Presumptuous Computing

Dennis Kennedy posted recently about a trend that he has labeled presumptuous computing. As Dennis described:

Over the past few years, I’ve grown to feel that my computer has become a crowded house full of guests and strangers, as lots software and services have invited themselves for a long stay. Some are gracious and helpful, mindful that I did not invite them. Some jump up and demand my attention. Some are unruly and leave their dirty dishes and coffee cups all over my computer. And at least one (the trial version of McAfee’s antivirus program that I can’t get fully uninstalled, you know who you are) is like the unwelcome guest who will never leave.

Increasingly, we all see a trend where our programs, services and subscriptions do more things automatically and take for granted what they can do on our computers. In some cases, I don’t mind at all. I like automatic updates, especially for security fixes. In other cases, I’m starting to feel that software companies, email newsletter publishers, and other service providers are starting to forget who is the host and who is the guest on my computer. You might be feeling the same.

I’m calling this phenomenon and trend “presumptuous computing.”

There’s a presumptive, condescending approach to users that’s becoming too common, and a general approach that it’s OK for programs to do what they please on computers without considering the host, without picking up after their messes, and without making their beds and hanging up the towels, let alone compensating us for our generosity and for the inconvenience they cause.

Dennis has really hit the nail on the head with this post. Why is it that computer programmers that have never spoken to me think that they know more about our computer than we do?

Believe it or not, I have my computer organized in a certain manner. Don’t make me change everything that I do simply because you are too lazy to include some flexibility into your program.

As Dennis concluded:

Presumptuous computing – treating someone else’s computer like you know what’s best for them and not giving any consideration to how they might like to use their computer.

Think about it. Shouldn’t those who invite themselves onto your computer be good and respectful guests and be reluctant to come in and change things around, especially without giving you any warning. I don’t expect vendors to be able to get everything right – this stuff is complicated – and the benefits for me of automatic updates and the like outweigh the disadvantages, but it’d sure be nice if we were all more thoughtful in the way we treat other people’s computers. I’d like to see more courteous computing and less presumptuous computing.

I echo Dennis’s sentiments. Shouldn’t all programs be nicer to our computers. Allow us to uninstall them when we are done with them. Allow us to customize where the files are stored. And for heaven’s sake, just because I installed a program on my computer, that does not mean that I want that program to control everything that is may be capable of controlling. Allow me to chose, what I use the program for.