like Wells Fargo, Pepsi, Sony, and some other biggies, but got sick of the consulting thing and went to work at Apple.
Arlo Rose: At Apple I was the HI (aka UI) lead for the Appearance Manager and the High Level Toolbox for Copland (Apple's largest software project that dwarfed System 7 ;-)
John Sullivan: Arlo: yeah, but System 7 shipped.
Arlo Rose: and then made the transition out of Copland to the realworld, and retrofitted it all to work on what was at the time the System 7 base.
Arlo Rose: And it became what shipped as Mac OS 8.
Arlo Rose: I too did a ton of other little things at Apple (and some big ones)
Arlo Rose: I worked with a team to create this really cool alternate OS that was for extreme novice users... we designed hardware and software as one... it was really amazing (but I probably can't talk about it in detail).
Arlo Rose: I also worked with Hollywood studios to put Mac systems in movies.
Arlo Rose: I did a lot of Movie DOS. :-)
Arlo Rose: The two fun ones for me were the Saint and Batman & Robin.
Linux.com: Do you guys like it at Eazel?
John Sullivan: Overall, it's a lot of fun at Eazel.
Arlo Rose: Yeah, I like it here a lot.
Linux.com: What's cool about it?
John Sullivan: Of course there are pros and cons in the open source community
Arlo Rose: There are ups and downs but that happens anywhere.
John Sullivan: Open source is a great idea
John Sullivan: It's fun to work with people scattered around the world, in almost real time
John Sullivan: (sometimes in real time)
Arlo Rose: The free backrubs and champagne on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Arlo Rose: (kidding)
John Sullivan: It's exciting that the stuff you create gets seen and used by some people immediately
John Sullivan: This provides a great opportunity for feedback that you don't have in normal commercial software
Arlo Rose: It's also really scary and frustrating.
Arlo Rose: I'm not used to have people see my works in progress.
John Sullivan: The state of the art for UI in the free software community is abysmally low compared to Apple (e.g.)
John Sullivan: This can be frustrating.
John Sullivan: On the other hand, there's nowhere to go but up. : )
Arlo Rose: true.
Arlo Rose: But it can be a challenge getting around some oddities that make doing good UI hard.
Arlo Rose: layout issues.
Linux.com: What sucks about working at Eazel?
John Sullivan: Nothing sucks really badly.
John Sullivan: One thing that isn't as good as I had hoped:
Arlo Rose: Overall it's not an evil place. :-)
John Sullivan: I had hoped that there would be a lot less politics working on open source software.
John Sullivan: But I don't think there is less politics, just different
Arlo Rose: Yeah, I had the same feelings... I thought that so long as you contributed, there wasn't friction, and people were open to your changes...
Arlo Rose: But that wasn't the case.
John Sullivan: There is plenty of friction all around
John Sullivan: And it's frustrating to be using software that has extremely, shall we say, improvable UI
John Sullivan: in the course of my daily work
John Sullivan: If I had infinite time I could try to make all the pieces of Linux software better as I discovered problems
John Sullivan: But there is never very much time for random improvements outside of my main task
John Sullivan: that being to make Nautilus good.
Linux.com: Is Nautilus going to dominate the Linux desktop?
John Sullivan: who knows?
John Sullivan: I think that it will be better in many ways than any other Linux desktop programs I've seen.
John Sullivan: But there are always tradeoffs.
John Sullivan: And being better does not necessarily lead to dominance.
Linux.com: If it did, I'd own a Mac.
Arlo Rose: We certainly want it to... but it will be up to our users to decide... over time... if we're the new standard.
John Sullivan: Windows did not achieve dominance by being better, IMHO
Arlo Rose: One of the perks about working here is Andy's enthusiasm about... well... everything. :-)
Linux.com: Andy is a white ball of healing light. :)
Arlo Rose: Do you want to know anything more about usability, design language, etc?
John Sullivan: One of the worst things about Linux is the state of its overall UI.
John Sullivan: This has got to dramatically improve before it will achieve really widespread acceptance, I think.
