Summary After Usage for 3 Weeks

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zoul
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Post by zoul » Tue Sep 26, 2006 8:50 pm

Timotheus wrote:I did not dispute at all the Redlers' fundamental right to shape Mellel as they think best, nor did I propose to discuss "every feature that is going to be implemented in the forum".
Sorry, I did not mean to do that. I simply meant that the forum is not best for discussing the development, that is all.
Timotheus wrote:sounds indeed very democratic; yet a very bad strategy as far as Mellel is concerned
Why? This kind of interface ensures that the features users really need are kept visible to the developers, avoids duplication and clearly reflects how many users want this or that. It seems to me that some kind of public bug tracking system with voting would pay off in the long run.
Timotheus wrote:(…) That is Mellel's only reason of existence; and that is my Mellel. If Mellel will not become this, it will not interest me anymore. It's as simple as that.
Other people have different needs – for example for me Mellel is almost feature-complete, I just need to polish it a bit.

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Post by joewiz » Wed Sep 27, 2006 3:09 am

zoul wrote:It seems to me that some kind of public bug tracking system with voting would pay off in the long run.
Well and succinctly said, Zoul.

Timotheus - Features as complex as those you describe do not emerge whole and complete. Bugs and weaknesses will appear, new ideas will come of frequent use, and the kind of system I described may do a better job of engendering the perfection we all hope Mellel will achieve.

I think we're going around in circles a bit here. I think people have just been throwing out ideas for ways to go forward. Let the Redlers mull it over, and the conversation will continue.
Last edited by joewiz on Wed Sep 27, 2006 12:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Timotheus
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Post by Timotheus » Wed Sep 27, 2006 5:16 am

@ joewiz: again: I did not say that the features I described should / could emerge whole and complete. Of course there will always appear bugs and weaknesses, and of course they must be discussed in order to be solved. What I said, is that Mellel must become indisputably the best application for academic writing. And for me this means essentially two things:

1. Mellel must be ultimately able to produce graphically exactly the kind of academic publication which is put on the market by publishers like Oxford UP, Harvard UP etc.

2. Mellel must have the most efficient and most convenient tools to generate such a publication.

So, for me at least, the goal is very clear. Under discussion should be less the "what" then the "how".

And if for some people Mellel is already more or less complete as it is now, so much the better. For me, and for any academic writer who wants to deliver a polished product to his publisher, it clearly is not.

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Post by verma » Wed Sep 27, 2006 10:05 am

Timotheus wrote:What I said, is that Mellel must become indisputably the best application for academic writing. And for me this means essentially two things [snip]:
What you propose is a worthwhile goal, but to me it seems unrealistic in the short term.

a) "indisputably" paired with "academic": frankly impossible. Choices will be made, and they may upset some, and not others. We can suggest what we would like, but asking "public commitments" from the Redlers ... well, ... perhaps once we become shareholders?

b) however sensible your proposal is, becoming "the best application" is a never-ending endeavour. Let's not think the Redlers don't know how to make a wonderful application - but if you want the best possible cross-referencing system of the whole world, chances are high you'll have to wait a long time.

I prefer small and meaningful steps which can then be discussed, commented upon and eventually improved as we go by. I'm all for comments and suggestions, as long as the developers also have the freedom to ignore them.

I don't think one can reasonably expect perfection. I expect a good tool, that is reliable and allows me to be in control of as many aspects as possible of academic writing on the condition that it doesn't take too much time or hampers my writing process because of structural, internal shortcomings of the app.

These things take time.

Best,
V.

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Post by Danoz » Wed Sep 27, 2006 12:29 pm

joewiz wrote:The forum is active but is very disorganized, and discrete feature requests/ideas/bugs are hard to track. Users feel their passionate contributions go unheard. The collective wisdom and passion is not being properly or productively channelled.
joe, I believe that you have succinctly captured the essence of the problem, at least as I see it.

I also like your idea of the democratic 'voting' system for feature requests, a la Hogbay. This is one such way of skinning the cat (so to speak), and a seemingly good one at that.
I suggest that, at the very least, and sooner rather than later, Redlers need to split the forum into some meaningful sub-branches, rather than just one "Mellel" forum.


Some other things that we need to agree on, or have Redlers make a decision on...
• Is a forum-based discussion ample? Or do we need an interactive, 'real-time' iChat style discussion as well?

• What would be the topics for discussion? How many would be constitute a manageable number of topics?

• What sort of commitment should Redlers make (or could they make) to implementation? It seems to me, that we need some kind of formal communication back from Redlers as an output of this process. e.g. like a development plan, with some timeline. But I don't know how willing Redlers will be to disclose too many of their trade secrets.
Hence,

• Clarity from Redlers as to exactly what they will commit to.

