Gear bit usability


I’ve run into some issues with the gear bits; figured it was worth posting here about them.

  1. I can’t always tell at a glance which way they’re pointing. That may be because I’m partly color-blind; I haven’t seen anyone else mention this issue, so it may just be me. But for me, the pointy part doesn’t stick out far enough from behind the gear tooth to be clearly visible.

I was going to suggest just making the pointy part longer, but now I see that that might mess with the slope of the two ramps that make up that pointy part, or it might throw the balance of the piece off. So another option might be just to make the pointy part be behind a gap between gear teeth, rather than behind a gear tooth.

Making the pointy part a different color from the gear teeth would probably also help, but I’m guessing that would be prohibitively difficult from a manufacturing point of view.

  1. I found the instructions around the high-friction washers confusing, for several reasons: (a) I’m not used to the word “washer” applying to a piece of flexible plastic; (b) they didn’t seem very high-friction (so I wasn’t sure that the little rubber rings were what was being referred to); © at the point where they’re introduced, we don’t know about connecting more than two gear bits, so the stuff about using a washer when connecting only two gear bits confused me (in particular, I wasn’t sure whether two gear bits and a gear counted as two or three); (d) I wasn’t entirely clear on exactly where/how to attach the washers, though the image helped with that.

  2. I also found the washers hard to remove from the board, after placing them.

  3. Even with the washers, I feel like the gear bits sometimes get into an only-partially-flipped state.

It sounds from various discussions here like you’re thinking of getting rid of the washers entirely in a future release; if so, then you can ignore all this about the washers entirely. But if the washers are going to stick around, then what would you think of incorporating them into the gear bits themselves, rather than making them a separate thing?

  1. Even after using gear bits in a couple of challenges, it wasn’t entirely clear to me for a while what computational structures they corresponded to. I didn’t have a clear conceptual grasp on them, so I wasn’t sure for a while whether to use them in any given challenge or not. But I think you said in another thread that someone is writing material about that sort of thing, so I imagine this will be resolved in a future version.

But even so, it didn’t occur to me on my own that gear bits could be used to physically extend the reach of a bit; the challenge that relies on that concept is the one challenge so far where I’ve had to give up and look at the answer.

And I’m still not entirely clear on whether various configurations and orientations of gear bits have the same effect as each other.

So maybe adding another relatively simple challenge or two focusing on the various uses of gear bits (sometime not too long after their introduction) might be helpful.

  1. I ran into some minor issues around placing gears and gear bits on the board, and placing other pieces around them; for example, (a) if I want to put a crossover next to a red gear, I have to place the crossover first, because after the gear is in place, the gear gets in the way and prevents me from placing the crossover; and (b) it sometimes takes a little jostling of gear bits and gears to get the gear teeth to sync up and to avoid a situation where I place two connected gear bits but they turn out not to pointing in quite the same direction.

OK, I think that’s all. None of these issues are terrible, but they all contributed a bit to my finding the gear bits a bit less easy to use than the other kinds of pieces.