Monday, 2 July 2007

When you shouldn't have to believe your eyes

I have just started diving into a report on "Implementation of the report of the Report of the Queensland Review of Fatal Mental Health Sentinel Events" (It's a riveting read) when I found my eyeballs assaulted by the following sentence:

"The forms were formatted using Human Factors Engineering principles and were approved by the State-wide Forms Committee."

Ignoring the desperately-risible fact that Queensland Health have a state-wide forms committee:

WTF? "Human Factors Engineering"? I had to google it just to stop my brain spasming painfully. I found the Wikipedia entry, (note the note asking for an expert to say something) and saw the delightful comment that this phrase is used mostly in America. Everyone else calls it ergonomics. Well, that doesn't surprise me at all. Just what sort of a name is "Human Factors Engineering" anyway? Admission that engineers previously couldn't care whether humans or, say, camels were using their products? The reason why my Toyota's engine can be such a bastard to work on? A feel-good bubbluegum phrase invented by a Dilbert-esque cubical drone who needed to justify his existence and couldn't be bothered working?

And which principles? Apple have their Human Interface Guidelines (a name I have very little extra time for - I know, let's start a campaign in defence of non-human Apple customers), so do Amiga, so do Gnome and god-knows who else. Just saying "Human Factors Engineering principles" is a colossal cop-out of catastrophic proportions.

1 comment:

phil said...

Well,to start with, it kind of bypasses the "human" element entirely. Just another hurdle between intent and understanding, unless the intent was to minimise the understanding (always possible).

Also, I suspect that you and Mrs VVB are in a similar business.

Search This Blog