ROFL: Random Outbursts From Lar!


The War On Progress Bars

I don't know when it began, but it's official now: I hate computer progress bars. I don't trust them and I don't like them. They are evil and sneaky. They cheat and lie. They are damaging to productivity and the economy. They don't provide information that's in any way reliable. What's that? No. I'm still talking about computer progress bars, not Republicans, though I can certainly understand the confusion.

If you've used a computer, then I guarantee you have found yourself in at least one (but most likely both) of the following two situations:

  1. A progress bar reads something like "five seconds remaining" for well over a minute.
  2. A progress bar rockets from "one percent complete" to "99% complete" in seconds, and then takes another five minutes (or more) to fill up the remaining one percent.

All the while, your hard drive gurgles like it's being drowned. Something is happening, but you don't know what it's working on and you don't know when it will end. That's because progress bars are beholden to no background facts, despite the appearance of authority. Like Fox News.

A while ago, I used to trust progress bars. "Look at that little sliver that's left, it's almost done!" I'd think to myself as I stared at the screen. Trusting soul that I am, it took a while before I finally had enough.

Now I refuse let progress bars dictate my waiting time. The instant I see one or its equally unreliable cousins (like a cute spinning hourglass or running dinosaur) I turn away and start doing something else.

There's no standardization, no reliability, no place for accountability with computer wait time.

How to fix this? Simple. There are already mechanisms in cyberspace to let someone know of your experience. In Windows, when you encounter the inevitable inexplicable program crash, the computer asks, "Do you want to notify us?" Your first thought is "Hell yeah I'll notify ya! Do you accept middle fingers?!" You then have the option of emailing some critical info to Microsoft (presumably) so they can track the errors and fix them. And by fix I mean create an entirely new proprietary operating system for which they charge you out the ass.

What we really need is a progress bar rating system. I want something like those web pages that crowd-source insecurities. I mean the ones that say "Was this page helpful?" You can than click Yes, Maybe or No. Presumably someone is tracking all those clicks and then goes back in and fixes the pages. And by fix, I mean removes the buttons.

Here's my solution to progress bar crime: No more of this percentage crap. That tells me nothing. It could be 99% of the way to never. Wasn't that a song? Anyway, go with a real measure: time. And after it's over, the program should ask "How accurate was the progress bar?" Or it should say, "The original estimate for this event was five minutes. How long did this actually take?" Better yet, let the computer do that and feed it back to Microsoft. Then they can release a new proprietary operating system to fix it and charge us all out the ass.

After a while, we would no doubt see how much time is lost to the gap between progress bar estimates and progress bar reality. I'll bet the damage to productivity would be rival that done by dumbass Farmville.

It's time to hold progress bars accountable!

Larry Nocella writes The Semi-True Adventures of Lar blog at He's the author of the novel Where Did This Come From? The world's first CarbonFree(R) novel according to The book is available on as a paperback and Kindle eBook. It is also available for other eBook readers.