Working in IT is exhausting. It is an endless series of projects, each one more art than science in its execution, and each one reshuffling the deck and attempting to improve upon the last one. The exhaustion derives from the constant firefighting, moving from one flare-up to the next, while trying desperately to gain a few yards on this project or that one. Unlike football, there are no first downs in the IT world. Instead, there is a single desperate struggle to get the ball into the end zone before you’re clobbered. And once there, you have to do it all over again.
When I step back and look across the years I’ve worked in IT, I am reminded of painting a bridge. By the time you finish, it’s time to start over from the beginning again. What IT lacks is stability. There is always a new operating system version, always a new patch to Microsoft Office, always a new and better way to manage your email, always more and more layers of security to fight through in order to do your work in the first place. Remember the humorous opening to Get Smart? That is what IT security is like for most of us these days.
Security aside, very few software technology improvements I’ve seen over the years add value commensurate to the effort it takes to make them available. Microsoft Word was at its prime when it was still a DOS application. There is little that people use word processors for today that could not be done by Word 5.5 for DOS, or WordPerfect, or even WordStar for that matter.
Email programs have grown increasingly complex, but few contain groundbreaking features that actually make it easier to manage your email. Each new version is supposed to be an improvement, but what it is improving? I have to go to third-party plug-ins like Boomerang, or Mail Butler to find features that really make it easier to manage my email.
Operating systems should be invisible, and yet in most cases, they turn out to be the most visible part of a computer system. I have this theory that on devices that are easiest to use, we tend not to realize that an operating system is there behind the scenes. On those that are most difficult to use, the operating system is standing in our way. Think of the early iPods, which were intuitive, simple, and performed their tasks well. Then think of, well, Windows 10, or macOS Sierra, operating systems which can’t seem to get out of your way.
I long for stability in software. Instead of churning out version after feature-filled version, I’d prefer to see bug-free releases that last a long time. As a end-user, it would be nice to have a working piece of software that I can get used to and not worry that a feature, function, or keyboard command will change with the next release.
Instead of making changes for the sake of a pre-determined release schedule, make software that does exactly what it is supposed to do, and let it alone. A word processor is a good example of this. At its heart, it is a simple tool that allows us to write. Imagine if all our software could be that simple and easy-to-use.