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Pet Peeves

Originally published junio 18, 2009

Everyone is entitled to at least one loose bird in their cranium. You just can’t go through the bureaucracy and the tedium of life without having one or two loose feathers fly out into the heather.

My good friend Ted Van Duyn, formerly an executive at BMC Systems in Houston, Texas, has a thing about tables. His tables must not wobble. They must remain as stable as the Washington Monument. Ted tolerates a lot of other stuff that is not nearly as stable as his tables. But when it comes to his tables, they must be rock solid.

So everyone is entitled to one or two loose feathered idiosyncrasies. And there is no law or penalty or an idiosyncrasy policeman that is there to blow the whistle and arrest you. You are entitled to a few idiosyncrasies as long as they do not offend or hurt anyone.

One of my idiosyncrasies is that I have an issue with software companies that take a product, rearrange the functionality, require us to go through a learning curve, and sell it to us as new and improved. (Microsoft Vista developers – are you listening? Probably not.)

Software vendors have a tendency to take a perfectly acceptable piece of software, one that a massive amount of people have come to know and operate, and rearrange it. For the world, I can’t see that it does anything new. I can’t see any new functionality. Instead, we have rearranged existing functionality with a new logo, a new name, and a claim that it is an “improvement.” And I have to pay more money for this so called “improvement.” And I have to go through a new learning curve. What am I paying for – a new logo? Now features that once were obvious and straightforward are hidden and require two to three times as many clicks of the mouse as they used to require. All the functionality is rearranged and we call this progress. I am sorry. This is marketing and a scheme to generate more money for the software vendor at my expense without really doing anything substantively different.

In another world, this would be called a shell game.

And that’s pet peeve number one. But there are more.

Pet peeve number two (which is distantly related to pet peeve number one) is what network programmers do when reconfiguring the network.

It used to be that once or twice a month I would walk into the office and my network wouldn’t work. This always happened on a Monday.

I would walk in and try to see what was going on with my email and the Internet. I would get a message of invalid password or unknown address. Or, the computer simply wouldn’t turn on. As far as I was concerned, everything was the same as I had left it on Friday; but now it was Monday and nothing worked.

Then, I’d call the network manager to be told that over the weekend we had had a “reconfiguration.” I was told that the network was all “better.” The only problem was that nothing worked. I couldn’t get my email. I couldn’t get on the Internet. Instead of being better, the network had had a nuclear meltdown, as far as I was concerned.

The network manager sent a technician down to my office and in half an hour or so I was back to where I started from. There always seemed to be an inside joke between the network manager and the technician that was never shared with me. Or if it was shared with me, I didn’t get the joke. But I didn’t need to worry, everything was “better.”

Now, I don’t object to network maintenance. I know that it needs to be done. And I don’t object to having an interruption of my service occasionally. I understand that. What I object to is saying that because of the maintenance everything is going to be “better.” No one could ever explain “better” to me. Did being better mean that the network would run faster? I never noticed an appreciable increase in speeds. Did better mean we could access new nodes? I never noticed the ability to access new networks. Did better mean that I had an easier time getting on my machine? Not my machine.

But every time I asked network management why there was the constant interruption in service, I was assured that things would be “better.” Except no one could tell me what in the world was “better.” Why was I being subjected to these constant interruptions when the end result was the same as it was before things were “better”?

If you can’t tell me why things are better, then stop bringing down the system and disabling my computer. The system is decidedly not better when it doesn’t work.

So those are two of my pet peeves. Software vendors that reshuffle functionality and create new learning curves for me then charge me for it and network technicians that constantly disable my account and tell me that things are better when they can’t tell me what has changed.

Maybe I just feel picked on.

Look out for loose feathers littering the ground.

SOURCE: Pet Peeves

  • Bill InmonBill Inmon

    Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations.

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