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Programmers Designing

The first “volunteers” to address the problems of the new nontechnical users were the programmers themselves. That their culture and tools were wholly inadequate to the task was less relevant than that they were the only available candidates for the job. Like the bystander unlucky enough to be near the scene of an accident, programmers were called upon to deliver first aid to interfaces by the simple virtue of their propinquity. Programmers are nothing if not game, and prideful in their competence, so the difficult challenge of designing interaction appealed to them, and they invested considerable effort. This gave rise to the sardonic joke in the industry that says, “Design is what the programmers do in the 20 minutes before they begin coding.”

I've shown throughout this book that the programmers' efforts were ill-fated from the beginning. As Po Bronson says, they consider the absence of criticism a compliment, so their assessment of their own performance is unrealistically positive, and many of them insist on continued ownership of the design role. Like mad kings, programmers are unwilling to relinquish territory after it is occupied, even if the occupation is unpleasant, unprofitable, undesired, and untenable.


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