Perceptually true, Technically wrong?

Subject: Perceptually true, Technically wrong?
From: "Samuel Choy" <schoy -at- us -dot- ibm -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 7 Mar 2003 14:38:46 -0600

Since it's been so quiet out there I'm going to throw out a question I've
had for a long time and see what the list thinks.

Consider Windows Explorer. If you look at the graphical representation of
the directory tree in the left pane, you will notice the Desktop icon is at
the top of the tree. I have seen that in Windows 98, Windows NT
Workstation, and Windows 2000. I have not used Windows ME or Windows XP,
but I assume that it's the same for those other flavors of Windows.
Anyway, that is a design element in Windows Explorer that I like. This is
because the way I interface with my PC is through my desktop. I access the
files in my PC, the applications I use, and the Start menu from my desktop.

However, that graphical representation of the directory tree is not
technically correct. The Desktop folder is not actually on top of the
directory tree. In my version of Windows, the Desktop folder located here:
C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Desktop.

So I would argue that perceptually, the GUI designers at MS made a clever
choice in putting the Desktop folder on the top of the tree in Explorer,
however technically inaccurate that may be.

So here is my question, which I fear sounds blasphemous. Have any of you
ever strayed from strict technical accuracy to convey a concept more
understandably? For example, have you ever used something like a metaphor,
which might not have been accurate to the "letter of the law," but got the
point across? Do you think there would ever be a time when that is
acceptable? I know it would depend on many variables. For example, I doubt
that someone who writes for a pharmaceutical company would be able to do

I have never done this and cannot think of an instance where I would choose
to. But I'm going to shut up now, and see what you think.

Samuel Choy
IBM Rochester


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