Comment On What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

Earlier this week, I changed the name of the site to Worse Than Failure. A lot of readers weren’t too happy with the new name and many of you wondered why, of all names, did I choose Worse Than Failure. After all, what could possibly be worse than failure? In lieu of telling a specific story of failure today, I’d like to share my insights as to why there are – and will continue to be – so many spectacular WTFs (as in, for old time’s sake, What-The-F*s) in our industry, and why so many of them are, in fact, worse than failure. [expand full text]
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Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 15:10 • by ssprencel
So why are the products we create – complex information systems that should last at least fifteen years – be held to a different standard?

Because ignorance is bliss.

I still like The Daily WTF better. Just do me/us a favor, please don't forfeit the domain name and keep redirecting it.


Moderator's Note: As the whole "name change" thing was disscussed at much length here, comments focusing on the renaming will be pruned.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 15:10 • by m0ffx
(*) Speaking of absurdly complex and contrived systems, don’t hesitate to submit the one you’re working with. I haven’t had the opportunity to present such a system in a long time.


Yes, I do have a good mind to submit/nominate the one I'm working with: the worsethanfailure (nee thedailywtf) forums' software. (OK so the new comments system is better at least). But I reckon given the user experience, there HAS to be some WTF code in there.

Also, with any luck, first. EDIT: Drat.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 15:20 • by themagni
Alex,

I don't mind the new name.

The reason that software is written so badly is because there aren't many standards requiring a specific amount of training or experience. All you have to do is download a compiler, get a SAMS book from the library, and get to work. That's it. Anyone who can type can write a hello world program in any language, then copy and paste the rest from google.

As for bad design decisions, here's something else:

If you work at a large place, designs will be done by committee. I'm working on a project that would be great for a week's worth, but I just can't talk about it. (NDA)

It's looking good vs. being good. That's why people stay late for free - they think it makes them look like they're harder workers. And sadly, it works. And what you end up with is a bunch of half-assed crapola that looks like it was written by a novice high on meth or red bull; sleep-deprived and burnt-out. Nobody on earth - nobody, period, this means you - is productive for more than 4-5 hours in a day.

But if it looks like it works, and so it passes the boss test - we've got something to sell! Even better, we got it for extra cheap, since everyone worked as hard as two people! Thus, it's a success. It doesn't have to BE good - it just has to LOOK good. It's a joke.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 15:27 • by Grammarian (unregistered)
Did you mean /s?k-ses'/? Or did you truly mean sexes /sek-ses/?

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 15:28 • by Grammarian (unregistered)
123625 in reply to 123623
Wow. The actual comment didn't turn out at all like the preview, or the entered text. Now that's a WTF.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 15:33 • by Oh (unregistered)
This is somewhat depressing.

There is much truth in what you say. More than I probably realize as I've only been a programmer for 6 years.

I think the longer you work in the industry, you realize that we're fighting the same battles over and over with different tools. Sure, .Net has lots of functions and all of those 'features', but we still have projects and those projects have arbitrary dates and deadlines with no room to breathe, let alone have a setback or problem.

Yes, the end of the project is not success, but if you know how to convince anyone other than those that read this blog, let me know.

I have six months to write a new application from scratch. Six months sounded like plenty of time when we were talking about it. But two months into the project, I'm thinking we more time. But, now after reading this article, it almost begs the question, maybe time isn't really the problem after all.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 15:37 • by ricecake (unregistered)
The new name also reminds me of someone who called something "not useless, but worse than useless". Something that is useless is just that: useless. However, something that is worse than useless is actually detrimental to whatever task is supposed to be performed.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 15:40 • by bullseye
It all comes down to money. As long as companies shell out cash for systems, without any type of warranty on performance, this site will continue to exist. Overseas outsourcing is a prime example of that.

Barring the VERY small minority of solid overseas contractors, most I have dealt with are horrid. I keep telling myself that there will be an inevitable backlash, and that form will eventually be favored over function, but there is no telling how long that will take.
I forgot my posting name:
Wow, this is the longest rationalization for a poorly recived desicion I ever read.

