Re: For the love of spreadsheets

Subject: Re: For the love of spreadsheets
From: Keith Hood <klhra -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: Dan Goldstein <DGoldstein -at- nuot -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L (techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com)" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 30 Mar 2016 13:28:07 +0000 (UTC)

Spreadsheet love comes from the fact the information is presented visually. Lots of people do most of their "thinking" by visual processing. I do. That's why I was originally an art major. To this day, I sometimes run into situations where I literally can't think clearly about something unless I can see it laid out visually. That's one reason I love using flow charts.

In a spreadsheet the information is not presented sequentially, and people think that makes it quicker and easier to find the thing(s) they are really interested in. They don't have to read down in a TOC or work their way down through a bunch of text. It's quicker and easier for them to run their eyes back and forth across one page than to turn pages or drill down. The fact that spreadsheets are often too large and too complex doesn't negate their value as a way of presenting data. It just means people should make better spreadsheets.

The saying is, a picture is worth a thousand words. A spreadsheet is closer to being a picture than a Word document.


On Wednesday, March 30, 2016 8:00 AM, Dan Goldstein <DGoldstein -at- nuot -dot- com> wrote:


It might often be a lack of effort, but not always. Sometimes people use spreadsheets to deliberately bury unfriendly data. This is especially true of spreadsheets that extend eastward for dozens of columns.

-----Original Message-----
From: mbaker
Sent: Wednesday, March 30, 2016 8:45 AM
To: 'Cardimon, Craig'; 'TechWhirl'
Subject: RE: For the love of spreadsheets

I feel your pain. I have no love for spreadsheets either.

My theory is this: most people will take awkwardness over complexity most of the time. Or, to put it another way, people will choose conceptual ease of use over practical ease of use every time. Or to put it another way, don't make me think.

A spreadsheet provides a ready-made grid layout. You don't have to do anything to create the grid. You just plop things in where you want them and move them around if you need to. It is awkward and time consuming compared to a normal word processing document most of the time, and the result is much harder to read and navigate, but you don't have to know anything about page layout tools to place stuff where you want it.

I see all kinds of cases were people choose to do the awkward time consuming thing rather than the simple elegant thing if the simple elegant thing requires even a little bit of learning, particularly if that learning involves even a little bit of abstraction. Most people are extraordinarily concrete in their thinking, something I think it is very easy to forget when you work in tech. (It does seem to have been the key thing that Steve Jobs understood. I think it is what he meant by saying things should just work -- things should require no thought, particularly no abstract thought. Thus the skeuomorphic interface.)

The amount of abstraction required to use page layout tools in a word processor rather than the ready-made grid may seem very small. But that is the curse of knowledge. Once you get it, it is very small. But when you don't its huge, scary, and the kind of mental effort people naturally shy away from.

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RE: For the love of spreadsheets: From: Dan Goldstein

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