battery plasmoid and remaining time..

Chani chanika at
Tue May 19 04:25:49 CEST 2009

> > How do you think about weather forecast?
> 20 years ago they were nearly worthless and the weather man was a character
> people made jokes about. there reputation was horrible and nobody took them
> seriously.
> today they have proper computer models, insane amounts of data and their
> predictions tend to be very accurate. people rely on them and trust them.
> with this "how much time is left in my battery" we are where the weather
> man was 20 years ago.

and where would we be now if all the weathermen had said "well, I can't 
guarantee that the weather will do what I think it will, so I'll just go be a 
lumberjack instead and everyone can make their own guesses about the weather 
without any tools" ?

> > My "left time" indicator is hell of a lot more precise then the usual
> > weather forecast.
> then you have a shit weather forecaster and/or your usage patterns are very
> consistent. for the latter, we need to step outside the "how i use my
> computer" and consider the wellbeing of "all people who use computers".

okay, you're right that we need to consider more that one use case.
however, *one* of those usecases is the regular old laptop whose power 
consumption doesn't vary wildy. can we agree on that? because it sounded like 
you were only considering the usecase of devices with extreme powersaving 
abilities. I was getting upset that the usecase I fit into seemed to be 

> > People know that weather forecasts are not precise, still they like them.
> > They don't mistrust the whole evening news just because the forecast is
> > not precise.
> they are precise enough. and, i'm sorry, but the "time remaining" on
> computers isn't even remotely close to the accuracy delivered by the
> weather forecast these days.

"precise enough" is important...

> > Everyone who has ever used a laptop know that the "battery time left"
> > indicator is not precise, and if you make it a bit more clear that it's
> > just an estimation in the UI, then this shouldn't be a concern.
> see, by intentionally lieing to the user in such a manner that the user
> knows it's a lie we create an environment of purposeful distrust and force
> the user to pay attention to things they should such as "is my computer
> being honest when it says ..."

I disagree. I don't believe users are bothered by the battery time not being 
accurate. I asked a few people over dinner and they seemed fine with it. one 
said that the time wasn't so accurate when it got low but she just plugged it 
in then anyways.

> a crash is an unintentional breach of trust: we don't mean for it crash,
> but when it does, it erodes trust. those events, being unintentional, can
> be fixed and improved over time and we can build further trust.

I don't understand why you're bringing crashes into this. my laptop still 
hibernates itself when it gets down to 1% or something - I run no risk of 
running out of power. and if I'm wondering if it's close to that hibernation 
time I can still check the percentage against whatver percent it was configured 
to hibernate at. or plug in when I get the warning notification.

> lieing to the user, esp when they eventually figure out that that is
> exactly what we're doing, is an intentional breach of trust. and the user
> knows that. and it means "i can not trust my computer". it's the WORST sort
> of breach of trust imaginable.

I disagree. I believe users understand that the time is an estimate, do not 
expect it to be completely accurate, and treat it accordingly.

personally, I switched my laptop to show time on hover shortly after this 
thread began, and I'm liking it more and more. I'm finding that I was 
significantly underestimating my battery when I read the percentage, and I 
think I'm more relaxed about it now.

> now, as usual, people are simply arguing for the inclusion of the feature
> without:
> * actually considering the psychological or other impacts of it

well, I thought about what you said, asked some users some questions, and 
their answers seemed to support my opinion: there's no breach of trust here.

> * thinking almost exclusively of themselves versus the global user base

yeah, I think a lot of us were getting defensive (me at least), and that leads 
to not thinking of others. your first email sounded to me like you were only 
thinking of *your* computer's apparently insane battery estimations.

> * not coming up with alternative approaches that would make it better (and
> instead just keep arguing for the same broken feature exactly as is)

now that's not fair. I was trying to get a discussion on whether we can come 
up with a more useful estimate or something, and I got blasted with 
negativity. it sounded like you would only be happy with something that 
reported the precise time remaining, which requires knowledge of the future 
and is therefore impossible, and shuts down any chance of discussing whether 
there's something that can be "precise enough" for most users' needs.

maybe that's not what you intended to communicate, but it's what I heard.

there's a few clarifications I'd like, please:

-are you actually arguing for the complete removal of time estimation, both 
the new over-the-icon feature and the time in the popup, not even leaving it 
as an option?
-is there any time estimate short of predicting-the-future that might satisfy 

another thing I don't understand is why you like knowing the percentage.
I don't believe percentages are more useful than a time estimate. Perhaps 
equal, but not more. A percentage is wonderfully accurate, yes; it tells me 
exactly what percentage of the battery is left, and it's always right about 
that. But how *useful* is it? Afaik, to do anything with that information you 
have to convert it into "how much time may be left?" Using the battery 
capacity and current usage. On some computers, 10% means "get the charger 
right now" and on others it means "you might want to start thinking about 
getting that charger soonish, perhaps" - and how urgent it is still depends on 
how the laptop is being used. I'm pretty sure nearly everyone's computer knows 
the capacity&usage numbers better than they do. People can learn what 
percentage is recharge-time for them with their normal usage, but reactions 
for time-remaining can be learnt too. Yes, the time can jump around, but it's 
not jumping randomly. Percentage doesn't jump up, but if your usage pattern 
changes it might go down faster than you expect - the same problem as a time 

This message brought to you by eevil bananas and the number 3.
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