Computer vira in general, and the technically impressive Stuxnet virus* in particular, provide important lessons interface designers should take to heart - instead of following the design guidelines of spammers.
The interface lesson of spam is as follows
Throw a lot of shit out there, and the users will self-selectSpam is sent to a generous multiple of the users it actually works for, in the sense that they react to it. The reason this works is that the spammer does not pay for our attention.
The interface lesson of computer vira, on the other hand, is the converse
Stay low, stay out of sight, until you have a high chance of successIf a virus is very obnoxious, disinterested users are quickly annoyed by it, and inoculation - in the form of signature files for antivirus software - quickly develops. Stuxnet is an extreme example of this, going to great lengths to stay out of the way except where the intended target - Iranian nuclear facilities controlled by specific Siemens industrial control software - was found.
Your software is better if it operates on a virus theory of interface design, than a spam theory of interface design. Err on the side of no interaction, if you're not sure the interaction will be useful.
Posted by Claus at June 30, 2011 02:16 PM
* it's a worm. I know. To the normals, everything is a "virus".