metaphors (was: ports and morphs)

Thierry Goubier Thierry.Goubier at
Tue Jun 11 14:37:51 UTC 1996

On Mon, 10 Jun 1996, Jecel Assumpcao Jr wrote:
> > On my next computer, I'll also try theses new S3-based graphics card.
> > Inexpensive and 3D acceleration.
> If you want to distribute your work to other people, then this isn't
> a reasonable solution since you can't tell them what hardware to get.
> My prototype GUI works reasonably well on my friend's 166MHz Pentium,
> but will have to be rewritten from scratch if it is to be usable on
> my 40MHz 386. If no one but me was ever going to use it, it would be
> much easier for me to upgrade to a Pentium. But that isn't the case
> and I can't afford to leave out 386 users.

If it runs only "reasonably well" on a Pentium 166, you'll have a really
hard time rewritting it. The usable on every kind of computer is a very
hard thing to achieve (using Xwindows on a 386 is far from a pleasant

The second point is that the response time helps greatly; if any move is
costly, the user will be afraid of moving.

> In the standard Merlin "rooms" you can only turn left and right and
> walk forward and back. I'll bet most people will arrange all objects
> in a rough circle around them and will never walk at all. You'll
> be able to "hyperjump" to other rooms. I am trying to merge my GUI
> and VRML2 (they are already so much alike) so that you can access
> Merlin systems remotely from any VRML2 browser and user the Merlin
> GUI to navigate the 3D web directly. So you will be able to fly
> around in dizzying paths but only in special rooms.

What I believe is that hyperjumps are the crucial feature, susceptible to
get anyone lost if they jump too much. The problem is the same as with
hypertexts, and has no easy solution without restricting the freedom of

I prefer the way the 3D file browser is done in a SGI. The best thing
thoses new metaphors may gave us is an ability to view more things at the
same time. Freedom of movement is important. I like Pad++ for
this; there's a great freedom of self-tuning, to view differents aspects.

> The Rooms interface at Xerox Parc started out as an infinite scrolling
> plane much like Kansas. They found out that people tended to group
> objects in task related clusters and then jump between clusters
> rather than use the full generality of the plane metaphor. When
> hyperjumping in logical space there is less need for landmarks than
> if you "manually" walk between favorite places. The best alternative
> is to make all styles possible and see which one users prefer in the
> long run.


You have to remind that, when there's hyperjumping and a lack of
landmarks, to get lost is easier.

The second point is that automatic / computer based logical spaces are
rather bad approximations of the user logical spaces. For example, in
hypertexts, they're mostly useless.

For this, I prefer to integrate a support for a user-defined
categorisation, but without enforcing a strict one, like completely
separated rooms. The second point is that we have, as human, a good
ability to look in the large; to extract trends from a mass of data
correctly presented. To exploit this, you have to allow differents levels
(from an elementary view to a view-in-the-large) and a representation
which reacts correctly for each level.

___________________Thierry.Goubier at enst-bretagne.fr__________________
    Je ne suis pas un patriote car je n'ai pas peur de l'etranger
        I'm not a patriot because I don't fear foreigners                    

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