I always enjoyed the shocked reactions I get when I tell people that I find Clippy, the Office Assistant, very helpful and can’t imagine why anyone would turn Clippy off. In fact, I just wrote the following tip for a seminar handout:
Ask Clippy. Clippy, the animated paperclip that appears in Microsoft Office programs, gives you helpful hints and answers your question. Clippy also drives many people crazy and one of the easiest tips to find on the Internet is how to turn Clippy off. Dennis has long been one of the six people outside of Microsoft who likes Clippy. He wants to convince you to give Clippy a chance. Clippy is both an example of a simple artificial intelligence application and an advanced form of contextual help. When you run into a problem or forget how to do something, you simply click on Clippy and type in your question. The results are nearly always exactly on point and offer step-by-step directions to do what you want to do.”
I’ve always assumed that I was one of about a half dozen people outside of Microsoft who like Clippy, but I greatly over-estimated the negative response to Clippy. In fact, people have a 50-50 love-hate response to Clippy. In his fascinating history and analysis of Clippy and User Experiences, , Chris Pratley, Group Program Manager at Microsoft with responsibility for the very cool OneNote program, “But only 50% is not good enough when a significant chunk of the other 50% felt strongly negative toward the Assistant. So eventually (Office XP), the Assistant was turned off by default and the issues that made it come back sometimes were finally exorcised.”
Chris’s blog has been a fascinating attempt to make the process of developing OneNote more transparent and it’s clear that he’s someone who listens to comments and thinks about them. He ends his essay with:
“So, was the Assistant a success, failure or something in between? If so, why? If you think the Assistant idea was bad, why exactly? It is interesting to learn from these experiences to try to move the state of the art forward. I have heard that the researchers who originally supported the idea claimed that the idea was sound, but the implementation in Office was inadequate and flawed. Many in Office would say that the idea would not have worked acceptably well even with an ideal implementation. Still others would say it did pretty well, and with a little more work could have been made useful for those who would use it, and not annoying for others.”
If you want to see a very cool new functionality for OneNote that fills a crying need that I have, check out Rss2OneNote. Pretty cool idea, huh?