I have previously blogged about the virtue (as I see it) of being able to customize your applications to your own preferences. This afternoon I see that Daryl has made a plea for such customization of a feature in Flock, the alerts he receives from the Flickr Photo browser. He said:
In its current form, with some of the contacts I happen to have on my list, the photo topbar provides more of a distraction than a benefit. It provokes me far too often to stop what I'm doing so that I can look at photos of little consequence.
Daryl’s Flock Blog
I know what he's talking about, and in general I agree with his proposed solution or at least with some variation of it. I'd like the ability to turn off notifications when some of my Flickr contacts post pictures and to specify how frequently I am notified about updates to their photostream. If I could specify that for some contacts I want to be notified as soon as they've posted their photo and for others that I want to be notified only once an hour of their updates, that would be an improvement over the current way it operates, I think.
But the point of this post is to raise the question for Flock's developers of whether they are really willing to give us to the ability to fine tune Flock's functions. There is, of course, an Options section in the Tools menu where I can specify a variety of preferences, such as which web services I use, which search engines I want as the default, which blogging service I use, etc., but in my conversations with them, I've met with some resistance (it seems) to building in a lot of configurability into Flock.
I've seen this resistance with regard to at least two of the functions that make Flock unique, the blog editor and the web snippets area location.
In its initial incarnation, the blog editor was a free-floating separate window that tended to get lost, particularly if you ran your browser maximized. Next the blog editor opened in a tab, not in a separate window. Since the editor has recently been improved and updated (completely re-written, if I understand correctly), it opens in a separate pop-up window that by default is opened on top of other windows. Right now there is no way to set it to open instead in a tab, and I have yet to see any discussion of the fact that the option to change that default behavior is going to be available. I have, however, seen a number of user comments indicating they would prefer to have it open in a tab. I don't think it should be only one way. Let the user choose which he or she prefers.
The web snippets feature (previously called The Shelf) was originally a topbar just like the photo browser or the Mapper function. In its most recent rendition, it is located in an area at the bottom of the browser window that auto-opens when you drag a web snippet to it. (Web snippets are nothing more than a bit of text, a graphic or a link that you find on the web that you want to retain, perhaps for later use in a blog post.) Back when it was a topbar, there was some discussion of making it a sidebar or a bottom bar instead. At that time, I said my preference was for us users to have the option of making it either, simply another thing that we could specify as we saw fit.
The resistance I sense among the developers to that idea goes something like this. "We don't want the browser to become bloated, and besides most users would end up just using the defaults anyway. And what's more, many users might find it hard to discover the configuration options." They are the developers, of course, and I am only a user, so I can't argue with the point that providing user preference options might contribute to bloat. However, I don't think the argument that most users might use the defaults or that many of them might not discover the configuration options holds much water. Though both suppositions may be true, that isn't any reason to deny users, who are willing to explore the features of the product and want choices, the option to "have it our way."
So as I write in support of Daryl's idea, I also would like to prod the Flock developers to become more open to giving the user greater choice about how Flock behaves. Stop short of making the code bloated, but go as far as possible in providing users choice. It's easier to create fans if give them the ability to control the application through configuring it to their desires.
technorati tags: Flock, configuration, choice