Thursday, August 23, 2007

Computer programming awards

The Good:
When I searched a thesaurus site for the word "pattern", it showed me Google ads for anti-baldness treatment - in Hebrew. I'm quite impressed that they manage to detect where I am, and come up with a non-obvious but sensible targeted offer based on the word I looked for. (Of course, what's even better is that I've set up my home computer to block ads on web pages, so outside work I wouldn't see the ad at all. And no I'm not going bald.)

The Bad:
Whenever I log out of any of the Microsoft Windows computers in my lab, it forgets all the settings that I have changed. Or rather, it intentionally overrides them when I log in again. Thus, every time I log in and start up my usual programs, I need to deal with at least 15 (literally, I wrote up a list) popups and questions and error messages until the system gets to a basic state of usability. Everything from the web browser warning me that it's dangerous to search Google, to the simulation program forgetting where to store temporary files, to Microsoft Office trying to install its stupid paper clip (which somehow wasn't installed the first time, but even if it was, I would have had to turn it off every time). The first time you log in this annoyance is expected. The 30th time, it's just ridiculously frustrating.

The common thread in my Good and Bad is that they aren't questions of brilliant cutting-edge innovation, but simply of having a tiny bit of thoughtfulness in the design process. The lesson can be summarized very simply: Lazy people make crap. People who care may not be smarter, but are conscientious enough to make good products. And guess which I prefer to use.

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