Still more IMVU comment followup: The Final Chapter (so far)

Markus Gärtner commented, in part, Actually what seems to be missing is the pride and responsibility in the software world. From my point of view I can pile up a lot of technical debt, but deliver really fast.

I’m not so sure if pride is missing. Timothy Fitz seemed to be proud of the work that he was doing. Moreover, hubris is a form of pride, and there seems to be no shortage of that in our business.

You raise an important point on technical debt. It’s bad enough for us to be running up our credit card bills, but when we don’t know how much debt we’re running up, that’s really dangerous. I see this with every company that makes a conscious decision not to test things that might be important.

You cannot expect to improve your software process by one order of a magnitude. This is unrealistic, stupid and dangerous.

Right. Apropos of that: ever noticed the claims made by the tool vendors?

Ben Simo weighs in: I think that users have become so accustomed to bad software that they don’t notice the bugs — for long. Software users are accustomed to finding workarounds and the quickest way to make errors go away.

Yes, and I think this is amazing. Part of it has to do with the magical aura that we have around computers; any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, as Arthur C. Clarke said. Magic dazzles us into non-reasoning. Here’s an example that I’ve been using for about 20 years:

You’re about to go on a trip. You take your car, which is running fine, to the mechanic for a checkup. Because he leaves work at 6:00pm, and you can’t get there until 6:30, you agree that he’ll leave your keys with the cashier at the gas bar. At 6:30 you arrive and pick up your keys. You get into the car, put the key in the ignition, and turn. Your car makes a noise (yawp!) and then suddenly goes dead. Now: is your reaction “Aw geez, I’m so lame. I’ll never understand these complicated car thingies. It must be something I did.” Or do you feel anger and resentment towards the mechanic?

It used to be that users of bad software blamed themselves, but now I think that most people simply don’t expect things to work. We’ve all become like Sam Lowry in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (the relevant scene starts at 3:34 or so in the link above, but if you haven’t seen the movie, for heaven’s sake, rent it). To top it off, when we call Central Services, we get that wonderful message: “Thank you for calling Central Services. I’m sorry due to temporary staff shortages, Central Services cannot take service calls centrally between 23:00 and 09:00 hours. Have a nice day. This has not been a recording.”

Raoul Duke: wow. you 2 are my heroes. completely how i would feel about that kind of thing. it absolutely cracks me up that you were talking to people and asking them if they found bugs when i’m sure they just were 12 year olds looking to cyber. awesome. i want to hire you all but i’m just a nobody.

Raoul, just a reminder: the pseudonym you’ve taken is one assumed by a man who wrote vigorously, at length, and, above all, clearly.

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