Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Why write about this topic?

This year, for the A to Z Blogging Challenge I'm posting alphabetically on topics related to software development...

I've had a fascination with computers since they first started emerging from sprawling corporate basements and took their early halting steps into people's homes back in the 70's.

As a hobbyist, my fascination was with the idea of lining up a set of instructions and then seeing them run to produce a result, a bit like watching a train running on a track.

Yes, trains fascinated me too.

As a professional, I had to leave my hobbyist anarchy behind and develop serious disciplines in my craft. I also learned for myself something a friend at university told me, though it took many years for the message to become real to me: the technology isn't really important, it's people that matter.

This series of posts contain lessons I've learned, mostly the hard way, over the years. But I don't expect to impart wisdom or change the world in a handful of blog posts. If I'm honest, my motivation is less noble and more self-indulgent than that. This is a thinly-disguised month-long rant.

The trouble is that we don't seem to have progressed much as an industry. And it frustrates me.

Sure, we have smaller, faster, more powerful devices than we could have imagined twenty years ago. I am boggled by tablets and smart phones. These would have seemed like magic in the eighties.

I can still remember the thrill of pleasure when a Star Trek game I was writing first painted a crude star map on the screen in green characters. How far we've come since then. Games have progressed, and computer animation brings undreamed of cinematic possibilities.

But somehow, the corporate IT world is still mentally stuck in the seventies. Most web applications are honestly no better than tarted-up versions of the green screen systems they replaced.

Most businesses of any size couldn't survive now without some large business systems to manage their records, but the idea of people being in charge, and freed up to be more creative, is largely a sick joke. Take a poll of office workers, and I bet you'll find in many cases that the systems are in charge, and people are relegated to little more than priestly acolytes invoking ill-understood rituals to placate the beast squatting on their desks.

There is a criminal waste of human time and missed opportunity in practically every office across the world, as people grind their teeth in frustration at the digital crap they are given to work with.

Business IT has failed to keep up with the times, and that angers me.

Rant over.


  1. Your posts may be rants, however thinly veiled, but I haven't read one yet that I didn't agree with or feel enlightned by. You have valid points and I'm glad you're sharing them.

  2. Maybe that's why what Steve Jobs did was so amazing- he backed big business dollars behind a small business mentality.

  3. We've gone from a system from which emerged leaders to a system designed to promote management and to control change.

    That means people who want to break out of the box and get things done are squashed and silenced. I want to design. I want to create. I want to make decisions and move forward!


    But, I can do it. And, people will love it!

    NO, must NOT change.

    Seriously, I think in the next 10 years I might have to create and mass distribute my own software. Any ideas? :)

  4. Jean, thanks, that makes it all worthwhile :)

    Melanie, Apple has done some pretty amazing things. My gripe is that this kind of thinking has yet to make its way into the rather humdrum world of business software.

    Diane, I've often thought about it, but I don't think the answer lies in any one specific application. I reckon the world shift will only come when we re-think how we build software in the first place.

  5. Hi Ian .. I think I probably agree with you, though I haven't been in an office situation for a while - everytime you do anything though .. the system kicks in - we need your name, your dob, your this or your that to identify you and then we can deal with what it is you want help with and we'll carry on charging you for the phone call to us ...

    End of my brief rant! Cheers Hilary


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