Skip to main content

Giving the customers what they want

I do not believe that I am an elitist, but at the same time, I wonder about that phrase. To me, it implies an abdication of responsibility. Which is better: to give the customer what he asks for or to solve the real problem?

Here is what I mean. Occasionally, someone asks me for some tool/gadget/software program that strikes me as not really addressing the problem. This can be for any number of reasons; the customer has an immediate pain point and wants to address the specific requirement, the customer is already fixated on the technology and want that solution, the customer has been told that the answer is SOAP (and what was the question?).

As a professional, that puts me in a dilemma: either I end up arguing with the customer or I hold my nose and give him what he so plainly wants even if I think that it is not the right answer. Given my temperament, it means that I usually end up contradicting the client and thereby losing the deal.

Today I ended up doing that (I think, it may be too early to tell the final outcome). I was confronted with questions about scale, P2P etc. for a project for which I believe the real issues had nothing to do with scale, P2P or whatever technology; but were really about the business context that the solution was planned for.

Personally, I think that if you are going to hire someone for their experience and judgement, you should be prepared to listen to their advice. This is like going to the doctor and demanding that they prescribe you some drug that you had heard of; what you should ideally be doing is presenting them with your symptoms and trusting their judgement. If you don't trust the doctor, go somewhere else (or go to medical school).

On the other hand, he who pays the piper calls the tune. And it's a big mistake to be too far ahead of the piper.

Popular posts from this blog

Comments Should be Meaningless

This is something of a counterintuitive idea: Comments should be meaningless What, I hear you ask, are you talking about? Comments should communicate to the reader! At least that is the received conventional wisdom handed does over the last few centuries (decades at least). Well, certainly, if you are programming in Assembler, or C, then yes, comments should convey meaning because the programming language cannot So, conversely, as a comment on the programming language itself, anytime the programmer feels the imperative to write a meaningful comment it is because the language is not able to convey the intent of the programmer. I have already noticed that I write far fewer comments in my Java programs than in my C programs.  That is because Java is able to capture more of my meaning and comments would be superfluous. So, if a language were able to capture all of my intentions, I would never need to write a comment. Hence the title of this blog.

Safe and effective software

Someone recently asked me why I was working on the particular topics that I was interested in. I am afraid that in the heat of the moment I had a reasonable but ultimately lame answer (something about reducing friction in the marketplace). In fact, the true answer is simpler and much more powerful. I want to be part of a 'professional' industry, and I believe that we are not really there yet. It is a constant source of amazement to me that there have not been any class action lawsuits against certain high profile software companies. I like the phrase safe and effective , which describes the basic requirements for medicines of course, but should be equally applicable to software. What would the benefits of being able to label a system safe and effective? Primarily it means that someone using the system has some assurance that the software will do what it is supposed to do, and that it wont lead you into trouble. Of course, if you take too many aspirin, or if you misuse a softwar

Concept Oriented Markup

I have long been frustrated with all the different text mark up languages and word processors that I have used. There are many reasons for this; but the biggest issue is that markups (including very powerful ones like TeX) are not targeted at the kind of stuff I write. Nowadays, it seems archaic to still be thinking in terms of sections and chapters. The world is linked and that applies to the kind of technical writing that I do. I believe that the issue is fundamental. A concept like "section" is inherently about the structure of a document. But, what I want to focus on are concepts like "example", "definition", and "function type". A second problem is that, in a complex environment, the range of documentation that is available to an individual reader is actually composed of multiple sources. Javadoc exemplifies this: an individual library may be documented using Javadoc into a single HTML tree. However, most programmers require access to multip