Just one question, was it spent convincing me or himself more? (Let's have a real WTF and not "office politics")

I liked the old name better, but its change in no way affects my life, as apparently it does others. I wouldn't say it was a poorly "received" "decision" at all... just most of us couldn't care less. But thanks for dredging up this, now tiresome, argument again.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 15:44 • by KattMan
As I said before, this will always be "The Daily WTF" for me.

As far as the industry as a whole goes, I have been doing this for nearly 15 years and it amazes me how far backwards the industry has become. These days some new guy with nary a line of real code behind him gets a job as a "senior developer" simply because companies these days don't want to make anyone feel bad. What does that do to your true seniors? yeah forget them, who cares. If everyone is at the same level forget the title and just call us all developers. These same "seniors" leave after a year and think they truly were seniors. it becomes a vicious cycle.

I'm actually considering saying Why the F* am I still doing this and just simply taking my hat and leaving the building. Maybe I'll get into carpentry where being a senior really means something.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 15:45 • by boflexson
I think most are from coders who only know enough to be dangerous.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 15:49 • by thequux (unregistered)
Time to weigh in on the new name. What the heck was wrong with "The Daily What the Foo?"

Anyways, I was (and will probably end up returning to) working on a project where the requirements changed every Friday (Not an exaggeration...I met with my boss on Fridays, and thats when he changed the requirements)

Now, of course, the new design required a complete rewrite, so no progress was made. And, of course, my boss had told the higher-ups that the project would be done in 4 weeks. So, he old me to make whatever use of the old code that I could.

So, the routine changed from "Monday - Thursday: begin development; Friday, receive new requirements; lather, rinse, repeat" to "Friday: Get new requirements; Monday: write a compatibility layer; Tuesday-Thursday: make 'progress'"

Within 4 weeks, the new system was slower than molasses, took 4 minutes to calculate something that could be done in 1 by hand, and essentially sucked in general. And, it was, to my boss, "a success".

The other WTF is this software...2 days ago, I asked it to reset my password, and e-mail me the new one.

It may have done the first. It hasn't done the second.

So, Alex: if you could give the software a swift kick , and get it to actually e-mail me my password,that would be juuust great...

Oh, I'm posting under the usual name.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 16:02 • by Douglas (unregistered)
Does it really matter though? When I took UNIX at school, my professor mentioned use the man whenever you are stuck. If you post something on a discussion board, you will see RTFM as replies. He said it stood for "Read the fine manual"...Then grinned and said "Though UNIX people tend to use another word". So can believe what you want what WTF actually stands for. The fact that WTF was never implicitly defined can give anyone their own definition. So Alex can tell his grandmother one thing, while telling his friend another definition. I agree that new name change does indeed suck, but just leave it as Daily WTF and allow anyone to use their own idea what it can stand for. Leave it as that.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 16:03 • by ssprencel
123646 in reply to 123634
KattMan:
As I said before, this will always be "The Daily WTF" for me.

As far as the industry as a whole goes, I have been doing this for nearly 15 years and it amazes me how far backwards the industry has become. These days some new guy with nary a line of real code behind him gets a job as a "senior developer" simply because companies these days don't want to make anyone feel bad. What does that do to your true seniors? yeah forget them, who cares. If everyone is at the same level forget the title and just call us all developers. These same "seniors" leave after a year and think they truly were seniors. it becomes a vicious cycle.

I'm actually considering saying Why the F* am I still doing this and just simply taking my hat and leaving the building. Maybe I'll get into carpentry where being a senior really means something.


Being a senior in this industry isn't always a good thing. If you at any point refuse to learn new things, or have trouble embracing new ideas, then your seniorits will be your undoing. That being said, if you can transend your experiance to your everyday work, and can break old habbits that have been prooven unhelpfull, ie GoTos etc., then you can become a guru. In this industry, the phase "because this is the way we've always done it." can get you canned (as it should).

In your defense, if I worked at a company as you describe, then the only thing left to say would be "Where's my level and get me my saw! I have a deck to build."

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 16:08 • by Alex (annonymous) (unregistered)
The real WTF is that all things good in the IT industry become enterprisey sooner or later.

