Car drivers and other metaphors

General discussion about the development of the open source Blender

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joeri
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Car drivers and other metaphors

Post by joeri » Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:48 pm

It's been a long week since the blender conference 2004.

Although I was there for work it did made an impression on me.
I'll copy some of my (random) notes:

Website research:
Don't set longterm goals.
Or at least don't bother currently involved with them.
Small tasks are easy to digest. And easy to commit to. So they get done!

Cases:
Blender is used in many different areas. Not just the (movie) entertainment world.

Tools per scene.
Ton suggests that (pro) movies go towards "tools per scene".
Specific software is written to get "the job done", on a scene base.
This is not something that would happen at home as a hobby, that's probably quite the opposite.
(Home hobbiest want "add chair at cursor" and "Light the scene like it's a warm evening".)

I find this "tool per scene" very true. I often write a little tools.
What bothers me is the suggestion that software developers should write these tools.
Maya is probably the most used package in the movie industry because of the ability to organise your company without developers
(Note that there are alot of MEL scripts and hardly any plug-ins). And still have "tool per scene" made for animators and directors (who are in charge).
Currently "writting the fitting tool" is done by TD's, and the D stands for directors(!), not developers.
This can turn out to be the essential part of why python is more imporant to blender then the open-source.

Design eye for code guy:
How do other packages handle steap learning curves?
I think they make different packages with different names and different aims.
Take Apple for instance with; iMovie vs Final Cut Pro. Or iDvd vs Dvd Studio Pro.
The first is duplo, the second is, well frankly, blender.
When you hit the ceiling of iMovie, better move on to Final Cut Pro.
And when you hit the ceiling of blender, better move on to Maya ???.

So what does this mean for blender?
Personaly I'd rather see 'modes' then 'forks'.
It seems to work for the game engine, so why not a hobby engine, teach engine, and pro engine?

Using Beginner/Medium/Advance modes don't work. because, "You'll only become an expert in beginner mode." (Eskil Steenberg)


This brings me to the car metaphor:

How much does a driver need to know about cars to drive them?
Or reverse: How much does blender need to tell how its works to be able to 'drive' it?

I'm sure that formula-1 drivers know how there car works. And I'm sure my mother doesn't.
They both seem to get there job done just fine, with (almost) the same tool.
Or does it relate to what they do with it. Drive from A to B, or race and win a compatition. And how to fit 3d animation in this metaphor; is it a race or a drive.

Is it possible to design a 3d package in such a way that it fit's this car metaphor?

Friday13
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Post by Friday13 » Wed Nov 03, 2004 8:46 pm

I'm not sure about the race/drive thing. In both cases, the driver (or the blender user) decides to drive (use Blender) to get somewhere (get the work done). In both cases you achieve something (your 3d skills increase) but in the race you get an award (winning a Blender contest perhaps? :P ).

Now, about the part where you say how much does Blender have to tell the user. Blender's interface needs to be user-friendly from the beginning (with the help of a quickstart guide, that is...because you don't learn how to drive just by sitting behind the steering wheel of a car).

Maybe Blender can have some sort of quick tips (or mini-tutorials)somewhere to help the beginner do things the fastest way possible, so he/she can say "Wow...it's THAT easy".
Don't miss the sequel: "I still see dead people"

malCanDo
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Post by malCanDo » Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:26 pm

When...
- the interface becomes more flexible ( assigning of keys to actions, assigning of mouse buttons and movements to actions )
- work on the outliner is completed
- the feature to allow playback of actions carried out in Blender


... I'd suggest that there be a team put together to define at least 2 modes... one if which is expert mode ( ie leave everything exactly like it is ), and onother of which is beginner mode.

Beginner mode could automatically show the outliner view, maybe with a top viewport below it ( to show an overview of the scene ) and with the main window showing a perspective mode. IMO this would give beginners a good idea of scene setup and hierarchies, with minimum windows being opened ( assume 800x600 res )

Some sample inputs for beginners might be...

- It would have left mouse button picking the object

- Left clicking and dragging would NOT contain the shortcut 'draw shapes' or whatever it's called for the scale, rotate, move action. They suck for two reasons... most people accidently use them, and don't know what's going on, and 2, experts will use the M,G and S buttons as they are quicker. Instead, left clicking and dragging would start a square outline for selecting objects within in the area.

- Right clicking would rotate the scene ( maybe around the selected object if on screen ), and would do it by keeping the camera always facing up ( can't remember what the option for this is in the Blender options ).

- A tutorial showing a simple model being made using box modelling would start automatically ( or a random one from a number of different samples ),with a visible 'click here to start modelling' button.

