Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Can't get no satisfaction...

Okay, I’m awake and stumbling about the house. I have my coffee in hand and the cat is back from her nightly exile in the garage. She is currently patting down her bed space under the desk and wasn’t the least bit interested in a couple of rounds of ‘cat wrestling’. Oh, well. She would have lost anyway.

According to the headlines, ‘patriotism’ or its lack thereof, has become the subject du jour for the candidates. One can only hope that some maturity will prevail and they can move on to more worthy subjects. Subjects that actually matter.

And I was reading, as I usually do, the daily post from Times Goes By and the subject (computers) was one that I had been thinking about as I sipped my coffee and waited for my computer to load Firefox. And waited. Some more.

I have an older computer; it happens. But what irritates me is the fact that we really haven’t made any great progress in computer technology during the past 5 years. The same 5 years that has passed since I bought this computer. If I were to buy a new one today, it would be, essentially, the same as the old one. Even the operating system would be the same. What’s with that?

Apple or a pc, it wouldn’t make any difference. Neither one of the OS camps has done anything to move the technology forward.

Crabby Old Lady was writing about her frustration with the new Firefox and I am sympathetic. Oh, I like Firefox 3.0; when compared to IE7. But that doesn’t mean that I really ‘like’ it. It doesn’t work the way I want it to, but I have to change and not the software. It should be the other way around.

And that reminds me of my previous life; as an intermediary between users and programmers. The company I worked for developed their own software because they wanted software that fit the user’s needs. Made sense. And since I had a lengthy career background as a ‘user’ and I also had a recent career as a programmer, I was selected to present the users needs to the software developers. I was the translator.

It was an eye opening experience. Programmers/developers don’t like users. Most of my requests were greeted with laughter and derision. And it was universal; all of the programmers I met, both in and out of our own company, had the same attitude. So you can imagine how prevalent that attitude is when you put hundreds of programmers together; in corporations such as Microsoft and Apple. And so, after 3 years of working with our developers, we ended up with software that satisfied no one. Yet, the original goal was to satisfy the USER!


  1. Many years ago, just past the dawn of the commercial internet, I tried to buy a a book on a big-name book retailer's site. The instructions on each page of the process read like a computer manual, were placed in strange places on the page and I got caught in a loop that never got me to the actual purchase button. I had to give up.

    As fate would have it, shortly thereafter, I found myself in the office of a vice president of the company discussing the possibility of my joining the firm as content director.

    In our conversation, I mentioned my difficulty in trying to buy a book on their website. The vice president told me she was aware of the problem, but - well, you know, programmers aren't very good at writing or page design.

    As politely as I could (it was, even if they had recruited me, a job interview), I asked why producers and designers were not creating the user pages.

    "Oh," said the vice president, "the programmers would never allow that."

    Wondering how any content director/editor could function if a vice president was afraid of the programmers, after a decent interval, I excused myself.

    The company has since overcome the early tyranny of the programmers, and has been a major web presence for many years. But I wonder, in relation to your point about the lack of progress in computer technology, if it is hangover of that tyranny - in addition, that is, to your well-taken point that programmers don't like users.

  2. Good story. Especially true concerning design. Some of my most frustrating moments came when I tried to convince programmers to focus on the 'program' and I would take care of the design. Little things like color and content. But since the 'boss' didn't really know what the programmers function was, he would usually side with them; after all, they were the experts!

  3. And it still happens today. Budget concerns will tell the CFO that it makes sense for the programmer to do the design. Two for the price of one, right?