Good luck with the name change ... maybe now some good corporate pointy haired bosses will start reading it to avoid failures that could dent their f*cking bottom line ;)

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 16:10 • by Rob Sirloin (unregistered)

I agree with the majority of the article. It's no secret to all of us that the software development world is a mess. But the new name still sucks.

"The Daily WTF" forever!

More weaselspeak.

2007-02-28 16:10 • by Kinglink (unregistered)
Dude, we understand the idea behind what worse than failure is. You can try to define it all you want but this is like digging a hole so you can fill it in.

You're creating fake jargon to satisfy a condition that shouldn't be worried about (the fact that an acronym WTF might have a swear word as the last letter, I've also heard what the freak, what the funk, what the fudge... )

Instead of creating a fake jargon to satisfy your condition figure out a better way. People arn't going to accept this because no matter what you do you're sounding like marketing management, not like IT, and if there's one thing this sites hate, it's the scent of double speak.

You might like the new name a lot but you built a brand under the old name and are now trying to force us to enjoy this new name, the old name is a common and understandable entity that EVERYONE knows, not people who read your long (and pretty boring, no offense) post. If I tell someone it's the daily WTF the response I hear is "you mean it's a total mind blow every day? Interesting". If I say I read "worse than failure" I'd likely hear "that doesn't sound interesting".

But continue to try to quantify the change, it just isn't working.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 16:10 • by themagni
123653 in reply to 123634
KattMan:


I'm actually considering saying Why the F* am I still doing this and just simply taking my hat and leaving the building. Maybe I'll get into carpentry where being a senior really means something.


I've thought about that too. There's a housing boom and a labour shortage. I'd make more money as a carpenter than I would as an Engineer. (True - I was talking to a carpenter on the bus last month.)

In retrospect, perhaps I should have become an Electrician. I'd get better pay, better hours, more respect, and it would have taken the same amount of schooling. (4 years training, 4 years as an apprentice)

Of course, the attitude of "Fuck it, it's just banging together a few pieces of wood. How hard can it be?" is what's causing the problems with the software industry to begin with. It's what gives guys like Mike Holmes a career.

Hey, maybe that's the ticket. Go in, show the "homeowner" how bad it is, fix the problems, and do it right. It's not like there's a shortage of piss-poor code to put right. I can imagine the TV show now:

"Well, it started when the display wasn't refreshing quite quickly enough. The simulator is supposed to be in realtime, but we were getting a noticeable lag. We called the contractor, and they told us to buy more RAM, format our computers, and reinstall the programs.

That's when we called theMagni."

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 16:15 • by WIldpeaks
123658 in reply to 123621
themagni:
Alex,

I don't mind the new name.

The reason that software is written so badly is because there aren't many standards requiring a specific amount of training or experience. All you have to do is download a compiler, get a SAMS book from the library, and get to work. That's it. Anyone who can type can write a hello world program in any language, then copy and paste the rest from google.

As for bad design decisions, here's something else:

If you work at a large place, designs will be done by committee. I'm working on a project that would be great for a week's worth, but I just can't talk about it. (NDA)

It's looking good vs. being good. That's why people stay late for free - they think it makes them look like they're harder workers. And sadly, it works. And what you end up with is a bunch of half-assed crapola that looks like it was written by a novice high on meth or red bull; sleep-deprived and burnt-out. Nobody on earth - nobody, period, this means you - is productive for more than 4-5 hours in a day.

But if it looks like it works, and so it passes the boss test - we've got something to sell! Even better, we got it for extra cheap, since everyone worked as hard as two people! Thus, it's a success. It doesn't have to BE good - it just has to LOOK good. It's a joke.


I've seen that soo often indeed.

PS: I do plan to go home at least once this week ^_^

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 16:32 • by Dunno Who (unregistered)
I know what you mean about each project being worse than the first. I've seen several examples of developers who only know one solution and apply it to every problem. This means that no matter what you're trying to get delivered, it's always the same crappy app.

