Thursday 12 November 2015

Listen carefully, I will say this only once (for a second time)

(Well, there's irony for you - a reprint of an earlier posting which garbled its formatting for no immediately apparent reason...)

I'm doing a lot of DIY at the moment, renovating a Victorian villa on the English Riviera.  A bathroom has recently been on the agenda.  Which means a lot of cardboard boxes to open and things to assemble and fit.

Which also means a lot of instructions, diagrams, insert tab A into slot B, and so forth.  Not that I've spent a great deal of time studying them.  Hell, some I only find in the box when the towel rail is nailed to the wall (that is right, isn't it?).

Which has led me to think of why instructions seem so alien to us.  Maybe it's just a man thing, but I suspect it's more of a Mankind thing.  There's an oil & water nature to humanity and paper instructions.  We love information, can't get enough of it.  But whatever you do, don't tell me how to do things.

I once took part in an Operation Raleigh selection exercise, during which the selectors instantly spotted what a total liability I would have been in the wild.  One of the exercises, the only one where I acquitted myself with any kind of honour, involved following a set of instructions.  I think I may have done something like this before as an army cadet, so I suspected that the instructions ended with 'please ignore everything above'.

Hence I just read the last line, which was indeed an instruction that quashed all the commands that went before, and sat whilst my teammates carefully made paper aeroplanes or something.  I was the only person to complete that task correctly - by doing nothing.  Given that I approached the exercise totally out of character - I rarely start reading instructions, let alone finish them - this rare victory just underlined the correctness of the decision not to let me loose on the developing world. 

But, I digress.  I've come to the conclusion that we have been trawling an evolutionary cul-de-sac here, and that Apple have got it right with products that don't come with any instructions.  There were no instructions produced by cavemen to help catch that mastodon.  You just did.  Then we went through a brief (in cosmic terms) period of creating items too complicated to understand at first glance, and we needed to back the up with telephone directories of how-to wisdom.  But now we're heading back to intuitive design, point n' shoot, click n' collect.  Or something.

Our TVs are slightly behind the curve - in my youth they had three controls at the front (on/off, volume, channel) and two at the back (vertical and horizontal wobble); now I have three remotes, each with three dozen buttons.  But I suspect in ten years those buttons will boil down to a few intuitive controls.  Maybe I'll choose my channel by mind control (in which case, how do I avoid defaulting to porn?).

So, my advice to you is, if you want to surf the evolutionary bleeding edge, you can chuck all those instructions.  If you need them, your thing is clearly a bit cro-magnon.  And you wouldn't want that, would you?

A homeopathic hit rate - and just as effective

Words written c35500
Stories completed 5
Rejections 99
Acceptances 1

I have a simple annual target: to sell three stories.

You'll see from the numbers that, with Christmas already here if you're in retail, this year is not a vintage one.  Response number one hundred is rejection number 99.

And then, take into consideration that I'm due a grand total of $14.16 (or a $7.08 'kill fee' if my story is stillborn) for my efforts.  Not much of a career, is it?