Software Limitations

Over the many years I’ve been using computer programs, I’ve been disheartened by how limiting most databases are. A programmer’s job is to make a useful tool, and if that tool is supposed to model the physical world, it needs to be able to capture more than just enough to supposedly do the work it set out. Even if the tool doesn’t use the data, the user always has a need to record their thoughts as they are working on something, and it’s not very expensive to at least allow a “comments” area for anything they may happen to dream up while using the tool.

It mounts the frustration of people using a program to find its inadequate for their needs after they’ve already invested a load of data entry into it. We’ll use a contact database for an example. Let’s say that one of the co-workers is going on vacation, and some new vacation contact information will only be good for a set duration, perhaps a phone number they use. What would be wonderful is if they wanted to call someone during that period the database would give the vacation number, but after the vacation’s over it would revert back to the old number. But if putting in that functionality is so difficult, why not give the database the tools to capture a message, and possibly incorporate an email reminder system?

As needs get more complex, we wind up with multiple records of the same thing across many databases. A person’s records in our office is in our contacts database, and in our accounting systems (up to three times, if they have multiple relationships to the business, such as customer, vendor, and employee). They might also be a member of one of the organizations we do staff support for, hence a record in yet another database that provides functionality our accounting system doesn’t do. When that person calls in to be helped, there are far too many places that we have to look to retrieve information on them, and it is a burden to update if they have a change.

The solution is to recognize that these databases don’t have a record of the person themselves; they have a record of the relationship between that person and “yourself”, as defined by the program. In the physical plane, your needs are greater than one programmer’s vision of what their tool is going to provide. They don’t recognize that, and ego plays a lot in it — they feel that somehow their tool is going to give you everything you need to manage what you have going on. Yet most all programs have very little capture of your own information, for some reason they objectify you as the luser, and some even punish you for all the trauma that programming for your needs has cost them as a programmer.

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