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Clippy dead - news at 11.
April 11, 2001 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Clippy dead - news at 11. Anyone who has had to deal with "Clippy" in Microsoft's Office products will appreciate this new spin Microsoft is placing on the animated character.
posted by milnak (29 comments total)

 
I think its great to see Microsoft taking shots at themselves. Everyone has been saying how much they hate the paperclip for so long and Microsoft did spin it all in a positive direction for themselves. My favorite part was the comment on Microsoft B.O.B. I had totally forgotten about that mess.
posted by stew560 at 11:16 AM on April 11, 2001


Yes, funny, until...this rollover. Haven't we seen this enough yet?
posted by starvingartist at 11:18 AM on April 11, 2001


Actually, if you look at the whois record, it's not an official MS site of any kind.
posted by mathowie at 11:22 AM on April 11, 2001


There was an article in The New Yorker a year or two ago by a writer who worked on a writer's app for Microsoft. I don't remember too many of the details, but if memory serves, he was required to sign a bunch of confidentiality agreements, including one not to disclose the name of the person who came up with the Office paper-clip.

(I could be conflating different parts of the story, but that's how I remember it.)
posted by MarkAnd at 11:33 AM on April 11, 2001


The registrant is Catalysis.com, a PR whozimawhatizit, that has done work on MS stuff before. I think it's pretty clever.
posted by rschram at 11:34 AM on April 11, 2001


Well, making fun of Microsoft seems to be the only part of the computer industry that Microsoft hasn't tried to corner.

Yet.
posted by harmful at 11:36 AM on April 11, 2001


Isn't it evil that they can make fun of themselves, and we therefore forgive their trespasses? Kinda like the "it's just a joke" defense. It is actually PR at its most cleverly sinister.
posted by thebigpoop at 11:41 AM on April 11, 2001


According to The Economist magazine, Eric Horvitz is the paperclip's creator. He originally programmed some rather nifty Bayesian algorithms to make it smart and useful, but someone wanted it to be a more 'prominent' feature. Thus, a far cruder algorithm was substituted, giving us the sinister metal being we deal with today.
posted by Dane at 12:04 PM on April 11, 2001


I actually read something not so long ago in print about the inventor of the paperclip... now, where was it?

Ah, yes.

Originally, he programmed the paperclip to use Bayesian decision-making techniques both to determine when to pop up, and to decide what advice to offer...

The paperclip's problem is that the algorithm (sequence of programming steps) that determined when it should appear was deemed too cautious. To make the feature more prominent, a cruder non-Bayesian algorithm was substituted in the final product, so the paperclip would pop up more often.


Microsoft are good at this PR judo: there's the ads with the BSOD saying "Win2000/XP crashes less". Well, thanks.

Anyway, I abandoned Word in 1997.
posted by holgate at 12:04 PM on April 11, 2001


"Great minds think alike, fools seldom differ."
posted by holgate at 12:05 PM on April 11, 2001


Yes, thebig... kind of like what "W" is doing...
posted by ParisParamus at 12:05 PM on April 11, 2001


You know, I know it's completely taken for granted that all savvy computer users hate the Office Assistants, but I used to be a consultant when they first came out, and all my end-users loved them. These folks spent all day in Word and Excel, and being able to get easy help that was also (to them) amusing seemed like a great idea.

I wonder if this isn't just pandering to the curmedgeonly software reviewers and the computing elite, because there are another 75 million Office users (or whatever the number is) who might actually like the thing.

Of course, I'm biased because I use the little dog instead of the default paper clip. Also, looks like there's a clippy easter egg in Office XP.

http://www.activewin.com/articles/2001/clippy.shtml
posted by anildash at 12:05 PM on April 11, 2001


Of course, if they get rid of Clippy, how will we ever be able to write these?
posted by darren at 12:10 PM on April 11, 2001


There was an article in The New Yorker a year or two ago by a writer who worked on a writer's app for Microsoft

MarkAnd -- it was James Fallows writing in The Atlantic.
posted by briank at 12:11 PM on April 11, 2001


I must say, that was extremely bizarre.
posted by Dane at 12:13 PM on April 11, 2001


Funny story about Clippy. May or may not be true, but I heard it from an Office PM some time ago when working at MSFT.