Nick

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Post by Timotheus » Wed Sep 27, 2006 1:38 pm

@ verma: in order to explain what I meant (O Lord, please don't let me again be misunderstood!), let me cite from the sixth chapter of Machiavelli's "Prince", where Machiavelli tells the prince that

"he must behave like those archers who, if they are skilful, when the target seems too distant, know the capabilities of their bow and aim a good deal higher than their objective, not in order to shoot so high but so that by aiming high they can reach the target".

In order to become very good you have to strive for perfection: not with the illusion to become perfect, but with the hope to become very good.

The great violinist Yedhudi Menuhin used to say that if you want to be able to play (or to really understand and enjoy) divine music, you have to fix mentally a very distant star. Perhaps what he tried to say is more or less what Machiavelli tried to say. In other words: I was talking about goals, not about the vain illusion of stable perfection. I may not be able to express myself clearly, but I'm not altogether stupid!

But enough! I have already talked too much.

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Post by verma » Wed Sep 27, 2006 3:44 pm

Timotheus, I understood you were talking about goals, although you didn't want to talk about those, but more about ways to get to these goals.

We won't reach those targets at the first shot. Let's start with what we have in our hands: the bow & the arch.

What about cross-referencing?

Best, V.

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Post by Ori Redler » Wed Sep 27, 2006 4:58 pm

Timotheus wrote:Just to give a concrete example: some months ago I made a series of short, very concrete proposals with regard to footnotes / endnotes; others subsequently added theirs. But from the side of the developers … silence, absolute silence!

See: http://forum.redlers.com/viewtopic.php? ... =footnotes
Timotheus -- that's a typical case of we-did-not-get-to-that-yet. All your suggestions are on our to-do list (I do take note) and at least four of them can be rather easily implemented... But we can only do one thing at a time and sometimes other things come first.
Ori Redler from RedleX

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Post by Ori Redler » Wed Sep 27, 2006 5:10 pm

NC wrote:It's very heartening to see this discussion.

I'd bet a small amount of money that I was the first user to publish a book written entirely in Mellel, and I retain a great fondness for it. But later releases simply became too complex for me to use. My needs are pretty simple (and perhaps I'm a little impatient) but Mellel's implementation of styles just baffles me. I look at it, and my eyes go strange.

Previous to my discovery of Mellel, each of my books had been written in Word, and it was to Word I returned -- not without reluctance, or a sense of defeat,. But I understand Word; I understand its templates, its outliner, its views.

Mellel is an application for professional writers. That's what I am. But Melle makes me feel dumb. Which I'm not. And I don't like my applications to do that.

I know Mellel inspires great passion, and as you can see, I feel residual loyalty to it. But a great many professional writers need great organisational tools BECAUSE THEY'RE DISORGANISED. Mellel requires a user-discipline I just can't give it. I suspect I am not alone.

It would be great to go back to Mellel. All it needs is some tools for people like me, people who want to organise and write -- not necessarily in that order; much of my outlining is done retrospectively -- and who are easily intimidated by complex and rigid interfaces.

There are, I guess you'll know, quite a number of us....
But all this is much too general to lead us in a productive way: what exactly was too rigid?
Ori Redler from RedleX

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Post by noory » Wed Sep 27, 2006 5:27 pm

If I correctly understood the differences in approach to Mellel's interface design between many of the users and the developers then I think Don Norman's article http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/logic_versus_usage_t.html might offer some general ideas as to how the interface might look at two different stages of writing, the planning stage and active writing.

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What needs to be done

Post by Ori Redler » Wed Sep 27, 2006 5:28 pm

I'll try to translate the gist of the discussions here into practical terms:
A. We'll create a new sub-forum here, dedicated to "feature requests and feature discussions"
B. The "feature requests" thing is quite self explanatory, but we'll encourage people to also make it a poll question with an identical design, so people can rate the desirability of an option. We could of course move to a forum option that lets us automate this, but that requires some thoughts and preparation.
C. The "feature discussions" part will include three types of discussions: 1) discussions about functioning or general attributes of Mellel initiated by forum members. 2) Similar discussions initiated by us (the RedleX tribe), and 3) Specific features discussions initiated by us.

The emphasis with the first two will be more broad or more specific, but will not be necessarily toward some near-future goal. The third type of discussions will be very specific and focused and will centre on features we have "in sight" or planned for implementation in the very near future (e.g., the next version).
Ori Redler from RedleX

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Re: What needs to be done

Post by joewiz » Wed Sep 27, 2006 6:08 pm

Ori - your ideas for the forum sound very reasonable to me. I particularly like the conceptual difference between requests and discussions, and the temporal distinction between features soon to be implemented versus those in medium-to-long term. I think the added structure will facilitate the discussions. (Of course, there are forum systems better suited to voting, but this forum is worth trying, to see if it's necessary to make a switch.)

