Thursday, May 10, 2012

Back to the future: Morse code?

OMG! Now we learn that to "simplify" typing on a smart phone, Google has introduced a variant of Morse Code they call TAP.

Don't remember your Morse? Perhaps you remember this:

Of course, on a smart phone, it's much "simpler". You merely 'tap' on two large buttons, one for dot and one for dash. The code is simpler also:

So, what's the connection to project management? Well, consider the ideas of simple,complicated, and complex:

  • Simple: The least complicated or complex possible (for the situation)
  • Complicated: a lot of parts
  • Complex: complicated, but also burdened with a lot of part-to-part interactions, many of which are difficult to predict

If you were the project manager working with the product manager on TAP how would the conversation go? Presumably the goal is a faster typing experience, one attuned to the world of digraphs and trigraphs like LOL and OMG, etc. And, faster is supposed to be better--less overhead for the same message content.

But is two-button TAP really simpler than a 26 letter keyboard, 10 more for numbers, and a few more for special characters? It would seem so: 2 is surely more simple that 36+. Of course, the information content behind each of the 36+ is much greater than the information content behind one tap of TAP. Thus, it seem from an information encoding perspective TAP is going backward to 1890.

On the other hand, just as Morse was developed with efficiency in mind (the most common letter in the English alphabet is "E", so the Morse symbol is one "dot"), I imagine that TAP will go the same way. Whole thoughts, like LOL, will be simply encoded and perhaps the actual throughput will go up. We'll have to see how the smart phone generation handles this.

On the other hand, it could go the way of other Google innovations. Perhaps the Google folks should read Everett Rogers "Diffusion of Innovation".