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Friday
Mar122004

Forgetting the Complexity

Clie N610CLast night I had the opportunity to help our friend Sandy sync her Clié N610C (my old daily driver) to her Mac Powerbook. The session went well — we got everything working well and she was very pleased. The Clié synced to her Mac OS X laptop, and we even got BackupMan, Olive Tree Bible Reader and Palm Reader all working.

However, as I drove home, I mentioned to Gail that this experience setting up the Clié for someone else just brought home how much complexity is involved in setting up a PDA to sync with a computer. I mean, it seems very simple — plug in PDA and hit sync, right?

But it really isn't... the Sony doesn't come with a Mac desktop, so we had to visit palmOne.com to get Palm Desktop for Mac v4.1. But they won't just let you download it... you have to sign up and look for an email with a link. Then the desktop gets installed, plug in the cable and sync, right?

Nope. have to setup the conduits first, and carefully, because Sandy already has entries in the Clié she wants to keep. So, I go into the Conduit settings area and take care of this for her. So then we sync right?

Yes, finally we sync. And it works pretty well. Now, I want to show Sandy where her files are, so I search around the drive for the right folder. Eventually I locate this folder and show here where it is.

Next, I show her how to use the Palm Desktop app and explain how the transfer takes place. I mention how HotSync handles the negotiations between Mac and Clié, etc. and so on.

Well, Sandy is pleased by the end of the session, but I can tell I've just loaded tons of information on her that she might only recall a fraction of. Even though we've only covered syncing and have installed a few simple programs, this was still alot to load on a new PDA user. I thought to myself "If this were me, knowing very little about Palms and syncs... ugh how complicated!"

What's the solution? Simplification. Is there any way to make sync so seamless that an average person won't need a masters degree in logical analysis and engineering to deal with installing a PDA?

If I hadn't been there, who knows what might have happened. Now, I admit this was a used PDA and gear... if this were a new Tungsten E, well, then it'd maybe be spelled out nicely in the documentation. Even so, it's still complex and takes focus and dedication to setup a PDA for a new user.

Maybe it's an age thing. Sandy is a very smart wife and mother of 3 — but certainly no teenage PDA user salivating about searching menus or the manuals. Still, youth or not, I believe we veteran PDA and computer users often forget how much complexity we've been through and deal with day in and day out.

It's not until you actually experience a beginner working very hard to learn the process that you realize what you take for granted. It was a good experience for me. I was reminded how much work it is for a new user, how they must be allowed to work at their own pace, and that we veteran users need to bring newcomers along. Community service and all that. ;-)

I still believe these things should be simpler, but until the usability department gets more of a say, I think we're in store for more complexity. I guess my job as a PDA and Mac vet is cut out for me.

Have a great weekend!

Reader Comments (1)

I guess I wasn't so intent on the issue of HotSync other than to note that this technology (like PDAs or PCs), can be a somewhat complex. But it was also the idea that we, being more veteran users, often forget how daunting the tech we use daily can be to newbies. I am glad though, because I do generall see veterans really chipping in to help newer users.

BTW, that person whom I helped really is enjoying her Clie to OS X sync, so in the end, the extra effort appears to be well worth it. :-)
March 15, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde

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