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Clippy.JS - Add Clippy and friends to any website (smore.com)
230 points by giladvdn on May 29, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments

I had a lot more fun playing with this Clippy than I thought I would. I remember HATING Clippy and now I'm questioning why I did.

The only conclusion I can make is that it wasn't the actual character and its animations that I hated. They are, if I'm being honest with myself, kind of cute and endearing. The reason I hated Clippy was that it was condescending.

"I see you're trying to write a letter. Would you like me to help you with that?"

Hindsight is 20/20, but Microsoft should have realized there's no way to phrase that and not insult the intelligence of 90% of your users.

Interestingly, I see an analogy here with today's GPS software. No matter how nice they make the voice sound, they never fail to sound condescending when you veer from the pre-calculated route. I love MotionX GPS Drive for the iPhone (other than the fact that it crashes every time I go to another app), but the default voice manages to make me physically angry every time she says "Rerouting". You can almost hear the disappointing frown on her face, as if she's saying "sigh I guess I'm going to have to plot a new course since you're obviously not smart enough to stay on the one I made for you."

How hard would it be to make a GPS system that just assumed I might want to get gas or stop for a bite to eat if I took an unplanned exit off an interstate with hundreds of miles to go on my journey?

I think Clippy and rude nav systems are different manifestations of the same problem. It's a kind of "uncanny valley of human-computer interaction", although here the revulsion is not triggered by looks or movement but by BEHAVIOR. It's behavior that is almost, but not quite, human. Specifically, I think it's triggered when a computer system takes a tone of intellectual superiority over its user.

Because most of us know that our technology is nowhere near the level of intelligence needed to actually be wiser than we are, we feel the same kind of indignation and resentment at the posturing of the system as we do when a small child insists that we don't know what we're talking about while answering their question about why the sky is blue.

> Hindsight is 20/20, but Microsoft should have realized there's no way to phrase that and not insult the intelligence of 90% of your users.

I'm not so sure. Certainly their phrases were condescending (was obvious to me and the reason I hated it back in the day - maybe the fact that I was a child then made me more used to being talked down to and therefore spotting it?), but that doesn't automatically mean there's no way of doing it well.

"It looks like you're writing a letter, would you like a template to save you time?"

Suddenly it's not talking as if I'm so stupid I need help with a basic task, it's admitting that I am quite capable without it but that it, being a computer, can save me some hassle.


- Open letter template

- Dismiss

A dead comment by DanBC has some interesting links about how Clippy was dumbed down before its release in Office 97:

"Clippy was crippled by MS when they implemented the working research project into the broken version used in Office. (http://robotzeitgeist.com/2009/08/lumiere-project-origins-an...) The original implementation was deemed "too cautious" by PHBs, and thus a stupid kludge was added to make clippy appear more often. (http://lesswrong.com/lw/7wt/funny_even_clippy_can_be_blamed_...) (Interestingly that URL mentions siri before it was released)."

What really bugged me about Clippy and wizards was that they were both condescending and tended to be a posthoc band aid for bad ui design. "I see you are trying to do X" (it's either wrong OR (worse) it correctly identifies what you were trying and struggling to do because the UI to do that thing is awful).

It's like there's a team that identifies problems with your product but they have no influence over the product engineers so their only hope is the Clippy team.

>How hard would it be to make a GPS system that just assumed I might want to get gas or stop for a bite to eat if I took an unplanned exit off an interstate with hundreds of miles to go on my journey?

Just as a side note, I really like Google Maps' routing system. If I stray from the computed route it just silently recalculates and let's me know where to turn next. There is no "Recalculating" phrase at all. :)

Same with the Mercedes COMAND navigation, it'll just announce the next turn whichever way you are going. I generally like the way Mercedes do things in this regard.

Mercedes invented the much imitated seat adjustment controls now found in many cars (control shape and layout matches seat, required motions mirror desired adjustment). Don Norman uses them as an example of excellent mapping in The Design of Everyday Things.

