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Nomadic Tendencies

"The future came and went in the mildly discouraging way that futures do."

  • Neil Gaiman, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

If there is one thing that shows the immaturity of the software industry (relative to other industries) it's the ever present need to jump to the next big technology. Tales of "leaving X for Y" dot the path from one trend to the next. "I'm so much more productive in Y over X" is the battle cry of the newly indoctrinated acolytes of Y. Vast swathes of half finished, abandoned open source projects written in X collect dust in their respective repositories sitting alongside new shiny half-finished, soon to be abandoned open source projects written in Y. And the industry marches on.

And yet most software that we use is still awful. It still exhibits the same problems, it still breaks in the most unpredictable ways and it leaves people as angry and frustrated as ever.

But I guess that's to be expected. If we regularly reinvent everything in "the next big thing" when do we ever find time to refine anything? The industry marches on, but the industry never moves. Like a perpetual early beta phase our systems are built up just enough before we tear them down and rewrite them in something new. Even enterprises, who tend to move much slower and are therefore buffered from smaller fluctuations in trend, suffer from the same problems at a different scale.

Ultimately this behavior puts the focus on the technology and how it can make our systems better. Our users are once more second class citizens because what we want is somehow more important (and who needs users anyway when people are throwing millions at pointless smoke and mirror apps).

But the problem is not the technology.

The problem is that we are in love with our tools when we should be in love with our users. We need to talk to our users more and less to our peers. Spend less time on Hacker News debating stuff you only partially understand and try and get a better insight into how you can use your current, very pedestrian, technology stack to genuinely improve the lives of your users.

Published in Random on July 24, 2014