World’s Most Annoying Attention Management Device

October 3, 2006 at 4:07 am | Posted in Attention Management, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I recently ran across two interesting accounts for the death of the world’s most annoying attention management device: Clippy, from Office 97! This little guy popped up on millions of computer screens whenever users did something totally reasonable that Microsoft didn’t expect.

I found this Stanford honor’s thesis called “Why People Hate the Paperclip: Labels, Appearance, Behavior, and Social Responses to User Interface Agents”. This is essentially an autopsy of Clippy the Paperclip. The author’s (Luke Swartz) description of “anthropomorphic dissonance” (the difference between how human and alive something acts and how dumb it shows itself to be when you use it) makes a lot of sense.
But, while one would expect a 65 page thesis from a Symbolics student to be rather comprehensive, it does seem to be at odds with the official Microsoft press release on the demise of Clippy which stated:

“Office XP is so easy to use that Clippy is no longer necessary, or useful,” explained Lisa Gurry, a Microsoft product manager. “With new features like smart tags and Task Panes, Office XP enables people to get more out of the product than ever before. These new simplicity and ease-of-use improvements really make Clippy obsolete,” she said. ”

I’ll let you choose which answer makes more sense!


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