471 reputation
24
bio website
location Illinois
age 44
visits member for 1 year, 7 months
seen 13 hours ago

Aug
23
answered What is the readability rationale for unspaced em dashes in sentences
Aug
23
comment Does the Oxford Comma increase readability?
@DavidRicherby: This is perhaps best illustrated by the usage of "a" or "an" depending upon whether the following word would be spoken with an initial vowel sound. Because English wasn't "designed" as a language, but rather evolved, it's not possible to prescribe "rules" in the same way as one could for Java or C++.
Aug
23
comment Does the Oxford Comma increase readability?
@DavidRicherby: When Tom Bodett did the voice over for the "Good Idea/Bad Idea" sketch, he put a major pause both before and after "with"; I'm not sure people who hadn't heard the joke would understand it without the accompanying animation, I would suggest that the pauses are not grammatical but are semantically meaningful. While there are some things which are unambiguous when written but ambiguous when spoken, I would posit that in general the English language has evolved around the notion that writing represents speech, rather than vice versa.
Aug
23
comment Does the Oxford Comma increase readability?
@DavidRicherby: In cases where the rhythm in which something is spoken would very the meaning, punctuation to establish the rhythm may be important even if it would otherwise not be grammatically meaningful. To borrow an example from Animaniacs, consider "playing catch with your grandfather" versus "playing catch--with--your grandfather" [tossing him around]. Is there any "grammatically correct" way of punctuating the second sentence to distinguish it from the first?
Aug
23
comment Does the Oxford Comma increase readability?
...that doesn't meant that having more space after a sentence vs after an abbreviation is "wrong". Examination of pre-Linotype printing would suggest that having more space after sentence-ending periods as expected, though many people seem to think the concept was invented by people using typewriters and should be abandoned when using proportional type.
Aug
23
comment Does the Oxford Comma increase readability?
...imply that anyone who isn't writing under that pen name should use that style. Unfortunately, things like the "AP style guide" are often regarded as an indication of how everyone should write, rather than as an indication of how the pseudonymous author "Associated Press" writes. Likewise, early Linotype equipment may have been unable to accommodate a wider space after sentence-ending punctuation than in other contexts, and some publishers may have decided they didn't want to deal with the wide-space-vs-narrow-space distinction and homogenized everything, but...
Aug
23
comment Does the Oxford Comma increase readability?
@OllieFord: Punctuation within quotes is appropriate in cases where punctuation exists in both places, even if the logical punctuation inside would be a period, but it's replaced by a comma because that's what's needed outside. "I see you," she said. Otherwise, I consider the "punctuation inside quotes always" as being one of many which are designed to make different people's writing be indistinguishable. When many people write works under a common pen name, it's perfectly reasonable for the owner of that pen name to dictate a particular writing style, but that shouldn't be taken to...
Aug
23
comment Does the Oxford Comma increase readability?
@DavidRicherby: I would leave off the comma before Jim if he was my brother. I'm not sure how I would interpet "My brother, Jim and Fred". If it had been "My brothers, Jim and Fred" I would think it was talking about my two brothers, while "My brothers, Jim, and Fred" would be Jim, Fred, and my brothers. If I wanted "Jim" to be a parenthetical identification of "my brother", I would use parentheses rather than commas to delineate it "My brother (Jim) and Fred" or "Joe, my brother (Jim), and Fred".
Aug
21
comment Ratings: 3 stars vs 5 stars. Why 5?
...that five users gave it a nine and nobody else said anything. Another approach might be to let voters click "first-impression" and/or an "in-depth" votes, and having them be tallied separately. If some prospective users are be looking for a program to do a one-off job, while others are looking for something to use on a regular basis, it's entirely possible that those needs would best be met by different programs.
Aug
21
comment Ratings: 3 stars vs 5 stars. Why 5?
@DannyVarod: Because assigning it one of those values would represent an affirmative statement that it deserved more than a 6, and also that it deserved less than a 9. Someone who only used a small portion of a product's abilities might not be comfortable making such a statement. If there are 100 voters who used the product briefly, and only a handful that used it a lot, the 100 voters may not want to "outweigh" the votes of people with more in-depth experience, but knowing that 100 people thought the product was worth at least a 6 may inspire more confidence than simply knowing...