Arlo Rose: And along with that...
John Sullivan: Many people are aware of this, not just at Eazel.
Arlo Rose: (let me digress for a sec)
John Sullivan: But it is one of Eazel's primary missions to improve the overall UI.
Arlo Rose: My primary passion is making things usable... but I also have a low threshold for things that look bad.
Arlo Rose: And Linux, IMHO, looks bad.
Arlo Rose: So not only do we have to make it all work really well...
Arlo Rose: which I love doing...
Arlo Rose: we also have to make sure when people see it running... before they even use it... they're already sold.
Arlo Rose: I want people to line up to use Nautilus (and anything else we do) based on screenshots... because that's what they see first
Arlo Rose: So sadly, my time here has been more about pixel tweaking than doing UI work...
Arlo Rose: but that will change as the standards are raised.
Arlo Rose: (visual standards)
Linux.com: Do you think that Nautilus will be able to take on the MacOS in time?
Arlo Rose: in time... yes... but it won't be *just* because of Nautilus...
John Sullivan: There's a looooot of work to be done before Linux is overall comparable with the Macintosh.
Arlo Rose: it will be because Adobe, and MacroMedia, and others put their weight behind the Linux platform
John Sullivan: But Linux does have its advantages too.
John Sullivan: Probably the user base between the two systems will have rather different centers for some time to come.
John Sullivan: But you never know what might be the case in a few years.
Arlo Rose: But the trick will be to get the people at CompUSA into buying a Linux system becuse it browses the web cheaper, and easier.
Arlo Rose: And looks better, and works better.
Arlo Rose: I think Eazel is the first Open Source company to ever have a UI testing lab.
Arlo Rose: So we're proud of that too.
Arlo Rose: And we put what our users want ahead of what our engineers and marketing department want. ;-)
John Sullivan: By the way, most of what I said about Macintosh above applies to Windows as well.
John Sullivan: I am definitely a Mac snob.
Arlo Rose: As am I.
John Sullivan: But Windows is way ahead of Linux in many areas as well.
John Sullivan: Linux is definitely changing faster, though.
Arlo Rose: Givin a choice of Windows or Linux, I'd take Linux in a second...
Linux.com: I can't believe you people are speaking objectively about Linux. They'll come after you with pitchforks and torches.
John Sullivan: probably
John Sullivan: that's OK
John Sullivan: Without viewing it objectively, you can't really improve it significantly
Linux.com: Meanwhile, I'm sitting here running Enlightenment and dying to play Spaceward Ho!.
Arlo Rose: That's something we hope to teach the rest of the Linux/GNOME community...
John Sullivan: Ah, Spaceward Ho!
John Sullivan: I haven't been able to give up my Mac entirely for my daily work.
John Sullivan: I still read email on my Mac
Arlo Rose: how to design your software objectively, and take user requests to heart... do some user testing, and understand who your users are.
John Sullivan: Because the email programs I've seen on Linux are terrible.
John Sullivan: I hope that changes with Evolution
Linux.com: You're in the Linux space. Your users are the guy on the Simpsons that runs the comic book shop.
Arlo Rose: heh
John Sullivan: Not forever, though, or Linux is doomed
John Sullivan: That guy will always be a Linux user, probably (hopefully), but he will be joined by a lot of very different types too
Arlo Rose: we hope. :-)
John Sullivan: One of the challenges of this space is trying to keep the hard-line hackers happy while simultaneously making more "ordinary users" happy too.
Arlo Rose: So to sum up, we not only want to make Nautilus usable, but we also want to educate the rest of the community about what's good UI/HI and Visual design
Linux.com: I think that's a noble goal.
Arlo Rose: and that's what UI at Eazel is all about.
Linux.com: If you can just scream loud enough through the endless whining, they might get it.
Arlo Rose: (welcome to my world)
Linux.com: And Nothing Screams Louder Than Code.
John Sullivan: It's hard to distinguish screaming from whining sometimes.
John Sullivan: Except, like you say, with results
Arlo Rose: Yeah, it's tough... but we're strangely optimistic.