CAD People – Do They Really Exist?


The band above tries to make it work for them in media. The film “Cat People” on the other hand explores the notion that we are, after all, fairly primitive and that beneath a thin surface of civilization we are nothing but crude animals – at least some of us. Below the soundtrack – watch it on Youtube!

And yes – most of us are “green” in the sense that we are rookies when it comes to handling software.

But don’t we have quite a sophisticated world with amazing tools, science and software that can send rockets to the moon and beyond? Yes we do have created a world that perhaps would appeal to a Renaissance man like Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo was of course no ordinary guy but had extraordinary talents. On the other hand, it was much easier to be a Renaissance man in the actual Renaissance than it is now.

Today we have built ourselves a context that is so complex that it goes far beyond anything Leonardo would have imagined – and he was fairly imaginative!
But we are trying to demand from every person that he or she should be able to do everything. Only in the workplace we should all be doing creative work, administrative chores, sales, marketing AND handle all the technical stuff we have around us – including the software. In order to save money on specialized staff of course. But on the other hand everything is also going in the other direction forcing us to be more and more specialized. You should have your niche and stay there too. So we get Social Media Specialists, Stylists, Communication Strategists and Future Managers. But the Social Media Strategist has to be good at admin, sales and perhaps even taking out the garbage. And this is only in the workplace. At home the complexity continues, but let us not go there.

Let us instead take a dive into software. In a world where everyone should do everything, everyone is also at one point meant to tackle all the different kinds of software in the office.  And we have a situation where we are flooded with huge amount of information through a blizzard of information sources. I have said it before, but it seems the more information we are exposed to the less knowledge we get out of it.
We have more information than ever and know less than ever.

How about if we ask our colleagues then? Let’s face it – we have enormous amounts of communication channels at our disposal today: e-mail, phone, Skype, MSN, SMS, MMS, Facebook, Twitter, letters, faxes and stuff. But somehow – I have mentioned that earlier too – the more channels the less actual real communication.
We have more communication channels than ever, but have never felt more alone.

So here we sit in our office starting up our laptop because we have to make a little change in one of the files in a project.

We know that humanity has learned a lot about the human brain, the human psyche and human reactions, feelings since the days of Leonardo. Naively we actually do believe that all this knowledge actually is built into the software we are about to use. But no! Leonardo himself might not have immediately understood how to use the software let alone a poor colleague that is not a full time programmer. In short – most software today are too complex and too comprehensive to be as intuitive as we would like.

There are numerous examples of software that really are too hard to learn. AutoCAD, MicroStation, ArchiCAD, 3D Studio, Photoshop and Microsoft Word are only a few of them.

First we might think a Manual would do the trick or a Training class. But Manuals are harder and harder to find and many software producers produce less and less Manuals. Most Manuals are digital too – you have no book to have on the side as you had in the old days. But the Manuals we do have do not do the trick anyway. They are full of terminology and are so lacking in pedagogy that you have to know the answer already to be able to find it in the Manual or help section. Another thing about Manuals is they always focus on a single tool and how to use that. The Manual never tells you WHEN or WHY or in relation to WHAT or even HOW to actually set the tool up to actually produce the desired result. So the Manual is not it. And neither are the vast amounts of so called “Bibles” or the “All-in-One-Books” or the “Whatever for Dummies” that are all designed to make money for the publishers. The Manuals are like Manuel the Bell Boy in the British TV-series “Faulty Towers”, never having any information and causing confusion. But this time leaving us to say “Que?”

Then we would guess that the Support department for the software would be able to help us. If we are lucky we actually get a living person on the phone that even speaks our native tongue. Then we have to explain the situation to that poor Support guy for him or her to guide us. Imagine a seven year-old boy inside a 747 trying to explain to the air traffic controller that he needs to land the plane and imagine what the controller is in for at that moment. Not an easy situation to be a Support guy.
And there are too few of them heroic types to go around. Support – I don’t think so.

But a Training Class using course materials for three or four days then? Well, the software is usually so complex that four days would only scrape slightly on the surface of it. And even if the trainer is the “Deepak Chopra of Software” chances are that the students forget 75 percent of what they might have learned after about five weeks. And the course material will most lightly suffer from the same “disease” as the Manuals and the “Bibles”! So training might not work so well either.

What then remains is the actual software in relation to us humans.
As most of us are neither rocket scientists nor Nobel Prize winner material – but only users who want to know how to design a house, a bridge, a chair or something – we need a software that is simple to use, intuitive and consistent. But a quick look into several software products reveals that the software we have to settle for today is nowhere near our ideal product.

The first problem is the complexity. Just as people today are faced with the impossibility of being good at everything, software suffers from the same target. Every software is trying to be a Jack of all trades. Every simple drawing software tries to be both Disney and Pixar too and every word processing software seems to have the nee to produce websites and newspapers too.

It is simply too much. And the cause of this has nothing to do with user needs. It is all about competition for market shares.

Other issues, perhaps caused by the complexity, is inconsistency, lack of logic, lack of pedagogy, too much special terminology and too many ways to do the same thing. There are examples of software features named one thing in one place and named differently in another place in the same software. There are also examples of cases where there is no way to actually even guess what the software wants you to do at a specific moment. There is no naming standards either so terminology used in different software can mean different things. There quite a few instances where the chosen term in the dialog box does not make any sense at all. The only way to learn is to make repeated errors, talk to others who have don that too plus to call for Support.

It seems like there is no real fruitful connection between programmers, users and the real world. There seems lack quite a bit in consistency checks and pedagogic checks.In short – we need a software revolution!
As we can conclude, there are no “CAD People” – no people made for software. So we just have to start making software made for people instead – let us make “PeopleCAD”!

Or shall we continue doing things like we have always been doing – “…putting out Fire – With Gasoline”?