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"Rules for tools" is an informal set of rules that developers should keep in mind when working on interactive tools for translational clinical research. If you follow them, you will create tools that many people will use.
A presentation on this topic was given at the IMIC workshop at MICCAI 2014.

  1. You make it, I break it. [1]
  2. Your tool does not exist, until it works on my laptop with my data. [2]
  3. I am lazy. I do not like to move the mouse or to type. [3]
  4. No more than one simple parameter. [4]
  5. I have ADD. Make your algorithm fast. [5]

How To Make Algorithms Robust

  • Build a case library with 10 or more cases
  • Use half for development, cycle through the cases daily
  • Use the other half for testing


  1. tools need to be robust and function with a variety of workflows, not only the one envisioned by the developer
  2. Until then, it's an unconfirmed rumor.
  3. User friendliness:
    • Minimize the number of clicks
    • Minimize the distance my pointer has to travel
    • Have good default values for the parameter and I/O, and allow me to override.
  4. If I need more than 20 seconds to figure out how to set the parameter, I won't! See also here about the dangers of too many parameters
  5. Performance Requirements
    • ADD = attention deficit disorder
    • instantaneous is what I really want (this is where the slider comes in)
    • under a minute is good
    • 5 minutes are acceptable
    • 10 minutes or more are not