Atwood: Hey Joel.
Spolsky: Hey Jeff. What er, what day is it?
Atwood: Today is Tuesday.
Spolsky: Is it podcast day?
Atwood: It's podcast day. It's always a very exciting day.
Spolsky: [laughing] Let's do a podcast
Atwood: Yes. Let us.
Spolsky: Ok. Erm...
Atwood: So today is, well, Tuesday is, you know why else Tuesday is awesome...
Atwood: 'Cause, every Tuesday there's new songs for Rockband and this week is epic because it's the best of The Who.
Spolsky: Oh... really? They have The Who?
Atwood: Yeah, so I guess, well there was one Who song in Guitar Hero 3 called "the Seeker", I don't know if you know it, it's really fun to play, but this is the "best of" so it has stuff like "Baba O'Riley", "Eminence Front", "Behind Blue Eyes", pretty big hits so it was really fun, I was just playing it outside actually.
Spolsky: Does it have "Who Are You"?
Atwood: It does have that, I played that as well.
Spolsky: I may have to ... this game
Atwood: You know what I learned the other day, so the song "Baba O'Riley", there's some guru, some Indian guru that, I guess back in the sixties, one out of those, Pete Townshend or some member of The Who, Roger Daltrey maybe, uh, was under the influence of this guru and the song "Baba O'Riley" is named for that guru the first name Baba something, but I, he, there's some like church for him down the street from our house, very California, there's like a little, you know, little, there's a little strip-mall and in this strip-mall there's this place that you go and there's all these pictures of this guy on the wall. There was like an art-stroll which was why we were in there and I was like "What is this place ?" and my wife figured it out, she said "Oh this is that guru, Baba" and I don't even know his name I'll have to look it up, but that is from the song "Baba O'Riley" as well so there's your random pointless trivia of the day.
Spolsky: So, I'm, I'm intrigued by this. You're saying that they have gurus in India, too?
Atwood: [laughter] I always associated gurus with India, but maybe there's other places that they're from. Is that not true?
Spolsky: I don't know. I thought it- I thought it was like a code... thing.
Atwood: Oh, no no no. It's traditional religion.
Spolsky: Uhhh, usually you have something to talk about.
Atwood: I do, but I want- this time I want to do something a little different. The reason I was being quiet was cause we had some stuff from last time that you wanted to talk about. In particular, you had a blog entry about disabling menu items, that we were gonna discuss.
Spolsky: That's a good idea. Let's talk about the disabling of menu items.
Spolsky: I'm not actually- This is a meta-conversation. I didn't really want to talk about the disabling of menu items. Umm, I was sort of thinking about Twitter and how people are now writing these one line blog posts, and I used to waste all this time writing these thirteen page blog posts. And, as time went on, people got whinier and whinier the more words you put in your post. And, uh, I sort of came up with a list of five or six things that I thought were good, you know, two paragraph posts...
Spolsky: Five, six, seven sentences. And, uh, I thought I would post them and just sort of knock 'em out, and I'd put one up just to see what would happen. And, uhh, the trouble is if you put something up without writing a long enough post to actually make your full case, uhmm, you just get misunderstood, was sort of what I concluded.
Atwood: Well I think you took it too far, though. I mean, my impression was there's there's some in-between between 13 pages and like one- Was your post even one paragraph? It was rea-
Spolsky: [laughter] It was almost three paragraphs.
Atwood: It was really absurdly short, and I thought you could've done, like, five paragraphs, maybe 10 paragraphs? That would've, I think, done it some justice. I felt like maybe there's-
Spolsky: Three! There's three paragraphs there.
Spolsky: It's very short for something I would post, and uhhh. So here's, you know, what the post said is, uh, don't disable menu items that aren't available. Uh, instead, leave them enabled, and that gives you an opportunity to tell people why that particular item was not gonna work.
And so there's really a lot of things I kind of learned from this. None of them have to do with menu items. Um, the first is that as soon as you have something that's this short -- for me at least -- as soon as I write something that's this short- You know, I don't really plant my foundations well enough; I don't explain the situation; I don't frame the question; what kind of menu item these are, what kind of application you're writing. Uh, I don't- I didn't write defensively like I usually have to, qualifying it with every possible e-mail response I could ever get. And so, it actually led to quite a lot of people saying, "No, that's wrong! You should not- You should disable, or hide, menu items that do not apply!" And, usually, they went a lot further than that. And so this is somewhat useful because, you know, there's some discussion of the subject in the blogosphere, and that discussion itself, and just, you know, thinking about this issue is more valuable than if I hadn't brought it up and nobody had thought about it.
Um, what I did see, actually, in about eh, 85 to 90 percent of the responses that I got via e-mail, or that I saw people post on their own blogs or in discussion groups, is that what people tended to do is just think of a use case that's interest- that, that- just one use case that's on their mind, for some reason. And then, evaluate whether or not you should disable menu items based on that particular use case that they happen to have in their mind.