The original Social Agent (such as clippy or the dog) was a clown. During the initial 'Bill' (as in Bill Gates) meeting rolling out the office assistant (I believe it was part of Excel at the time) the PM in charge of demoing the app started it up. Up popped the clown.

First words out of Bill's mouth "How do I turn off the fucking clown".

At least when I was there, all the social agents were referred to as TFC.
posted by daver at 12:17 PM on April 11, 2001


Yes, funny, until...this rollover

How about this rollover?

Coincidence?
posted by smeat at 12:38 PM on April 11, 2001


It was James Fallows writing in The Atlantic

Oops. Yeah, that's right. Mea maxima culpa.
posted by MarkAnd at 12:54 PM on April 11, 2001


I liked the clip.

I know this is geek heresy and all, but it was very useful to the users who most needed help. By presenting a focal interface to the help system so people could actually use it the clip got various people to stop calling me once a day asking me how to italicize text. As for the rest (read: minority) of us, I haven't met a single person who whined about the paperclip who wasn't capable of turning it off if they so desired.
posted by faisal at 12:55 PM on April 11, 2001


I noticed that too, Smeat. It kind of weirded me out for a second, until I realized that the whole "Does (X) make me look fat?" joke was already pretty stale even before I posted it. So, yeah, coincidence. You could call it The Law Of Converging Unoriginalities.
posted by Skot at 12:59 PM on April 11, 2001


While I find the clip incredibly annoying, I think it's irritating not just for what it does but what it represents. Like a lot of what Microsoft does, that damn clip took a lot of time and effort to create--much more than it is worth. It's all bells-n-whistles. It was ostensibly aimed at "making things easier", but in reality it's nothing but a pain in the ass. Basically, that clip embodies everything that people criticize Microsoft for.
posted by jpoulos at 1:15 PM on April 11, 2001


My favorite part was the comment on Microsoft B.O.B. I had totally forgotten about that mess.

Hey! Ms BOB was just way ahead of it's time. (If anyone knows where I can get this book btw...I'm very interested)
posted by samsara at 2:46 PM on April 11, 2001


The paper clip will always represent to me the deep abiding connection with Microsoft and my lack of meaningful control over the means of production.
posted by rschram at 5:32 PM on April 11, 2001


"MS Bob for Dummies"? Wow, forward that one to the Department of Redundancy Department...

I've looked online for copies of MS Bob floating around. It's amazing what you can find -- I have a copy of Visual Basic for DOS, Microsoft Works for DOS, and a few other early MS programs. I couldn't find one single copy of Bob.

Was it really that bad, that it's not even worth pirating?
posted by CrayDrygu at 7:21 AM on April 12, 2001


heheh. I've tried that as well, it's hilarious asking for it in the IRC circles:

(samsara): Hello, I'm looking for MS-BOB..
(someguy): ROTFL
(someotherguy):WTF is MS-BOB?
(samsara): It was the original GUI design for Windows 95, before they adopted the start button..
(someprick): Hey sam, try ftp://127.122.154.22 ;-)

Along with my quest to find the book, I also seriously considered creating a website for my quest on obtaining a pirated copy of the elusive MS-BOB.
posted by samsara at 8:39 AM on April 12, 2001


For those that are interested, this is where it all began.
posted by samsara at 8:54 AM on April 12, 2001


So let me get this straight...The most exciting thing about XP is the lack of a paper clip?

Yep, sounds like a Microsoft product...
posted by fooljay at 10:41 AM on April 12, 2001


Even less than that, fooljay - if you read further, you'll discover that the paperclip isn't dead at all. It's just disabled by default. You can still go into the preferences and turn it on if you really want it.

Which means that this story and the resulting excitement is about a reversal of exactly one bit in the Office executable.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:27 PM on April 12, 2001


Hehe
posted by fooljay at 1:41 AM on April 13, 2001


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