This straight away shows what Blender is capable of ( remember, a lot of beginners, like you all were at some stage, won't know what a face or extrusion or a vertex is to begin with ), and a sample of it being used.

Just a few ideas, but Blender definitely needs a 'Sunday Driver' option, rather than sticking them in the F1 seat and allowing them to crash and burn several times before giving up on it.

Mal

Pablosbrain
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Post by Pablosbrain » Wed Nov 03, 2004 10:39 pm

I personally am not fond of the sunday driver idea.

Even to drive a car you need to learn how to do it properly. And that usually involves tutoring of some sort. Driving a car isn't an automatic know-how type thing. A lot of those that "know" how too drive a car, aren't good at it.

Just as in the 3D application world. It takes time to learn any 3D program. The sunday driver mode would essentially be an automated tutorial. No need for a seperate version/mode of the program. It already has the tutorial playback type of functionality. Time would be better spent making lots of good tutorials and walk throughs.

A similar type of program would be photoshop or the gimp. Both are very complex programs and can do a lot of things. But even they would be hard to learn for someone new to a computer or such programs.

It all comes down to learning and speeding up that learning curve.

Pablosbrain
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Post by Pablosbrain » Wed Nov 03, 2004 10:42 pm

Though I would love the ability to customize the key assignments! And I have to say I love all the new functionality that will be coming forward in the next release!

Friday13
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Post by Friday13 » Wed Nov 03, 2004 11:22 pm

Maybe the developers can code inside Blender the full list of hotkeys? (something that displays in the text editor (like an inbuilt text file) so they can have the list on one side for use as reference (instead of having a separate file outside of Blender and having to switch back and forth finding out what hotkeys do what.
Don't miss the sequel: "I still see dead people"

joeri
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Post by joeri » Thu Nov 04, 2004 12:29 am

Let's not go into a feature request list. (specialy ones that are already in blender).
Or on the solution path. Let's keep on the 'problem' side of the road for a while.

bertram
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Post by bertram » Thu Nov 04, 2004 12:52 am

I've been quiet on this topic all the time, but ...
I wish you all much fun when writing tutorials and guides or studying them and not being able to show/get the appropriate shortcuts because everyone defined his own set of shortcuts.
There are conventions in the usage of every tool. Therefore I do like Joeri's comparison to cars very much. Actually I do very often use this comparison when propagandizing not to assault anyone's usage habits (in most cases it was related to website navigation concepts) considering as example the position of several controls of your car: It surely won't come to somebody's mind to change the place of the blinker lever or even switching the positions of the accellerator and the brake pedal.

Pablosbrain
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Post by Pablosbrain » Thu Nov 04, 2004 4:55 am

Customizable key assignments is not a reason to not do tutorials or such.

You can still do tutorials... just make sure your tutorials are created using the default key setup. That way its easy for others to follow whats going on.

I don't know of a major 3D application out there that doesn't have customizable key assignments and doesn't have an abundance of tutorials... Lightwave, Softimage, 3DSMax...

joeri
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Post by joeri » Thu Nov 04, 2004 8:55 am

Please don't hyjack my post.
(I think assignable keys are handy when using multiple software, and there is no standard in how the keys should be assigned in the industry)

How does the assignable keys relate to the car metaphor?
Car's don't have assigneble 'keys' and this doesn't seem to bother anybody.
WindowsOS doesn't have assignable keys, and doesn't seem to bother anybody.
Why should blender have assignable keys, in relation to a real life metaphor?

bertram
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Post by bertram » Thu Nov 04, 2004 10:46 am

joeri wrote:How does the assignable keys relate to the car metaphor?
Car's don't have assigneble 'keys' and this doesn't seem to bother anybody.
Well, that was my point!

joeri
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Post by joeri » Thu Nov 04, 2004 12:49 pm

Well, that was my point!
I know.
It's interesting.
But... cars all have the same interface. All car manufactures make the same (more or less) interface! Software developers don't. (Just like electronic device manufactures love to make cables with different plugs for the same thing).
Cars manufactures like to call same things the same (they are a grown-up industry, who create stuff that people want).
Software (&electronics) seem to be fighting over 'the best' interface. And also thanks to patent issues, they call the same stuff differently.
So in this respect the car metaphor does not fit very good.

But I was trying to get some response about the car users, not the car.
It seems to me that it doesn't matter how much I know about how cars work to be able to use it.
It's the "know about how to use it" that makes it usable.
The car itself doesn't seem to be "telling" me anything about how I should use it. It gives feedback on what I do, yes, but it doesn't explain in any way how I should use the car.

