Monday, 28 August 2000
The cattle lets off steam, water boils. A few spoonfuls of coffee rustle at the bottom of the coffee can. The hot water dashes down. The filter shoves down. I hear the first gulp swallowed towards my gullet. Hm, I murmer in joy, my caffeine addiction has been satisfied again.

These are all everyday events that have one thing in common: They make sound when things go well. Positive auditory feedback as it is known in jargon.

Most computers behave differently. Most users know negative sounds only, nasty nagging when things go wrong, the computer doesn't have the guts to take decisions.

Alan Cooper described in About Face the effectiveness of positive auditory feedback (in chapter 28: positive feedback and in chapter 29: audible feedback). And indeed, Cooper is right. A few real life examples from my personal PC settings, which I like very much:

  Click The computer reacts to a mouse click and starts working. Computer beeps Opera ( is ready loading a web page.
( Transfer complete The download of a file has finished.
( Let me know when you want to resume our work A program temporarily minimises to the taskbar.
( "Oh you need me? I'm touched" A program is on screen again, back from temporary minimisation.
(Dutch Limburg dialect for ready)
a program has closed, probably after a click on the cross in the right hand top corner.
I hardly notice these sounds any more. It is very pleasant to work with, increasing productivity (, exactly according Alan Cooper's predictions. I hardly get distracted, can just continue with my current work.
  • Sound is asynchronous. One application may sound from the background while I working with another one.
  • Every sound ends automatically, so does not slow me down. I can keep my concentration for my current task. There is no need to take immediate action.
  • It is up to me to decide if and how I'll react. I remain in control of my own time. Much and much better than the tyranny of a question in a modal dialogue box.
The happy sounds at SUMit headquarters are a pleasant surprise to visitors. These visitors make me realise how rare and special it is to have positive feedback. So, generate more sound (

Users find comfort in the sounds. The sounds are a continuous confirmation that things are going well, an stream of happy tunes with the right notes, a symphony of success. Users are just like normal people. Everybody loves never ending taps on the back. Nobody likes criticism. It's the tune that makes the music (.../games/...).

Till next week!

Thanks to Annet Bex for her "vaerdig".