The KillSave Mini-Manifesto

Marketing consultant, blogging genius, and all-round thoroughly decent bloke, Hugh MacLeod, recently decided that his original "Hughtrain Manifesto" was in need of a makeover. So he re-wrote it and cut the original 4,500 words down to a short, 418-word mini-manifesto.

Inspired by the power of his own brevity, Hugh has also issued an open call for other mini-manifestos, saying:

"Why take 50,000 words [the length of your average business tome] to say what you have to say, when 500 will do? Brevity. I love brevity. We're both in a hurry."

Great idea.

So I've taken the longish, somewhat ranty piece Mike Warot and I penned about a year ago (original here), and cut it down to a more digestable 500-word mini-manifesto à la Hugh.

Presenting, The KillSave Mini-Manifesto (aka fixing a broken software paradigm in 500 words or less):


Sit down at your desk and start a new document.

No – forget the computer; actually drag over a sheet of paper and write.

Make sure you don’t put a title on the page, or a date, or your name. Try not to even think about the word “metadata”.

Keep writing.

Now – once you’ve chicken-scratched a page or so of stuff, get up from your desk and walk away. Switch off the lights. Leave the room.

Or, no – go back into the room and, just for good measure, give your desk a good hard kick. Jam your paper knife through the middle of that page you wrote.

Come back to the desk two hours later. Where’s your document?

What? How can it be still on your desktop? And all the words are still there, right up to the last period you wrote? But you didn’t save it!

And you can still read it, even with the paper knife in the middle? Amazing!

OK. Now why does the act of writing in a $200 word processor work less well than this?

If you’ve never lost a document due to a system failure, I want to meet you. I want to know what numbers you play in the lottery. You may just be the luckiest human being alive.

Computers go blooie. Random crashes are a fact of life.

But for a piece of software to lose your work when the lights go out is a flat out failure to fulfill a basic obligation.

If computer automation breaks things that worked well before computers, that’s not progress.

The problem here is a persistent block of stupidity sunk deep into the structure of most file-based software systems. It’s called “Save”.

What is that anyway? Think about it. There’s something so fundamentally broken about the whole idea of the “Save” command.

It’s the application’s responsibility to make sure it never loses the user’s work. Whether they remembered to “Save” or not.

It’s the Operating System’s responsibility to make sure it never loses the files entrusted to it by applications and users.

Requiring users to “Save” is lazy design.

If your hard drive goes crunch, you might well lose data. You should have a backup. Always.

But if a piece of software ever blows up your data because you forgot to save often enough (or in the right way) – that’s just plain wrong.

We’ve got computers capable of handling 2 BILLION operations per second, and your word processor can’t be bothered to properly store about 20K of text every once in a while.

Save is stupid. It needs to die.

So here are Five Easy Theses for all application programs to follow:

• Never lose the user’s work
• Always show the current save path
• Always autosave to a working folder, and alert when this fails
• Allow the user to pick up their context across invocations of the editor
• Random disconnection is a fact of life. NEVER lose work because of it, EVER!

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