Warning: If you don’t find it amusing or otherwise entertaining when I get cranky, close the browser tab now.
Lately I’ve been seeing a certain line of thinking more than usual. It’s the one that says “Program X is too hard to use. The programmers designed it that way to make us look stupid.” There’s an alternate formulation that ends “…so they can laugh at us.”
I’ve seen those ideas offered as a joke for years, but recently people are saying them seriously.
Oh, come off it!
Let’s get the insult out of the way first: If you’re dumb enough to think programmers are trying to make you look stupid, then the programmers don’t actually need to do anything.
Obviously, if you read this blog, you don’t fall into that group. Unfortunately, that still leaves a few billion people who might.
Where do they get that idea? Why should a programmer go to that much trouble? OK, maybe there are a few people malicious enough to make their programs fiendishly complicated and hard to use just to annoy random strangers. But if so, where’s the payoff? How is the programmer going to know they feel stupid? Do these people think he’s watching them?
Yeah, maybe he’s included code to tap their webcams and send him the movies. That’s an awful lot of video for him to wade through looking for those juicy scenes of his victims screaming and crying because they can’t figure out how to use his evil program.
Get real. We know the NSA is watching us at our computers and laughing, but any random programmer? Nah. Programmers are lazy–just like everyone else–and there just isn’t enough of a payoff for the amount of work involved.
Anyway, it’s not like programmers are the ones designing the programs you love to hate. Unless you’re talking about a one-man shop, the odds are good that the user interface was created by a designer who may not even know how to program. If you’re going to be paranoid, at least be paranoid about the right people. Any developer will tell you not to trust a UI designer.*
* Of course, developers and UI designers will tell you not to trust QA, so why are you listening to me? Incidentally, some of the loudest complaints are about open source software. I’ll grant that many of those are designed by programmers, not dedicated designers. But there you’ll have to assume that every developer is in on the joke. Unless you’re wearing a tinfoil hat, that might strain your ability to rationalize improbabilities.
In truth, the reason programs are complicated and hard to figure out is that users keep demanding more and more features. There’s only so much space onscreen for controls, so some functions are going to have to be hidden. Every added feature or additional control makes a program harder to understand and use.
So if Program X makes you feel stupid, it’s not the programmer’s fault. It’s yours. Go ahead and laugh at yourself. And then send the programmer an e-mail so he knows to check the video from your webcam.