So,... why do people find this important to software?
Or does the car metaphor not relate to software? I wish it did because I really like the idea that a sunday driver can use the same thing as the track-racer with a completely different purpose.

And in software developement terms: Is a race car a 'fork' or a 'mode' of the car?

harkyman
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Post by harkyman » Thu Nov 04, 2004 2:25 pm

It does relate, but like all conceits (an extended metaphor), you can only take it so far before it breaks down. Cars do have the same basic interface for the major functions of the car. You have, basically, left-right and accelerate-decelerate. Thus, the steering wheel, the brake and the accelerator. They are also constrained by the straight rubber-meets-the-road physics of drive shafts, fuel pumps, and rotor brakes, not to mention ergonomics, and legal regulation.

But the interface uniformity ends there. On automatics, the UI varies: column shift, buttons (rare), floor shift. The standard is more constrained by the actual mechanics of the engine, and thus the clutch/right-hand gear shift configuration seems to be the only one.

After that, it's anybody's ball game. Controls for windows, interior and exterior lights, sound systems, and climate control all vary quite widely. They do have certain things in common, though, which are necessitated by the function of the car, and, once again, real-world constraints: controls must be within the driver's reach; controls should be discernable by touch so the driver can operate them without shifting visual attention from the road; controls should be compact enough to reduce the quantity of controls, without diffusing their meaning too much so as to confuse drivers.

Does the conceit translate to the world of 3D art? I don't think it does, once you get past the most rudimentary level. As the local IT guy where I am, I often use the car metaphor for frustrated users, usually as a chastening device. They will have some sort of puzzle or problem that can be easily solved by, say, learning to right click on the item in question and choosing from the presented options. They usually say "How was I supposed to know that! I thought both buttons did the same thing!" (I'm not kidding). My response is that, in automotive terms, they don't even know how to put gas in their car. I.e., they have only the most rudimentary of skills, but are basically helpless beyond the kindergarten level.

I think that a home-buyer metaphor would be more appropriate. You have three kinds of homebuyers:

1. Buy a house, fully furnished, landscaped, etc., down to the right sized clothes already waiting in the wardrobe. This would be the basic beginner level. The "Make Finding Nemo" button. This is a cool thing to be able to do. You just move in and start living. But the downside is that the setup cost is extremely high. In GUI terms, this translates to: not much choice; what is available is optimized for nicest looks and easiest accessibility to the things that most folks want. Premade materials, fewer buttons, simple rendering presets.

2. Buy a house, shell style. The drywall is up and finished, the electric and plumbing are in. You provide the paint, the furnishings, the handles that you like on the kitchen cabinets. This is what most people do. In GUI terms, this is where Blender currently stands. It's a solid shell. You can customize it however you wish. No tools are off limits. It wouldn't be a bad thing, though, to have some design consultants (like premade materials, and screens) around to help you if you're stumbling a bit.

3. Be your own contractor. This is rare, but it can be done (I know someone, non-contractor, who was their own general contractor for building their house). This offers the most control - you design and build the house exactly as you want it. Of course, the downside is that you have to really know what you're doing. GUI: fully customizable, with keybindings, Python scripts linkable directly and easily to GUI interface elements, the whole works.

Anyway, this topic interested me enough yesterday that I wanted to give it a day's thought, then pitch in.

harkyman
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Post by harkyman » Thu Nov 04, 2004 2:35 pm

As to your question about users, how newbie are we talking about, here? To someone who has never seen a car (nigh impossible, I would suggest), operating it would be next to impossible, especially on a standard. How do you start it? And what the hell is a car supposed to do, anyway? I wonder if you're confusing commonality of basic interface for intuitiveness.

A race car is a fork of the basic car.

Perhaps you could also look at a musical instrument metaphor. A complete newb can get some sounds out an alto sax, but I can make it sing 8) . Same interface, but as you learn it, you find out that it's more complex than originally thought. There are keys you ignore as a neophyte that allow expanded functionality later on. It turns out that the mouthpiece you blow into (very simple interface at first) is not so simple. An expert player can vary the pressure on the reed and the "shape" of the air going into it to produce different sounds, or even hum while blowing (did I just type that?!) to produce that cool "growling" sound.

Once again, same interface, but with hidden functionality for experts.

Sutabi
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Post by Sutabi » Thu Nov 04, 2004 6:42 pm

I think of Blender as a set of crayons... Enough to creator color, but you will need to learn to blend as well as deferent style.... Pushing crayons to the limit (@ndy does a good job @ that)

But wont you get/start with colored pencils why go back or even start with crayons....You get more control. Hell the better the car you buy the more control,features,higher insurance....

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