Peanut Gallery: Software As Entertainment in 2007

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007

About two months ago there was a huge flame up about Disco, and a huge blogstorm happened. One of the articles was by Paul Kafasis of Rogue Amoeba, called Software as Entertainment. Go ahead, read it. I’m not sure why, but it stuck with me; which is why when I found Peanut Gallery, I just had to write about it in the context of entertainment.

Peanut Gallery is a cool looking application, at first glance. Voice chat during a movie! That sounds actually really useful and interesting, like something I might use. Then, you get to the gimmick. Oh lordy, the gimmick. You see, Peanut Gallery contains fully animated 3D avatars that you can use to convey emotion while you chat away. Think Comic Chat, but with silly 3D models. Throw in a nice MST3k visual tip of the hat / rip off, and you’ve got a garish, unprofessional looking interface.

Why would someone trample all over a perfectly good application like this? The question puzzled me for a long time. I think I’ve finally come up with an answer: People think that software needs to be “fun”. Disco is a a good example of this. There’s no point to the smoke on the window, it’s just a gimmick and adds kitsch. Same thing with these avatars: they’re designed to make the program seem shiny and fun to use, when in fact, they decrease usability significantly.

Unfortunately, I can only see this sort of thing, especially on the Mac, becoming even more prevalent in the coming year. It’s no surprise that Mac developers are developing ideas like this when Apple is pulling out genuis UIs like this one.

Peanut Gallery itself though, is not all bad. It’s just another failed child of the Delicious Generation, and I’m sad to see development time having been wasted on a gimmick by obviously talented programmers.


  1. Stephen Holt replied on January 22nd, 2007:

    So, I’m thinking of reviving aBlog, but revising the interface so that it looks like a book and each entry is a page on that book, and each blog you’re subscribed to is a book on a shelf.

    Oh, and there’s a pink “My Little Pony┬«” on the bookshelves next too.