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The Human Factor

“If one measures success by equipment performance alone,” raves a recent MIT News Office puff piece, then MIT-designed voting technology struck a telling blow for democracy in the backwater banana republic of Florida. Never mind if Floridians didn’t have quite the same rosy view of the situation, since their sparkling voting-booths-of-the-future didn’t open until noon. It turns out that the staff was so befuddled by all of the technological gadgetry that they couldn’t find the “on” switch.

What a great parable for all of us techies: no matter how clever your engineering is, success is never measured by equipment performance alone. All engineering problems are fundamentally human problems, and human usability is the only real measure of success.

Jacob Eisenstein G