I think there's some value in communicating that the navigation system is confused by what you are doing. There are multiple reasons why it might be confused: I might have taken a wrong turn either on purpose or by accident. Or it might have an incorrect positional information or incorrect maps. The user is in a pretty good position to judge which is the case and to modify their trust into the navigation system appropriately, so it's useful when they are informed.

It doesn't have to be an obnoxious, repeated "Recalculating", I guess. A simple chime is pleasant -- but far less intuitive, you'd have to learn a new signal. Plenty of people are confused by navs making a chime sound when you're over the speed limit. An optical signal, like a big red X or a question mark on the display would be a good hint.

To me the problem with Clippy is that he never gave useful help and annoyed me when I didn't ask for anything.

Imagine, you're at your desk. Someone comes up: "Hey I see you're at your desk, do you need help with sitting on your chair?".

Don't help someone who doesn't ask for help.

I think the worse part of clippy was that it wasn't predictable. I want my tools to be predictable, I want to have complete mental model of what will happen when I do sth. And it should be as small model, as possible.

Clippy appeared at random intervals interrupting me, and almost never were useful. And even if it was - I can only guess what caused it to appear, so I still won't know how to make it do the same thing again. So I couldn't integrate it into my mental model of application.

So it was just very infuriating interruption.

The same problem is with autocorrect. I hate this thing.

> Don't help someone who doesn't ask for help.

I never understood this attitude.

IF (and only if) your help would very likely be useful and you know how to approach the person, then, why not?

As for the software angle, Clippy was indeed dumb and rarely offered useful help (partially because, as one of the comments above states, some boss forced engineers to replace a good algorithm with a more business suitable algorithm). But in general, I subscribe to the idea that software should be less interactive and guess more (and let you correct it, if the guesses were wrong).

The thing is the even if your help is useful (which you don't know), helping someone who doesn't ask for it will most likely hurt his pride.

Google Navigation doesn't announce reroutes, it just continues with the new directions. I think you may be overstating the problem.

I think in this case, that behavior is actually just the solution the parent was looking for.

The thing about Clippy was that he was inserted in what was supposed to be a working word processor.

If he'd appear in something less formal, like a video game or a quirky website where I just came to goof off and play with animated doodads, I might have had a different impression of him.

And further, he appeared when a tool that was suppose to accomplish a specific task failed and he then proceeded to fail to be useful. Mostly, he appeared where the index to help menu was suppose to be. I generally knew the topic I wanted help on and Clippy wasn't it. Under those circumstances, you really couldn't help but want to rip his guts out and shove them down his throat.

But hey, that was then. Maybe all is forgiven...

Not condescending, easy to dismiss, still helpful:

I think you are writing a letter. Is there any way I can help you with that?

Take it easy.

Ooh, Microsoft Agent support in JavaScript!

I had a lot of fun playing with the MSAgent API as a kid.

Microsoft Agent was pretty cool. Not terribly useful, but there's a huge variety of available agents. It had text-to-speech as well as voice recognition. You could completely programatically control it.

Internet Explorer even supported MSAgent in the browser. There were a few sites that used it for various fun animations or greetings cards. Perhaps this could make them usable again.

In fact, you could also use it in PowerPoint to add an agent to your presentations. That was fun.

Me too! I have even drawn and assembled my own character in this "ACE" editor MS has published...

Anyway, I think it was a great technology -- it could work perfect just as a async-capable and timeout-dismissable replacement of all those stacked messageboxes and dialogs Office uses, and they made it a fancy help search box :-(

MsAgent was awesome, I had a lot of fun in high school with a tool called Vox Proxy[1] which added tons of different higher-level agent controls to powerpoint.

[1] http://www.voxproxy.com/

What's the difference between Clippy and Siri? Maybe it's just that Siri is out of the way until you call her, but Clippy was always there, commenting on what you were doing, judging you.

Maybe Agents would've taken off if you had to press the Windows key or something to summon them.

