The implicit web and Clippy


"It looks like you’re writing a blog post. Can I Help?"

Clippy was an implicit non-web application. He’s was built on a really clever piece of implicit analysis technology, and deliver a nightmarish user experience. It was so bad, there’s even a research paper devoted to exactly why he was so hated.

I try to remember Clippy when I find myself getting too deep into arcane algorithms, and too far from the user experience. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve had about application design is to imagine an actual concrete user in as much detail as possible, including a name. Then describe, step-by-step, her thoughts and actions as she tries to achieve her goal with the software. It’s amazing how many potholes you can discover with that simple process.

Fundamentally, the implicit web is about magic. It’s about weaving disorganized information into something useful. The danger comes because you’re filling in the blanks for the user, guessing at what information they want to see rather than relying on them asking for something explicit. The user pays a price every time they have to process the information you give them. If you throw irrelevant data at them, they’ll kick you to the curb, to join Clippy in his retirement.

Funhouse Photo User Count
: 1638 total, 77 active. A friend just pointed out that it’s unclear if your profile picture will get replaced when you pick from the app for the first time. That seems obvious now he says it, so I’ll be looking at making that clearer. A good example of the sort of thing it’s easy to miss when you’re focused on the technical problems.

Event Connector User Count: 46 total, 8 active. Still working on getting an ‘anchor’ conference for the app.

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