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Other People's Problems

by Douglas E. Welch

August 20, 1999

© 1999, Douglas E. Welch

In any career there comes a time when you see the true purpose of your work. It may happen slowly or quickly but every technology worker soon realizes that their job is not writing programs, repairing computers or training computer users. Their job has become an endless cycle of correcting other people's mistakes. These mistakes might be poorly designed or written programs, faulty computer hardware or unstable online systems but it is always the computer technologist's job to make them work regardless of how flawed the systems are to begin with. As you can imagine, this can get frustrating at times and I believe it is this factor alone that makes many technology workers surly.

Let there be bugs

It has become common practice for software manufacturers to deliver software that contains a variety of known and unknown flaws. It always seems that these flaws crop up at the worse times and with the worst people. I have often been called into a high-level person's office to explain why this or that doesn't work as documented. Regardless of where the error lies it is the technology worker that is told to "make it work, or else!" As unfair as this sounds it is the current state of affairs in any technology job.

In some ways this makes technology workers a lightening rod for user discontent. It is much easier to abuse your local support person than try and get a complaint to the company that manufactured the product. Technology workers are regularly blamed for missed deadlines, over-time and over-budget projects and a host of other company ills.

There are a few ways you can protect yourself from poorly built hardware and software. You must be ruthless about digging up information about flaws as quickly as you can. There are various web sites and discussions groups that can help you discover these flaws often within days of software being released to the public. You also need to document any solutions or work-arounds to flaws you encounter yourself. Sharing this knowledge around the technology staff can help reduce the number of calls from users and generate a quick response when the problem does arise.

Fight back

In reality, though, the only true solution to flawed technology is an aggressive policy against any manufacturer that releases it. Technology workers need to band together, through professional groups and associations, to fight against these companies and help insure some peace of mind for themselves. It is only by collectively fighting big technology businesses that we can hope to have any effect. These companies need to understand that if they deliver flawed technology we will refuse to recommend it or implement it in our companies. It is only by effecting their bottom line that we will effect change in these companies.

Too long we have allowed these companies to deliver shoddy products. The travesty of shipping "Beta" or "Pre-release" software to end users is only the latest and most egregious effort by these manufacturers to deny any responsibility for their products. We only dig ourselves a deeper hole each day we allow this to continue. How can we ever hope to successfully implement technology when we are being thwarted by the very companies who are supposed to be helping us?

I believe that flawed technology is one of the biggest problems facing the business world today. We regularly hear how computer technology is only marginally effecting worker productivity and the bottom line. I believe that this is a direct result of the flawed software and hardware being foisted on companies and individuals. Too much time and money is spent trying to get these systems to work correctly instead of using them to accomplish actual tasks.

The next time you are faced with a flawed product take the time to express your displeasure. Encourage others to do the same. We all need to stand up for ourselves and send a message to technology manufacturers. Technology workers should be helping users accomplish work with their computers, not constantly making up for other people's mistakes.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at:

He can reached via email at

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