Siri tries very hard to be a true "agent"; that is, the makers of the technology strived to make Siri something that would perform tasks on your behalf and at your command.

Clippy was also intended to be an "Agent", but it failed spectacularly at it because:

1. It tried to help you when you didn't want help, like an annoying intern who won't leave you alone.

2. When you actually wanted it to help you, it was invariably unable to perform the tasks you wanted.

Spriting is very common. For example, here's how the Facebook logo on the homepage is rendered: https://s-static.ak.fbcdn.net/rsrc.php/v1/yO/r/_2cdInypv2b.p...

Makes sense I guess. Interesting that it's not a gif you mean? Using sprites means it has nothing else to load when changing animations, saves that jarring load.

Fascinating. I assumed they were animated gifs.

Perfect project to get some attention/traffic to their actual product. Not hating at all, just saying that it's a good move. Made me check out their project because I wanted to know what else these guys are up to.

Oh my god that cat is so much cuter than any of the 3D-rendered assistants. The "GetArtsy" animation makes me so happy to watch with how it plays with the fourth wall.

Is there a Google Docs plugin for this?

kill it - with fire!

It reminds me of my now aged mother shouting at me down the phone "how do I get rid of that little bastard paper clip that pops up and tells me what I should be doing every 2 seconds".

The designer of Clippy gave a speech at ROFLCon a few years ago and gave some insight into how Clippy came about. There's a video of it here http://blip.tv/roflcon/it-looks-like-you-are-giving-a-keynot...

This makes me super happy. I would like to add some sort of dialogue tree support to it.

Sung to the tune of "Hells Bells" by AC/DC

    I'm rolling suggestions, pouring pain
    I'm coming on like a hurricane
    My avatar's flashing across the sky
    You're not young but you're gonna die
    I won't take no users, won't spare no lives
    Document's putting up a fight
    I got my clip I'm gonna take you to hell
    I'm gonna get ya, Clippy get ya

    Hells bells
    Hells bells, you got me ringing
    Hells bells, my temperature's high
    Hells bells

    I'll give you black sensations up and down your spine
    If you're into evil, you're a friend of mine

I going to burn karma here, but obligatory comedy video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Rl5SOuq6-g

Sadly disappointed that Bonzi Buddy didn't make a cameo.

We need bonzi buddy. It was the first thing I installed on my reformatted pc everytime my whole family loved him.

I've wanted this for a long time! I can't wait to code this, as a joke, into one of my sites and have clippy popup on a few key words.

I was hoping someone would make this, so I didn't have to. I have a feeling we'll see this turn up a lot sometime around 4/1/13.

Come next April 1st this is going to be everywhere

And it can't come soon enough :o)

"I see you're sending an email. Would you like help with that?"

Oh cool, didn't realize the bold, italic, underline, undo and redo buttons work in the header. Well done! ;)

copyright lawyer invasion in 3...2...

Also worth noting there are several patents relating to Microsoft Agent.

e.g. http://www.google.co.uk/patents/US5682469 http://www.google.co.uk/patents/US5880731

I noticed you're filing a patent suit, would you like help with that?

Alternatively, the judge sees the suit and laughs Microsoft out of court.

Cute. Potential lawsuit. Confusing name choice. [Clippy][1] is already a thing. It's the open source 'copy to clipboard' swf by mojombo.

[1]: https://github.com/mojombo/clippy

Right but Microsoft would have been first right?

one of the few things I've been searching for is oneko.js. seeing this, I have new found hope.

as for clippy, it would be more entertaining if it made suggestions when someone typed something in a text field, or so I would think..

This is the first time I haven't tried to knock it off my screen immediately.

Are Clippy and co. property of MS or free to be used freely?

I feel so much more at home! In... 1998.

Actually it looks better than the real one!

What kind of sick person would do this?

Looks pretty cool for a Konami code easter egg :)

Or as an IE6-8 only "feature" ;)

Nostalgia is a hell of a drug.

Just Wow!

this is great. "print" is especially horrifying.

no. No. NO. Just no.

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