July 26, 2023
One of the great things about social media is the opportunity to keep up with what is going on with family and friends. Sometimes you can offer an encouraging word, sometimes all you can do is silently encourage. It is nice to hear about the good things happening as well. Occasionally one of these “status updates” really strikes a chord with me, such as the plea by one of our extended family’s smartest people for help in resolving formatting problems with a doctoral thesis. The topic of the thesis is not important to this discussion, but I was struck by the need of a brilliant, well-educated scientist for assistance with an almost universally used piece of software — software that you use; software I use to write this blog. A program I have been using for over twenty years that keeps “improving” every few years — whether we need it to or not. And that is the basis for my beef with the software industry. Are you really improving the product or just churning the customers for more cash? Recent “upgrades” have, in my opinion, made the program more difficult to use with no corresponding improvement in capability. The auto complete function and spell check feature are almost worthless for technical writing. At random times the program seems to reformat my text and resist efforts to reset the defaults. Why not find other ways to capture revenue? Perhaps by adding or restoring features that would enhance the writing experience instead of complicating it? Earlier versions, for example, had a “fog index” that would analyze a block of text for “readability” by grade level. It disappeared a few “upgrades” ago, yet the silly — and often erroneous — comments on “passivity” remain. The best minds in code writing cannot differentiate between “affect” and “effect?” Surely we can do better than this! One of the best things about the gear trade has been the longevity of product lines. You build a product you are proud of and people continue to buy it 10, 20, even 30 years after launch. This allows you to truly practice “continuous improvement” — well- designed products that can be upgraded without loss of functionality. Think Porsche 911 not 1950’s American cars with ever-changing fins and chrome.