What is the most important thing to the average computer user? They want their machine to "just work". Why does Google know how to correctly translate a United Parcel Service tracking number, while the actual UPS website requires multiple entries just to get to the point where the tracking number can be entered? Programmer David Platt is the author of "Why Software Sucks...and What You Can Do About It". He discusses his findings with Phil, Matt, and Scott.
Platt believes that much of the problem is related to poor design, with not enough consideration for the end user. For example, he considers open source to be software written for other programmers, of little interest to the typical computer user. He also believes that blaming a particular operating system does little to solve the problem. He talks about the number of programmers who drive cars with manual transmissions to better illustrate how different the programmer thinks compared to other people.
While average users are expected to use the computer as an everyday tool, programmers too often produce software that has poor functionality, especially compared to other devices used to perform other routine tasks. People go to Home Depot to find something that makes a hole, not to learn every little thing about drills before they can make the holes.
One of the other major problems is that software is too often marketed to enterprises rather than individuals, and that constant updates are meant to convince companies to regularly upgrade, with little or no thought given to the end user.
The discussion is both enlightening and entertaining. While Platt believes the problem can be solved, he thinks it won't happen unless software designers change their point of view to better consider the needs of the end user.
David S. Platt teaches Programming .NET at Harvard University and at companies all over the world. He was selected by Microsoft as one of their Software Legends, which you can read about at www.softwarelegends.com. He has taught classes on ACORD insurance standards since the very first OLifE class in 1995. He is the author of many programming books, most recently Introducing Microsoft .NET, 3rd Edition from Microsoft Press. "He's the only guy I know that can actually make an article on COM's apartment threading model funny," said Tana Sabatino.
Dave holds the Master of Engineering degree from Dartmouth College. He did his undergraduate work at Colgate University. When he finishes working, he spends his free time working some more. He wonders whether he should tape down two of his daughter's fingers so she learns how to count in octal. (Check them, has he done it yet?) He lives in Ipswich, MA.
This free podcast is from our Technometria with Phil Windley series.