"If your only tool is a hammer, all your problems will be nails." - Dunno Who

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 16:33 • by Mikademus
So, to sum up the article, what you've done here is taking The Daily What The Fuck from entertainment into what sounds as an evangelistic site presenting a moral agenda (albeit a highly relevant one); or in other words, a turn into politics.

So not only can we no longer smile at the daily "What The Fuck?! ZOMG lol", but now we must also daily acknowledge our fundamental failedness and repent our sins.

I can respect your religious zeal and your professional wrath, but it doesn't really make the site any more attractive or funny, and it certainly doesn't justify the name change.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 16:35 • by themagni
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Over.:
At least the W T and F initials are kept.

Otherwise, my username kinda doesn't make sense in context. Folks might think I'm constantly drunk and that my drunken staggerings look like the tango with an unseen partner or the foxtrot. Until I pass out, and then it's over.


My signature, back when we used to have them, said:
----
What Transpires Forthwith?

Obviously, Mangled Genius.

(Plus a question about Codethulu mugs and a disclaimer that I use embedded C.)

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 16:37 • by Zonkers
Excellent article. I've suspected this sort of thing has been going on, with people failing over and over again but thinking that they succeeded. I'd say this is the biggest WTF of them all. It's great to see someone other than me think the same sort of thing is going on and with a much better thought out description of it.

The same sort of thing happened to me. The first inkling of my failures came from reading "Code Complete" for the first time and I found out that MS doesn't write great code compared to other shops -- like I naively believed at the time -- it's just that they are better prepared and willing to drive the WTF's out of the system. So they suck too but they work hard at making it great. Maybe that's not true today but I think it probably was at the time. So if they suck I probably suck.

Now, when I look back at my old code, egads, it's horrid.

You see a similar thing go on with management people that trade jobs often. You see it all over the WSJ all the time. Some VP enables a big plan to do such and such at a company then by the time project is done and it's in production they are at the next job doing practically the exact same project. But they probably never actually keep in touch with that first project and look back and see if it actually was successful. They are just off to the next project. After doing a few of these they are considered experts in that field. But did those projects actually work?!

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 16:42 • by Aaron (unregistered)
I'm not going to weigh in on the name change myself - it's just beating a dead horse at this point. However, I will say to you, Alex, that I think you missed the point - nobody objected to the name change on the grounds of "what could possibly be worse than failure?". I never once saw that, explicit or implied, anywhere in the comments. People objected because you had somewhat of a trademark, even if not a legally registered one, and you changed the name. It's that simple, and has little if anything to do with how much sense it makes or how catchy it is. Given that it's a site many people read daily, it's akin to changing the name of Google or Coke.

So, it was a good write-up in general, and I think you've handled the criticism admirably well, but as interesting and accurate as this post was, your basis for writing it was apparently a straw-man. We all knew what you meant by "worse than failure" - some people are just upset at all the changes you've been making lately, and this was the biggest one so far.

Just to be clear, I'm not defending all the readers who got their knickers in a knot and "threatened" to stop posting their highly intelligent comments containing their captcha word and a lame quip. I just don't think that you really addressed anyone's grievances here, however exaggerated those grievances may have been.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure? .. the new name

2007-02-28 16:52 • by The Worst (unregistered)
I say call something what it is. George Bush is Worse than Failure. This website is a bright ray of sunshiney happiness for coders everywhere. The Daily What The F^ U^ C* K* Is the name we all know and love. Remember what happened when prince changed his name????

Worse than Failure is too damn general and broad just like What the F 'u ; C , K. If anything thats the WTF in this post. Its backwards. For example there is another blog done by some dork named jeff about .net called Coding Horror. It is never about code. The guy just does peices like tech reviews and other NON coding related stuff.

AzzBaqwards.

The problem with the world today is the civility. There is way too much of it. Say what you mean and say it the way you feel it. Who pressured you into this nonsense?

The fact that you think you have to justify yourself says it all. You are caving to the PC loving slave minded society of consumerists who want you to go with the flow suplication paradigm that Fox news and the rest of the social engineers want you to be. For shame, For shame.

