This is a narrative about Jack—a creative dreamer with his head in the clouds. Jack has a lot of really good ideas, but he can’t seem to keep his feet on the ground long enough to know them. Entranced by speech recognition and similarly exotic user interface technologies, Jack belongs to a philosophical school known as Jetsonian. This play tells the story of Jetsonian philosophy from the perspective of Jack, Jill, the gang of P3, Ken, Mr. Peebles, and all of the other end users of technology that—like it or not—must be served by a modern user interface.

As he goes through his journey, Jack suffers many misfortunes. But in the end, Jack sees the light. He learns that there is a simpler and more modern way to think of uncertain user interface media. A way that is far superior to his Jetsonian predilections. A way that allows him to build telephony applications quickly and reliably. One that allows him to make good judgments about new uncertain-media ideas that he encounters from others. One that gives him control over his plans and designs. As you follow Jack on his journey, you will learn as he did why it’s better to be a good machine than a bad person.

And, like Jack, you’ll be the better person for it.

Bruce Balentine
Leslie Degler
November, 2006

A Note to Readers

Design philosophy is not an easy subject. Inherently multidisciplinary, it quickly gets too technical for the humanists, too touch-feely for the pragmatists, too theoretical for the engineers, too subjective for the behaviorists and too abstract for the business-men. So this play—like the subject itself—is also multidisciplinary. There is music and song, activity corners for “hands-on” learning, art as well as science and the occasional mystery clue. In fact the puzzles and the secret messages are important parts of the story. So play along.

This book is a satire—there’s something here to offend and anger everyone—so do not feel alone when you get singled out for a spanking. Because the subject is design philosophy, learning is best accomplished through analogy and metaphor, example and anecdote, sarcasm (lots of it), and illustration. In other words, this is not a scientific treatise. So don’t look for lots of back-up data or experimental analysis. You can be certain, they all exist. Indeed, everything you read here can be demonstrated with real-world and reliable field data. But we don’t want to clutter the pages with graphs and charts that—in the end—are only relevant when they are interpreted properly. Instead, recognize that the work appeals to your heart and to your mind. After you hold the messages there, you can do your due diligence to assure yourself that there is real science behind these unexpectedly simple claims.

One final thought. The greatest enemy of multidisciplinary thinking is the phrase, “I don’t need to know that,” or—cast as a question—“What does that have to do with anything?” We all as professionals, husbands and wives, teachers, parents and citizens are under terrific pressure to narrow and to specialize. So when we come across anything that is outside of our experience, we tend to dismiss it. Cast it aside. Underestimate it. Skim read or skip it. This collection of essays is deliberately designed to thwart that tendency. Forgive us both if it appears to jump around. It has to if it is to make its point. But when you get to the end, remember back—and recollect that all of it was needed to get you to the final conclusion. All of it.

Once that happens, let’s hope you’ll never again say, “I don’t need to know that.”