Do we need a common visual metaphor? (was Re: hello from MichaelS)

Brian Slesinsky (
Fri, 10 Jun 1994 11:21:38 -0800

(Intro: I'm a Unix programmer at Oracle and an amateur net-surfer, not
working on anything related to vrml.)

>Michael Snoswell writes:
>> ... The VRML could contain hints as to how the
>> client should present the link to the user (as a stair, path,
>> highlighted text etc). This way all users would see the same physical
>> scene, but if different users see different types of connections
>> between scenes, does that really matter?

Chris Holt writes:
>Does it matter if they see different physical scenes, as long as
>the connections have the same structure?

Although customization should, of course, be allowed, and the contents
internally represented using a sufficiently general abstraction, I think it
is quite important that (by default) we see the same representation.

For the visual metaphor to be useful, the users need to be able to give
each other directions like "...then go down the stairs and take the second
door on your right, and you'll be in a library. On the second shelf on the
left, there will be a book called *The Necronomicon*. On page 356 in the
third column you will find..."

If we're each in our own, customized virtual reality, we will be reduced to
communicating with technical terms like "vrml addresses." This would make
any books written about vrml worlds rather dry and technical, and require
the user to think on two levels (in addition to what he/she's actually
trying to do).

Think about how hard it would be to explain to a novice how to use a
Macintosh if the Trash Can could look like anything from a fire-eating
dragon to a whirlpool to a third-level menu item labelled "Delete." It
would effectively make the visual metaphor a pretty, but confusing, layer
that one eventually learns to ignore, much like the "Desktop" applications
intended to cover the Unix file system.

| Brian Slesinsky | | (work) |