Sunday, April 20, 2008

Software doesn't matter?

The kid published tonight a post in which he stated that the software doesn't matter, it's the final result that people achieve with the software that does matter and that software will not make things happen if users are not set up to so good software's main quality is not being in the users way towards their goal.

While I very much agree with the first part, there are some things I would put in a different light for the second.

Indeed, nowadays software is just a tool (like almost everything in the world, actually): no one makes software for the software, or maybe some computer scientists in some laboratory -- that's the main difference between computer science and software and that's why I love the latter. We build software to help people do something, as good as we can, as good as they can: we give our best to create the best software we can to help people take maximum advantage of their possibilities.

And now we get to the second part: is the software that does not stand in your way the best software?

On one hand:
Is your friend that never criticize you your best friend? If we look at the question with user eyes, yes, it's most of the times like that: regular users generally don't have a particular attraction to learning new things and dealing with "the damn computer" or "the stupid software". I say that the software has to have an opinion, its purpose is to show the user "the good way" into computers and to help him getting better and better every day (remember, as good as they can), even against his/her will.
Our job is to really implement "the good way", to make sure our software does not create bad user habits or doesn't cultivate them, au contraire. There are situations when we have to take risks, we have to implement the good way even if everybody will hate us for it (that sounds so socially familiar) and nobody will use the software hence we'll get no money -- like persisting in caring for web standards when users use the browser that doesn't implement them . It might pay off at one point in the future, in which case we'll take the pride (and money) of being amongst the chosen few pioneers, it might not.

On the other hand:
Building a software that just doesn't stay in the way of it's users , isn't it a little too low for an aim? Why just that when we can do more? Yes, we start with that as a basis, always, we need to sell our software, people have to love it but let's set our minds to amaze them, user just satisfaction should be at the other end of the feature list. Why not propose to make the user fall in love with the software and do things he had never done before and go places he had never gone before?  (that sounds socially familiar, again) Achieving this is a challenge, we have to take it and use it as a doorway to slip into our souls, both as users and developers, the joy of going beyond what we used to call "our limits".

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