CAPTCHA - "doooshbag"

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 17:00 • by Tom Woolf (unregistered)
The olde geek in me liked the old name, and your monologue on programs and projects certainly does explain the new name. I was very curious as to where it came from, outside of something with the acronym WTF that could be told to a grandmother without blushing. TheDailyWTF still hits home, though, and I'm glad you're going to keep the original web address with forwarding to WorseThanFailure.com.

The parallel of movies to programs is very appropriate on some levels, but misses others.
The hits:
- The ratio of Gigli/Cassablanca is probably in line with WTF/TrulyGoodSoftware;
- The mindset of Producers (both movie and software) is frequently "how much money can be made on initial sales", as well as "how much will this cost"

The misses:
- With the exception of George Lucas and the forgettable Ted Turner colorations (and recently the explosion of "Director's Cuts" and "Extended Versions" of new DVD releases), rarely do movies ever change after their initial release. Of course, they don't *have* to change. Folks watch them, or they don't. After watching BloodRayne (or as much as they could stomach), viewers don't go to Uwe Boll with the changed request of "Ben Kingsley should have taken on Micheal Madsen one-on-one", and expect that change to be there the next time they see the movie. They just go on to the next movie. Software is more like a living creature, and is subject to constant changes and requirement changes;
- Modifying both software and movies are expensive. However, if you have a movie that is gawdawful, you simply don't watch it again - changing to another movie is easy. Changing software is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive.

OK - I see by the length of this entry that Barbaro has just taken a beating. Time to sign off.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 17:08 • by ssprencel
123690 in reply to 123682
The Worst:
I say call something what it is. George Bush is Worse than Failure. This website is a bright ray of sunshiney happiness for coders everywhere. The Daily What The F^ U^ C* K* Is the name we all know and love. Remember what happened when prince changed his name????

Worse than Failure is too damn general and broad just like What the F 'u ; C , K. If anything thats the WTF in this post. Its backwards. For example there is another blog done by some dork named jeff about .net called Coding Horror. It is never about code. The guy just does peices like tech reviews and other NON coding related stuff.

AzzBaqwards.

The problem with the world today is the civility. There is way too much of it. Say what you mean and say it the way you feel it. Who pressured you into this nonsense?

The fact that you think you have to justify yourself says it all. You are caving to the PC loving slave minded society of consumerists who want you to go with the flow suplication paradigm that Fox news and the rest of the social engineers want you to be. For shame, For shame.

CAPTCHA - "doooshbag"


How in the world did you manage to link George Bush and Fox news to a website that changed its name. You have had the wool pulled so far over your eyes it's embarrassing.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 17:13 • by FredSaw
Alex:
...complex information systems that should last at least fifteen years...

Now think back those projects of yours... How many do you truly believe could last fifteen years?


It's unrealistic to believe that software should last 15 years. 15 years ago, in 1992, people were still seriously using TRS-80 Color Computers, Apple IIe's, Commodore 64's and Amigas. If you had a business computer its operating system was DOS. The main storage medium for the masses was floppy disks. If you were riding the cutting edge of technology you might run Windows 3.0 or 3.1. Perhaps at work you were using Windows for Workgroups.

As recently as the year 2001, six years ago, I was still programming in Visual Basic 6. While I wrote what I consider to be, yes, some "successful" software back then--successful in that it did what it was supposed to do--I would not expect to go back there now and find them still using it. I would hope they have upgraded their systems to keep up with the capabilities of current technology.

Given the change in computers from 1992 to now, and the parabolic curve of new technology, I would not expect the software I write today to be still in use as much as five years from now, regardless of how well it presently meets the need that spawned it.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 17:18 • by Samus_
You're forgetting something: people have to eat!
This means that if you sell crap -it is- a kind of a success because if you've reached the point where it somehow runs you're far from the point where it didn't worked at all! but of course, if you start thinking that you're now "a good" programmmmer then you're wtfuck'd :P
I think that selling a failure is kind of a success but it is not the end of the road, not at all.

btw: I'm impressed about how you concern about the responses for the change of the name, I wish more people could appreciate that too...

The real WTF is...

