Insert motto here

July 25, 2002

I’ll be at Otakon this weekend, so no new updates for a few days. I have made progress, of a sort, on Out of Space, so perhaps there’ll be something new on the projects page after I return. #

Learning from video games

An article at IBM DeveloperWorks suggests that productivity software could learn from video games about usability, such as reasonable defaults and stability. (Mental exercise for those of you who’ve played console games at some point: How often did your game crash? Thinking back, I can only remember one possibility. Compare with your personal computer.)

A video game that’s hard to use and crashes a lot will end up forgotten in the bargain bin (along with others deemed merely “too old”). Productivity software (word processors, spreadsheets, etc.) exhibit network effects and are influenced by corporate purchasing decisions. That leads to a world where the performance of the most popular software determines the baseline expectations, which is unfortunate as the most popular software is made by Microsoft and their history regarding stability and usability is more prominent in marketing than in actual software. #

Just because

Two incredibly minor usage points have been bugging me lately.

One is a complaint: Stop saying “different than”! You’re not going to just because I said so—I say it myself sometimes—but at least consider the alternatives. The phrase is “different from”, as in, “His language was different from what I expected.” Saying, “His language was different than I expected,” is bizarre and unnatural.

The phrase “more different than” is still acceptable, as it falls under the general pattern of “bigger than”, “louder than”, and “more pedantic than”. Thus: “He said it would be different, but it was more different than I thought possible,” is fine.

Now, the British apparently say “different to”, which is the same construction as “similar to”. That makes a kind of sense, but consider that “similar” and “different” are opposites and “to” and “from” are also opposites. Thus, “similar to” and “different from”.

The other point is a question: can you start a sentence with “just because”? Obviously yes, I hear people do it all the time, I do it myself, but something about it seems incorrect.

Now, using “just because” in the middle of a sentence is fine. I did it myself in the third sentence of this post. (Note the possible ambiguity: Did I mean “you won’t as a result of me saying so” or “me saying so is not enough to make you”?) Moving the clause to the start of the sentence is what makes it sound odd to me.

Say you have a sentence such as, “Just because you’re a judge doesn’t mean you’re always right.” Is that better as “You aren’t always right just because your a judge”? How about “Just being a judge doesn’t mean you’re always right”? Both those alternatives seem better to me, but I can’t put my finger on why.

These things fall into the realm of style, not grammar, so feel free to ignore my opinion. Just because my opinion is different than yours doesn’t make me right. #

(That last sentence looks so wrong to me….)