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Post by bashosfrog » Wed Sep 27, 2006 9:16 pm

NC wrote:It's very heartening to see this discussion.

I'd bet a small amount of money that I was the first user to publish a book written entirely in Mellel, and I retain a great fondness for it. But later releases simply became too complex for me to use. My needs are pretty simple (and perhaps I'm a little impatient) but Mellel's implementation of styles just baffles me. I look at it, and my eyes go strange.
....
There are, I guess you'll know, quite a number of us....
I'm one of those pro writers using Mellel. I agree that the prospect of having to dive into Mellel's innards to change something is daunting. As a result, I just don't do it. If I want to make a quick custom doc, I tend to fire up Pages or Word.

But like others, I don't think it needs a complete makeover to make Mellel more intuitive. Just a different approach to UI design - something like the apparent simplicity of Omnigroup's UIs, without the shiny bits (I love Mellel's clean look). I can't offer any specifics on this - I haven't tinkered with Mellel's more complex facets for a while; I'm too busy writing with it - except to say that simplicity needs to be the core principle. Maybe it already is, but it's not evident to the troubled eye of someone fresh to the Auto Numbering pane.

Also, we're not all academics out here. I couldn't give a fig for cross-referencing or citations. But I'd be ecstatic about some form of margin notes. The second forum sounds like a great idea.

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Re: Summary After Usage for 3 Weeks

Post by laup » Thu Sep 28, 2006 1:32 am

Ori Redler wrote: In my view, the problem is not the interface but the rather inflexibility of the way certain things work in Mellel.

For example, when you enter a footnote and suddenly notice that the font is all wrong, the divider is too thick (or too thin) and that you'd rather have A, B, C and not 1, 2 3 -- there is a way to mend all this, but it is much too demanding and not at all intuitive. People intuitively want to fix a problem where they see it -- that is, from within the footnote -- and do the fixing directly.

They can do that, of course. One needs only change the font, size, etc. of an individual footnote, and save the changes, and then all the footnotes will line up with this change. There's also a direct access from the contextual menu to editing the notes attributes. Still, this is too indirect and unintuitive for most, especially since when they open the Edit Note Attributes sheet they cannot change the formatting of the note and note text directly, and need to close the sheet, go and edit the styles, save the changes and then go back to the Edit Notes attributes. Not a very intuitive approach.
Ori, there is a terminological confusion. To me, what you're describing ARE interface issues. What can be made to happen is functionality; how one recognizes how to issue commands, and then does so, are matters of interface. The OSX-based "toolbox" being used for the interface seems to me good. The problem is in the details. For example, it is utterly nonintuitive that setup changes are not included as part of "style set." Also, it is bad design that the way one makes permanent changes to setup or autonumbering is different from the way one makes changes to paragraphs, etc. Again, to me these are interface issues.
Paul

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Re: Summary After Usage for 3 Weeks

Post by Ori Redler » Thu Sep 28, 2006 4:01 pm

pkensildavis wrote:
Ori Redler wrote: In my view, the problem is not the interface but the rather inflexibility of the way certain things work in Mellel.

For example, when you enter a footnote and suddenly notice that the font is all wrong, the divider is too thick (or too thin) and that you'd rather have A, B, C and not 1, 2 3 -- there is a way to mend all this, but it is much too demanding and not at all intuitive. People intuitively want to fix a problem where they see it -- that is, from within the footnote -- and do the fixing directly.

They can do that, of course. One needs only change the font, size, etc. of an individual footnote, and save the changes, and then all the footnotes will line up with this change. There's also a direct access from the contextual menu to editing the notes attributes. Still, this is too indirect and unintuitive for most, especially since when they open the Edit Note Attributes sheet they cannot change the formatting of the note and note text directly, and need to close the sheet, go and edit the styles, save the changes and then go back to the Edit Notes attributes. Not a very intuitive approach.
Ori, there is a terminological confusion. To me, what you're describing ARE interface issues. What can be made to happen is functionality; how one recognizes how to issue commands, and then does so, are matters of interface. The OSX-based "toolbox" being used for the interface seems to me good. The problem is in the details. For example, it is utterly nonintuitive that setup changes are not included as part of "style set." Also, it is bad design that the way one makes permanent changes to setup or autonumbering is different from the way one makes changes to paragraphs, etc. Again, to me these are interface issues.
The two issues you mention here are actually implementation problems rather then consistency problems, but perhaps when I create a suitable place for discussing this, we'll discuss it in more detail there.
Ori Redler from RedleX

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