If you aren't adequate, I guess that means you're inadequate; if you're not complex, I suppose that means you're simple?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/10/11 10:16 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2007/10/11/5396360.aspx

It reminded me of a scene from Robert A. Heinlein's Friday:

    "Why do you speak of repayment? When I am forever in your debt?"
    I chose to be obtuse. "Do you truly feel that you owe me something? Just for last night?"
    "Yes. You were adequate."
    I gasped. "Oh!"
    He answered, unsmiling: "Would you rather I had said inadequate?"
    I refrained from gasping. "Georges. Take off your clothes. I am going to take you back to bed, then kill you, slowly. At the end I am going to squeeze you and break your back in three places. 'Adequate.' 'Inadequate.' "
    He grinned and started unzipping.
    I said, "Oh, stop that and kiss me! Then we are going to San Jose. 'Inadequate.' Which was I?"

It is amazing how the definition of a word can change in one's mind depending on the surrounding context.

(And with the IUC coming up next week in San Jose it seemed particularly amusing!)

I was reminded of all of this recently. Jenny had seen the following in a conversation about usability in different markets:

[...] one thing we've noticed is that Japanese consumers are willing to invest a lot more in learning the UI than US consumers - thus apparent complexity is more of an issue for US consumers. We've even heard Japanese consumers say "I want it to be difficult to use" meaning these users want to show how smart they are by having invested the time/energy to learn widget X - kind of a Unix Wizard mentality. We also know that style/fit and finish are important, but probably more so to the Japanese than to the US market. [...]

It really resonated with me, especially given my past experiences with the "Justified" layout in the Form Wizard of Microsoft Access:

This is a layout that if it is used outside of Japan, it is not used all that often. Something about having all the details just kind of packed in there, I don't know. When I mentioned how complicated it makes the resultant form look, I was just told that complexity does not bother the customer in this case -- they want complex information to have that complexity carried into the medium describing it, the form.

I actually remember some very long discussions with my Japanese colleagues back then about this issue -- like me pointing out that it made even simple data appear more complex and them pointing out that not everyone was afraid of such a view of information, of data.

In the end, it was clear that the appearance of complexity was actually conveying a deeper message -- one of importance. If you make something so completely simple that even a dummy could use it, then isn't the implicit message to the intended user that they may well be a dummy?

When I thought about it, I realized how I found myself describing what I felt were the good books in the For Dummies series (like Paul Litwin's, for example). You have a small, self-deprecating laugh, you say "It's a dummies book" and then you pause, rising up to its defense "...but it's good!". Now the mere act that one would feel the need to say that kind of implies that even in this country we have the same basic feeling about treated like dummies.

If user interface is not intuitive in the US, it is most likely to be the people who do figure it out (or who are proud of their abilities to be able to figure it out) who are the loudest to complain; the people who don't get it feel self-conscious, wondering what is wrong with them. So if there is less of a fear of needing to make everything so simple that even a dummy could do it, is that so hard to suss out why?

Another, more recent example -- there was some general displeasure among more than a few people in Japan about the definition of complex scripts in Microsoft products -- whether the original five in the SDK documentation or those five plus the undocumented sixth one that I give in Font Linking vs. Font Fallback, #2 -- because it essentially took Japanese mostly out of the category of being a complex script (they still have a few Extension B characters which gets them in but that seems like naught but a consolation prize).

From the point of view of Microsoft Typography, the definition was built around the notion of "Needs Uniscribe to do its work" which is a simple enough definition, but then take this viewpoint -- if Japanese isn't "complex" then it is pretty much claiming that Japanese is "simple" -- and that is not really going to sound like a good thing for people who tend to take those words as being perhaps more judgmental than they were intended.

Although I had a colleague point out a different issue related to Japanese that can actually show additional complexities (if not for Uniscribe, then at least for other things). Stay tuned....


This post brought to you by (U+30a2, a.k.a. KATAKANA LETTER A)

Koji Ishii on 28 Nov 2007 2:10 PM:

Hello, I came here by looking for information how I can format Japanese text in vertical writing mode in WPF.  After I have spent a few days to investigate this issue, I figured out that Japanese is neither simple nor complex from Microsoft Typography view. See this page


and you will see no words about EA.

I'm Japanese, but I don't care which words you use to classify Japanese text formatting.  I, however, do care Windows supports basic Japanese formatting including vertical writing.

I did some tricks to go through visual trees and use IsSideways property to do vertical writing, but I still needs to read GSUB tables with 'vrt2' which WPF does not provide any APIs.  I'm thinking to use Uniscribe to do the work.

You may call EA languages simple or complex, the wording I don't care, but I wish you and Microsoft Typography team to find a place for Japanese (and other EA) typography.  Not supporting vertical writing is a huge back step from GDI from my point of view.

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referenced by

2007/12/01 A whole new spin on the term 'Vertical markets' (aka in SiaO we trust?)

2007/10/29 Japanese line breaking rules can be quite complex

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