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The process of recognizing and reacting to circumstances that are relevant to an event. It is taken so much for granted by humans that computers, and those who design them, seem stupid by comparison, when they fail to perform this process.
Some clues for making computers perform contextual cognition:

1. The more repeatedly the user strikes a particular keyboard key or clicks on an interface button before the computer performs the function assigned to that key or button, the more likely it is the user wants the computer to perform the function already, instead of what ever it's messing around with right now.

2. If the user continues repeatedly striking a particular keyboard key or clicking an interface button after the computer performed the function, this would be a good time to check and see whether the computer actually performed the function.

3. A user who clicks a window's title bar, while that window is in the background, doesn't want the window re-sized. He wants it to come to the foreground, and if he's done so several times, he's becoming impatient about it.

4. When a user repeats the same instruction to the computer that he gave several minutes ago, and the computer hasn't complied with it yet, the user doesn't need to be informed that two instances of that function cannot be performed at the same time. He simply needs to be reminded that he already gave that instruction. Better yet, since the computer has messed around so long that the user forgot that he already gave the instruction, this would be a good time to comply with it.

5. When an application window freezes up, its application is waiting for something else to happen. If the computer has enough resources to tell the user that the application is not responding, it has enough resources to determine what the application is waiting for and remind it to happen.

6. The user wants his typing and mouse clicks applied to the interface that was on the screen when he started typing or clicking, not to the window that popped up in front of it, so apply them to the intended interface and put back the work the user had in the popped-up window before the computer replaced it with the input meant for the previous window.

7. When the computer pops up an alert stating that a function aborted because the Internet connection has failed, and the alert only offers the choices to Work Offline and Try Again, and the user has tried several times to restore the Internet connection, don't wait until the user chooses "Try Again", to admit that the computer is already connected to the Internet. The user is waiting until the computer connects to the Internet before choosing "Try Again", because it would be senseless to try again without a connection to the Internet. It would also be nice if the computer identified which function aborted.

8. When the computer reconnects to the Internet after being disconnected, and the computer has enough awareness of that fact to react to it by alerting the user at that very moment that various functions failed due to the disconnection, then the computer has enough information that it could just as easily retry those functions at that time, instead of blathering at the user about it.

9. MyCrudSoft sWindles XP Procrastinal!!! What the heck do you mean, Keyboard failure Strike the F1 key to continue..."? Who do you think you are? MS-DOS 3.0? Grow up, already!
by Downstrike November 18, 2005
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