There are days when despite my best efforts I sort of just feel all Marvin the android with a side order of Eeyore. Today is one of those days. I am a grumpy dev and you should probably just stop reading.
Today I feel like the best and worst dev in the world. While neither of those titles is anywhere near true it does not change the fact that right at this very moment I am probably the world’s grumpiest dev. because the truth is I probably have bitten off more than I can chew. Maybe I’ll get through all this and actually help make a place where readers and authors can find each other; maybe I’ll just explode from frustration before I figure it all out. If one thing is for sure, it is that almost no one reads a dev blog anyway.
I’d much rather be wearing my author hat and writing stories. That’s what I get up in the morning for. Not making huge websites that seemed like a good idea at the time. Some days I feel like I will doing this forever and it is all futile, all for nothing, because the truth is I probably have bitten off more than I can chew. Maybe I’ll get through all this and actually help make a place where readers and authors can find each other; maybe I’ll just explode from frustration before I figure it all out. If one thing is for sure, it is that almost no one reads a dev blog anyway.
And as no one reads dev blogs I feel pretty safe in showing that far more successful devs than me suck just as much as I do. You can probably stop reading now. Not that anyone is reading.
I’ve calculated your chance of survival, but I don’t think you’ll like it.
— Marvin the android
Today is an everything sucks day. They happen to the best of us and while I might not count as “the best” or “us” (I’ve always been something of an outsider) I am still having an off day. Actually, it is more like an off couple of days.
Netflix is pretty cool. It is the perfect way to waste an entire non-productive day and make absolutely sure that it will stay 100% productive free.
There are however some gaping holes in the way Netflix works. Chief among the radically bad design ideas is Continue Watching feature. As ideas go continue watching is great. When new episodes are added it tells you there is new stuff to waste your time with. New exciting sci-fi and fantasy (my preferred way to be unproductive). However, for reasons known to no one at all, there is no “no thanks get lost” option. If you start watching something and it totally stinks (Mystery Science Theatre I am looking at you) you can stop watching but it will be there asking you to continue until the end of time.
Continue watching becomes a graveyard of all the stuff that sucks and you do not want to see. There is literary no way to remove it.
Other times you watch something and the system glitches and cannot figure out that you have watched everything, even the credits, and it asks you if you want to see the last sixty seconds of end credits. No, I do not want to continue watching the credits. Put the damn movie back on the shelves and tell me when there’s a new episode of iZombie! Ye gads, you are so much zoo leavings when it comes to user control.
Don’t even get me started on the way it starts playing an episode while you are looking up the details or just trying to cast a vote on if you liked the thing. It takes Netflix long enough to make a half-arsed guess at what I like without random crap playing when I did not ask for it. I would so turn that off if I could.
I’d turn the “are you still watching” option off too. Yes, I am still watching, play the next episode. While we are at it, why can I not reduce the countdown to three seconds. Why make me wait?
What were the devs who wrote that UI even thinking? After they got past “make it play movies” I think they just stop trying or something.
WordPress code sucks
I have a whole host of reasons to hate WordPress. the UI is not one of them. the UI is fantastic. Other UIs should try to be more like it. However, on the inside, the code is the ugliest most messed up and frustrating ball of mud it has ever been my displeasure to have failed to avoid. It’s even worse than Drupal, and that is saying something.
Not that anyone cares what I say…
— Marvin the android
I understand that devs make questionable design choices and that, over time, all projects become a mess but I really, really hate the way WordPress is coded. WordPress code is neither poetry nor a joy to work with. It is crying out for a whole other layer of abstraction just so we can stop caring what the internals look like. That is deeply inefficient and if there were something with a similar feature set I’d probably have checked it out already.
The WordPress UI is nice though. The devs did a good job with that.
User Support Sucks (for devs and users)
Another thing that sucks is user support. It really sucks to have to be a dev giving user support and so it invariably sucks to be the user giving user support.
What makes things worse are the number of potentially great open source projects that have terrible “community support” because the pain you are trying to fix has a very expensive solution that one or more people who solved it before you want to sell to you.
and me with this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side
— Marvin the android
What I find maddening is that a lot of user support pain could be mitigated by just doing a better job of documentation. Yeah, I know writing documentation is a pain in the backside but if you don’t document it, then it does not exist and if it does not exist what did you just spend the last three years working on?
Writing end user and dev documentation is dull and the least exciting part of the job but it is also the best part of the job. Documentation is where you get to show off all the kick-arse features and options of every last bit of work you poured blood, sweat, and tears into. But writing down how everything works, with examples, is also the way that allows new devs to come in and work on the features that you have been putting off because Netflix is more interesting.
But do you know why user support sucks so hard? You are not paying the support team nearly enough money. User support staff need to not only know your system like a boss, they also need people skills. They have to be good listeners, good at using the system, good at fixing problems and on top of that, they have to be a Sherlock Holmes level detective to figure out what the user is not telling them.
There is no way you are paying your support guys enough. whatever you are paying them – double it and then double it again. They either deserve it because they are that awesome or they are just doing a job that someone better qualified would need a lot more money to do better. Give you user support dudes a pay rise right now. If they still suck, maybe you can attract decent support staff.
It is not rocket science, folks.
And whatever you do, don’t make the devs do support. Or rather do make the devs do a year of support before you let them touch the code. You will get much better code as a result and the user support staff will thank you. So will the users. Actually, the users will still be annoying but that’s because you cannot please everyone. You will have pleased more folks than before but there will always be one or two that… Well, you know.
The same goes for designers. You can bet the people who designed the Netflix UI never use it or if they have they never had to do support. Otherwise, a whole lot of broken stuff would be fixed already. But I already talked about that.
Grumpy dev signing off
Anyway, you are probably sick of reading this. Go and read something awesome like Legend. I actually enjoy working on that.
I think you ought to know I’m feeling very depressed.
— Marvin the android
This has been your grumpy dev being, well, grumpy about dev stuff.
Do you want me to sit in a corner and rust or just fall apart where I’m standing?
— Marvin the android
I would say “back to the grindstone” but now, I’m going to go watch some Red vs Blue or something.