Do you know how to use the software you write?

During a discussion about Artificial Intelligence (AI) a colleague said he was listening to someone on the radio speaking about AI research, and their comments could be summed up by the classic Jurassic Park quote.

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn‚Äôt stop to think if they should.”

We could easily have a similar discussion about the developers of software products aimed at DBAs and developers. I’m guessing the developers of feature X in the database aren’t DBAs or database developers in the sense that we usually use the term. Sounds kind-of obvious, but I think it’s important. When those developers are working on the new whizz-bang feature, are they really thinking about the knock-on effect of that? I don’t mean that in a bad way. I’m just saying the focus of those developers may be very different to that of the DBAs and developers the resulting product is being used by.

I’ve said it a bunch of times, but Oracle Cloud means Oracle has becoming the single biggest consumer of their own products. That continues to have a profound impact on the products. Call it, “eating your own dog food”, or “drinking your own champagne”, the result is the same. I’m hoping the feedback loop is more efficient and “louder” now than it was. ūüôā

I look after the infrastructure of a bunch of systems I know nothing about. I build them, deploy software to them, and in some cases I can log into them, but there are very few I actually know how to use. I sometimes get calls about things and I’m super honest about what I can and can’t do. I say things like, “I can turn it off and on, but I don’t have a clue how to use the application!” I think that’s quite common. Once a product grows above a certain size, there’s no way someone will be able to understand all of it. If you are managing multiple products, there is no way you can understand them all.

So when the next version of product X is released and you say to yourself, “Why the heck have they done that?”, the answer may be the team thought it was a good idea, even though you as the user of their product think it’s pointless… ūüôā

Cheers

Tim…

Annoying your user base never pays off!

lego-face-angryThis post is heavily inspired by the events of #RIPTwitter and the recent Fine Brothers fiasco, but it could apply to just about any company, product or person. When I say user base, I could easily mean customers or fan base.

There is a tendency for success to breed a certain level of arrogance. I think many of us have fallen victim to that in a small way from time to time. Now magnify¬†the level success you might have encountered by several orders of magnitude and I think you will start to realise how disconnected most successful people and companies can become. As you become more disconnected, the normal feedback mechanisms start to break down. You are surrounded by hangers on who act like¬†everything you say is the word of God.¬†Without those feedback mechanisms holding you in check, it’s easy to spiral out of control. We see it again and again with popstars and actors. Recently we’ve seen examples of this in social media, as mentioned earlier.

In addition, companies are in the¬†difficult position of having to be¬†seen to grow and develop. If a company stands still, everyone, including the shareholders, believe they are dying.¬†Balancing the needs of the shareholders and the user base is not an easy thing. Having said that, annoying your user base never pays off. Even if you think you’ve got away with it, it’s filed away¬†ready to be resurrected the next time you annoy them. Twitter and the Fine Brothers¬†have had the equivalent of an extramarital affair. As a result, some will choose to leave. Some will stay, pretending they can forgive and forget, but in reality it’s all just been stored in the bank for use later.

As I said at the start, this could be a post about any number of products, people or companies. It doesn’t matter who it is targeted at, the message is the same.

You can only kick a dog so many times before it bites back!

Cheers

Tim…