Friday, July 01, 2005

Slings & Arrows -- The Power of Simplicity

My daughter has been learning target archery for the past year or so and I've had a lot of fun researching the history of archery due to her inspiration. A good starting point for learning more is this link to various archery articles.

Archery, however, is more complex and takes much more sophisticated equipment than an even older sort of missle weapon, the sling. A recent post by Jim Koch on a living history forum introduced me to the following fascinating site about the subject, According to the site, projectiles could travel as far as 1,500 feet and reach velocities of up to 250 miles per hour -- all from two pieces of cord, a pouch, and a rock. I'd encourage anyone interested in learning more about the history and modern re-creation of slinging to check out the links on the web site, particularly the Guides & Articles and the Historical and Member Galleries.

Being reminded about slinging helped me remember an important principle for modern technology -- particularly for user interface design -- "Simpler is better." It's hard to get simpler than two cords, a pouch, and a rock. Please note that any technology still requires hard work on the part of the user to get good at it. You have to put in a lot of practice time to gain proficiency at slings, longbows, and even crossbows.

As an editor, author, and speaker I can also appreciate the virtues of simplicity and I try my best to throw out words that don't help get across what I'm trying to say. Slings and arrows are a good reminder that simplicity is truly a virtue.


Blogger duncan_m said...

Hey nice thoughts, I sometimes get the impression that a simple User Interface in software is something that a certain egotistical subset of developers actually go out of their way to avoid.

It would seem unless they've managed to implement skinning, theming, loads of cool animated effects, the latest grids etc that it somehow reflects on their skill..

Check out some really really bad examples of software that could have been so much simpler here:

6:20 PM  

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