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  1. #1
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    Oct 2010
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    Adaptive Software

    In the recent discussions on error messages it was mentioned that the associated help text should take into account the experience of the user.

    This means that the program needs to somehow measure the performance of the user. One possible way would be to keep track of the rate of error messages; another might be to track the usage of any "advanced" features. In more complex programs this might be done on a module by module basis - a user might be experienced with some aspects of the program, but not others.

    One thing to avoid is for the program to unilaterally change its behaviour based on the user's experience level - this could result in a rather frustrating user experience. I would imagine something that asks the user if they would like to change an "Expertise Level" setting before changing the behaviour.

    I was wondering what other users of software think about software that adapts to the user ?
    Is this a useful idea or do want our software to be fixed and unchanging?

  2. #2
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    Re: Adaptive Software

    Personally I'd rather have a fixed program but can see the value of one that learns. So maybe the option to pick and choose via the program settings would be an ideal setup.

    One potential issue with an adaptive UI is how complex would it be to make it learn from a developer point of view (e.g. extra code and man hours involved in making it work properly. much easier for a large software house or company like MS who have a massive resource to draw on but not so for an independent developer) and another that springs to mind is that it may be an excuse for developers to have usage metrics sent back to a server so they can 'learn' what users are doing as well for future versions of the program. The tin foil hat brigade would be crowing about the onset of the end of the world over this sort of thing.

  3. #3
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    Re: Adaptive Software

    While sending usage characteristics to a central server and using neural networks to build a set of profiles of users might be an approach that Google or Microsoft might use, I had something a lot simpler and entirely non-networked in mind.

    The solution to the "too hard for a developer" problem is the same as almost everything we do - encapsulate it into a library with a nice simple API.

    My, admittedly vague, idea is to have a collection of objects, one for each module of the program (or system). Each one gets some sort of usage events so the library can tell what parts of the program are being used. They also get a notification of user errors (the ones that indicate the user hasn't used the program correctly). The program would measure the rate of errors for each module and when it had dropped by some proportion it could determine that the user had become proficient with that module.

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