Aug
20
comment Ratings: 3 stars vs 5 stars. Why 5?
I like that approach; alternatively, I think it might be helpful to let people select a range of values: "I'd say this product deserves a 6 and at most a 9, but don't really know where it should fall between that".
Aug
20
comment Rate vs Like/Dislike
@Gala: Preferences are often treated one-dimensionally because using more dimensions can make things like ranking impossible. On the other hand, it's not uncommon for a person, when comparing X and Y to think Y is better, and when comparing Y and Z to think Z is better, but when comparing X and Z to think X is better. If people aren't able to rank their preferences, a model that reduces preferences to a single representable quantity cannot match reality.
Aug
20
comment 0 to 10 rating system alternative
That could be helpful, though for some purposes perhaps overly complicated. I think even allowing users to select a range of values (I know this product deserves at least a 6, and at most a 9) would go along way toward improving data (someone with no opinion could express that by saying a product deserves at least a zero and at most a 10). If the maximum "at least" value is below the minimum "at most" value, report the range between them as a rating. Otherwise, compute the rating which would minimize the sum of the squares of the differences between the rating and conflicting reviews.
Aug
20
comment 0 to 10 rating system alternative
A fundamental problem with a slider is that many users will not have found enough they like about a product to know that it merits anything above a 60% score, but will also not have found enough they dislike to know that it merits anything below a 100% score. Using a slider would force such users to either express an affirmative belief either that the product deserves a score above 70%, or that it deserves a score below 90%, when the person may well not affirmatively believe either statement.
Aug
20
comment Rate vs Like/Dislike
@Gala: Liking isn't a continuous dimension. Most people will have a mixture of likes and dislikes, and there is a difference between someone who has found a lot to like but a non-trivial amount to dislike, and someone who has found a little to like and nothing to dislike. The latter person may have no reason to believe the product deserves a less-than-perfect ranking, but also no reason to believe that it's perfect. Letting someone like that person indicate that the product is at least decent without having to say whether it is or isn't perfect would be helpful.
Aug
20
comment 0 to 10 rating system alternative
...from cognitive dissonance between the fact that the product hasn't really "earned" a perfect mark, but doesn't deserve an imperfect mark either. If there were a rating choice which said "The product was useful, and I have no complaints, but my experience was far from extensive" a lot of users would probably pick that, and such ratings could be useful if such users vastly outnumber those who use the product in greater depth.
Aug
20
comment 0 to 10 rating system alternative
I suspect one of the major problems with fine-grained rating systems is that they try to confine a person's feelings to a single dimension when there are at least two conflicting dimensions: how much better or worse than average does the thing seem to be, and how strongly does the person feel that way. If someone uses a product for some narrow purpose and it fulfills that purpose perfectly, such a person may have no reason to believe the product merits a less-than-perfect rating, but also no reason to believe that it doesn't. I think a person's difficulty with a 1-10 scale would stem...
Aug
19
comment Alternates to the “play/pause” button
@HenrikEkblom: An even more common problem arises when music isn't playing because of network congestion or similar problems. Multiple states are possible (should eagerly buffer data and play when data is available, should eagerly buffer data but not play until asked, should hold off on buffering data so other applications can do so, etc.); IMHO, a drop-down selector would be much more helpful than a toggle whose state can easily be ambiguous.
Aug
19
comment One button for two actions
@Majed: I would think both could be described as "search for the thing or things typed into the text fields, and display the results somehow". That having been said, perhaps side-by-side comparisons should be done by individually finding and tagging items to be compared, and then requesting a side-by-side comparison of tagged items.
Aug
11
comment Does user care about the details while loading?
@AlexejFroehlich: Sometimes install processes don't "fail", but either hang or crash (e.g. BSOD). An install program could keep track of the progress of an installation attempt, and report on where the previous attempt was aborted (that could be particularly helpful in the BSOD scenario) but showing text messages during the update is a simple and harmless way of adding some diagnostic ability. For people who run the process multiple times, it can also provide a visual indication of whether something which normally flows "smoothly" is, for some reason, not (e.g. a bad WiFi connection).