“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”
— Albert Einstein
Step right up and get your tickets to the amazing show. Windows Service Pack 2 is now available for download, and it will do things never before seen by man! Simply click on your Windows Update to begin the download. Once it's done, step right over here to one of our Internet weblogs and let the rants begin.
Rants, you say? What would you ever need to rant about? These software updates are intrinsically designed to make your computer operate better, faster, and more amazingly than ever before, aren't they? Surely a monster corporation like Microsoft would not dare release a major update to their operating system if it were going to cause issues. Right?
Wrong! Depending on what programs you use you may very well find yourself in a world of technological hurt if you perform this update to your Windows PC. Incidentally, if you're running Macintosh, wipe that smug little grin off your face right now because we Mac addicts aren't immune to this type of technological violence, either. Apple just tends to hide and fix it better.
There are two schools of thought on how this all works but the underlying problem is the same. We as a people have accepted this type of behavior from the companies that supply our technology. We just deal with the fact that major aspects of the technology on which we depend are sent to us haphazardly. Worse still is the fact that many people rarely research ahead of time whether there may be a problem. We seem to be so starstruck by the possibility of technological enlightenment that we'll buy into anything that looks like a quick fix or improvement to our computational lives when the reality is little more then snake oil.
Why such a rant against the likes of Microsoft you may ask? It's simply an example that nobody is safe from a large corporation acting like a small one. In comparison to Microsoft, the manufacturers within our industry are of considerably smaller scale. Unfortunately, the product release mentality can be the same and it seems like this particular problem is more rampant within our industry now more than ever before. But it gets worse: It's all your fault! That's right. I said it. It's your fault! And by “your” I mean “our,” because I'm just as guilty in propagating this issue as anyone else. You see, we've put manufacturers in a very difficult situation.
New products are popping up at a rapid pace and because we come from a “bigger, better, faster, more, now” society we push to have the new toys released as quickly as possible. The real problem lies in the fact that we accept these products into our lives before they are truly completed and that's where all hell breaks loose.
I know that there are a bunch of manufacturer reps and R&D folks out there reading this and thinking that I'm blindly singling out their product. To that I have but two things to say. First, you've got a guilty conscience, dude! Second, there are a slew of products from a plethora of manufacturers that have been prematurely released, particularly over the last four years; I've got an entire industry of end users who will back me up on that.
Most of the problem appears to start with the accountants. The demand for market share is so extremely competitive within all of our industry's various product ranges that manufacturers are pressured by their bean counters to get the products out as quickly as possible. The accountants rarely view products as anything other than physical pieces of equipment. That means that if something is physically engineered and has all of its bits moving, clicking, beeping, and outputting they consider it ready to bear profit. To them, the quicker that that piece of kit starts making money the quicker they will have their research & development bills recouped.
Of course, it's software that makes all of this stuff come to life, having that software running smoothly is the lifeblood of any piece of technology. Unfortunately, there are ghosts in the machine that need to be dealt with before that product gets released to the public. Since those ghosts are not tangible goods they are very often cast to the side of the accountant's care and simply excused as something that can be fixed later through the ether of software updating. When viewed within those terms this all seems pretty logical and worth doing. However, in the immortal words of comedian Chris Rock, “You can drive a car with your feet. It don't make it a good ****** idea!”
As an industry, we have been inundated with products that simply don't live up to their pre-marketed expectations right out of the box. Worse still our egotistical desire to be the first ones to have the coolest gadgets out there has helped create this monster; our specification dollars have allowed the bean counters to accept this practice. Of course, it's somewhat unreasonable to expect any new software to be rock solid and perfect upon its initial release. However, the fundamental problem is that we as consumers have lowered our standards. For several years now we have accepted newly released products that have major operating flaws with nary a customer tantrum as reprimand toward the manufacturers. That means that we're letting them get away with it. It's like buffalo wing circuitry. You know that your mouth is gonna burn but you gotta push just one more wing down your gullet because it's just so damn tasty.
Of course, there are exceptions to this dilemma. Many manufacturers out there simply hold too much pride to let their product be whisked away to the general public without an extremely high level of quality. There are always a few bad apples in the basket and those good ones really need a pat on the back.
So what's the solution? To those manufacturers who are actually doing the right thing, thank them! Send off an email. Post it in a forum. The best way to combat the bad behavior is to boldly encourage the good. Next, stop accepting mediocrity! Be reasonable for God's sake but don't put up with blatant disregard for your considerations as an end-user. If the new whiz-bang bucket-o-bolts is that underwhelming compared to the pre-marketing hype that was shoved down your throat then kick it to the curb and get something that realistically suits your needs. And thirdly…switch to Mac!