The Power and Paradox of Bad Software – WIRED

The Power and Paradox of Bad Software – WIRED

When I go to the doctor, they ask what I do, and when I tell them, they start complaining to me about the software at the hospital. I love this, because I hate going to the doctor, and it gives us something to talk about besides my blood pressure.

This is a pattern in my life: When I’m asking at the library reference desk, chatting with the construction contractor with her iPad, or applying for a loan at the bank, I just peer over their shoulder a bit while they’re answering a question—not so much to be intrusive—and give a low little whistle at the mess on their screens. And out pours a litany of wasted hours and bug reports. Now I’ve made a friend.

Good software makes work easier, but bad software brings us together into a family. I love bad software, which is most of it. Friends text me screenshots of terrible procurement systems, knowing that I will immediately text back, “BANANACAKES.” I’ll even watch videos of bad software. There are tons on YouTube, where people demo enterprise resource-planning systems and the like. These videos fill me with a sort of yearning, like when you step inside some old frigate they’ve turned into a museum.

Best I can tell, the bad software sweepstakes has been won (or lost) by climate change folks. One night I decided to go see what climate models actually are. Turns out they’re often massive batch jobs that run on supercomputers and spit
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