Thursday, 19 April 2007

Making a Splash

As we were counting down to the release of Rationale 1.3 -- later today, fingers crossed! -- a request came in to make the splash-screen more visually prominent and add less static.

The prominence was increased by adding the green boundary, making it look like a Reason box, and seems to work well, although it was painful and frustrating process getting the rounded corners properly cropped.

Now, instead of using a graphic status bar, or having messages indicating where the program was up to in the still-unfortunately-quite-lengthy process of loading, I thought that it would be fun to inject this dead-time with a bit of mildly subversive humour. To my surprise, this proved popular at Austhink, and will be included in the release.

The messages that we show -- like the "Colouring in boxes" shown in the image -- are drawn from common logical fallacies, plus other suggestions from around the Austhink Office.

Motivation: Giving an estimate of time remaining -- however accurate -- or revealing details of the internal load-process is of very little utility or interest to the user. She wants it to load fast, and reminding her of how long it is taking, or what's going on is kind-of useless.

Alternative: We could have used it for advertising, but that's kind of lame. Instead, we list a whole lot of stupid things, mainly logical fallacies. This may be ignored (even some people at Austhink didn't get the joke at first!), mildly amusing (thereby improving the user's mood), or even inspirational (if she reverses some of the suggestions).

Here's the current list:
  • "Appealing to authority"
  • "Appealing to emotion"
  • "Appealing to common sense"
  • "Preparing silly questions"
  • "Searching for a biased sample"
  • "Reducing clarity"
  • "Reddening herrings"
  • "Lowering the bar"
  • "Making the same mistake twice"
  • "Reducing absurdities"
  • "Begging for questions"
  • "Launching ad hominem attacks"
  • "Biasing samples"
  • "Pretending to listen"
  • "Entering special pleadings"
  • "Finding middle ground"
  • "Ignoring whatever is most important"
  • "Colouring in boxes"
  • "Confusing fact for opinion"
  • "Creating contradictions"
  • "Generating inconsistencies"
  • "Contemplating inconsistencies"
  • "Building straw men"
  • "Burning straw men"
  • "Sliding down a slippery slope: Wheee-ee!"
  • "Searching for inferior alternatives"
  • "Reinforcing bad habits"
  • "Mistaking substance for appearance"
Technical note: Rather than shuffle, or show them in the same order, Rationale chooses a random starting place on the list each time it runs.

Composing new messages is a bit like inventing haiku. I look forward to seeing how the Rationale user-base reacts to this "feature", and whether they start sending in their own suggestions.


twinkilya said...


I've just started using the 30-day trial version of Rationale for school, and I absolutely LOVE the messages on the flash-screen! In fact, I actually love it when Rationale loads slowly because I get to see more of the fallacy list ;)

When I first loaded the programme I got a mild shock because I didn't know if the messages were meant to be a joke, since splash-screen loading messages are always so serious! But after that initial shock, it was (and still is!) an awesome source of amusement -- two thumbs up on this one!

-Hannah, from Singapore.

Daniel Prager said...

Hey Hanna: Glad you appreciate the humour!