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Software as adversary

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Joined: 17 Mar 2006
Posts: 712
Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Thu Sep 06, 2007 4:29 pm    Post subject: Software as adversary Reply with quote

I realized that the situation I am in right now, trying to use
application software to complete a task (posting auction listings
on eBay), can be described in terms of game theory.

I can either use the current program for posting, which is
slow, and requires hand-made fixes of listings on eBay,
but which is a known quantity, -or- I can try downloading
the new version of another tool (download time 1 hour)
that didn't work before, but might have been fixed, and may
have other problems. I just crossed the boundary, and am
writing this as the new software is loading.

This made me realize that the problems that these software
applications pose, are very similar to those posed by an
opponent in a game-theory situation. I try to use feature
X to reduce the time and drudgery of completing the next
listing, only to find that feature X is slow, or requires extra
steps to complete the task, ultimately reducing the "payout"
of taking that strategy.

Generalizing, I find it useful to think of the application's role
in my completing my task is that of an adversary.

Most computer users, I think, have a metaphor in their mind
to describe what they are doing with a software package. They
think of it as a tool that they are using in the completion of
part of their task.

But when software becomes so buggy, slow, or tedious to use,
it ceases to be a tool, and is more reasonably thought of as
an opponent, one that is to be forced, if possible, to help you
reach your goal.

Winning is the completion of your task, and the payout is
decreased by all the crazy work-arounds, and tedium the
software throws out to try to thwart you.

Rationally, I suppose that the makers of application
software are not actually trying to prevent me from
completing my task by using their software, but I think
it might be useful to believe that they are.


This approach seems pretty fertile in generating other ideas.
"How'd it go with your postings?" "Auctiva won."
...A campaign against Windows...
...fought a skirmish over image hosting...
"...turbo lister II just checkmated me..."

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