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2006-08-22 When Technology Reaches Usability

I'm still wondering how and when a technology is reaching an usability level where people start to use it without thinking about the technology. Very often technologies are designed for usability and they are everything but not usable. I don't know why a lot of technology designed for being usable are not usable at the end. Maybe that the inner definition of usability is difficult to describe. For example, users use hypertext system without knowing the name or what is an hypertext system. Different systems were proposed like Xanadu but at the end the simplest was selected by the users. The selection of such technology is not evolution (in the Darwin sense) as the drift is selected by the users and the creators/contributors of the technology. It's not really random but if you see the "evolution" of the HTTP protocol, you'll see that the changes are mainly coming from the use of the protocol itself. Maybe you are wondering where I want to go ? It's about Semantic Web. It looks like (but I'm maybe wrong, as you know prediction in computer science…) that we have a large stack of technologies available but usability seems to lack. Simple technologies like tagging 1 is providing a great entry into the semantic web without the cost of all the current associated technologies. It looks like that free tagging starts to be usable without thinking too much about the technology behind. That could be enhanced but it's just the beginning. Collaborative classification starts to be usable and could be a nice ground for the famous holy grall of 'Semantic Web'. Reading Folksonomies Tidying up Tags? remind me about some old article where building an encyclopedia using a wiki-like interface is too chaotic for providing good result. Maybe the evolution of free tagging usage will give us the final answer ? When and How a technology is reaching a good usability level ?


1. often called folksonomy