The Gestalt OctopOSS

The whole is other than the sum of the parts
Kurt Koffka

Early proponents of Gestalt Theory like Koffka indicated that humans perceive a whole solution (eg water) quickly and intuitively before taking the time to consider the constituent parts (eg rain drops, water molecules, etc). The 80/20 rule of human perception??

User Interfaces generally adhere to Gestalt Design whether the designer knows it or not. Pull-down menus adhere to the Law of Proximity clustering similar pages/functions together into sub-categories.

GUI design elegance notwithstanding, can OSS tools be enhanced by knowing these laws, or even through contradiction by knowing how to break these laws?

For example, can the user experience of alarm visualisation be enhanced through the use of the Law of Similarity by showing critical alarms in a single colour on a map? They often do (ie critical = red, major = orange, minor = yellow/green). Or by showing alarms from certain domains as a special icon on the map? This is more often used on network diagrams than alarm presentation.

Or using the Law of Common Fate to quickly drag selected icons into a widget that visualises their related data within a common view?

Or the Law of Synchrony to visualise correlations in time-based data sets (eg root-cause analysis)?

Or the Law of Connected Elements to tag and visualise correlations in alarms / events?

Or going beyond alarm filters and using the Law of Proximity to group related elements?

Can we gather previously separated data sets (eg performance counters, alarms, syslog reports, equipment types, ticket status, etc) and join them via a linking key (eg a network element) to give a more comprehensive, multi-dimensional view that is like looking at an ocean as opposed to a shower of rain-drops?

All these laws are nifty ideas for data visualisation. But the genius comes from knowing what/when/where to bundle disparate sets of data so that they jump out of the page/screen and deliver Gestalt enlightenment.

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