This weekend I saw Ratatouille. The fine folks at Pixar constantly amaze me. The movie was excellent. I stayed through the closing credits hoping for out-takes or funny credits (none yet) and noticed something interesting – there was a credit with an image that read something like “100% pure animation – no motion capture”. And I thought – that’s amazing. In the old days of cel animation, you couldn’t do motion capture because you were using ink and a pen, but with all the fancy tricks that modern computer rendering provides, they decided to keep this totally in control of the artist. Every frame of every movement of every character was intentional.
There’s a lesson to be learned here for folks who are doing software design – it’s so easy (and tempting) for us to create systems which take data and perform actions in some automated fashion based on what they see. This is usually very useful, but all too often results in the inadvertantly bad error message, dialog box, or other such mishap. There’s defenitely a place for systems like this – but when we build things that are more end-user facing, making them behave more intentionally will go a long way to improving the PC experience for everyone.