2007-02-28 17:29 • by Mike (unregistered)
The real WTF is people dissing Alex because he changed the name of his website that brought them a fun story every day.

I try to use common patterns and clean concise code, and my worry is not creating a WTF, but other people not understanding my code. Then they will turn it into a WTF when I'm not looking.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 17:45 • by MichaelWojcik
123704 in reply to 123691
FredSaw:
Alex:
...complex information systems that should last at least fifteen years...

Now think back those projects of yours... How many do you truly believe could last fifteen years?


It's unrealistic to believe that software should last 15 years.


I maintain a commercial software package that's still in use in production applications at numerous customer sites, and the first commercial installation was in 1988. That's nearly 20 years now.


15 years ago, in 1992, people were still seriously using TRS-80 Color Computers, Apple IIe's, Commodore 64's and Amigas. If you had a business computer its operating system was DOS. The main storage medium for the masses was floppy disks.


Then, it ran on MVS (Batch and TSO), CICS, and MS-DOS - the first two of those are still supported (and used, though thankfully by now everyone's updated to a more recent release).

Circa 1990, it was ported to OS/400 and OS/2; a year later, to Windows 3 and AIX. Other than OS/2, those are also all still supported. (Our last few OS/2 diehards moved to Windows a few years ago.) A bit later came other Unix ports: Solaris, HP-UX, and SCO and Linux, though we never had significant sales on the last two. In the mid-1990s, 32-bit OS/2 and Windows, and OS/400 ILE. IMS and CICS/VSE on the mainframe.

All of those OSes were used for business. Only PC-DOS used floppy disks as its primary storage medium.

Not all the world's a PC.

--
Michael Wojcik

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 18:21 • by Cornered (unregistered)
123714 in reply to 123682
The Worst:
George Bush ... Fox news


Please, keep your illegible leftist rants to yourself, or post them on some forum for kooks. Worse Than Failure (I approve of the new name!) is for legible rants related to computers.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 18:28 • by WIldpeaks
Thing with lasting 15 years is that most software, those that poor us mortals that aren't in big companis at least, write doesn't even last 2-3 years, not that it's bad products, just getting old and like you said, new things everyday, can't stay stucked.
Furthemore, it's like in the movies industry, most movies don't last..

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 18:39 • by ammoQ
123718 in reply to 123691
FredSaw:


It's unrealistic to believe that software should last 15 years. 15 years ago, in 1992, people were still seriously using TRS-80 Color Computers, Apple IIe's, Commodore 64's and Amigas. If you had a business computer its operating system was DOS. The main storage medium for the masses was floppy disks. If you were riding the cutting edge of technology you might run Windows 3.0 or 3.1. Perhaps at work you were using Windows for Workgroups.

15 years ago, I've worked in a team that built a CRM system which ran on unix boxes and used X and Motif for the GUI, and Informix as the database. The X terminals had a resolution of 1024x1024, so the gui would nicely fit today's computers. Unfortunately, the necessary hardware was way too expensive back then, and contrary too the analysts' predictions, Unix did not take over the market, but Windows did. So the program was not a huge success on the market.
Last year, the company planed on increased marketing activities, so we considered using that old program for our own purposes. With today's PCs and free X server software readily available, it would not require much investments. The GUI... well, it's motif, but as I remember it, it was usable.
Unfortunately, the old server (still hidden somewhere in the basement) has a RG58 network adapter which cannot be easily integrated into our network, so we would need a new server, a new Informix license etc. etc. It's a shame we couldn't revive that 15yo system, I'd really love to compare it to concurrent software; even if it's only to see the difference between memory and reality.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 18:39 • by Tigger (unregistered)
moe:
whoa! The REAL WTF is ALEX carefully monitoring the discussion board for any negative comment regarding his lame name change ... and deleting the comments!! Toughen Up! Take the good with the bad - I see the positive comments were left while the negative comments were removed --- nay, censored!

captcha: burned ... how appropriate!


No, the *real* WTF is... oh, forget it, that's a stupid way to start a post. (Hint, hint.)

Alex said clearly that whinging about the name change was covered in a different page. If you want to post on that topic, post on that page. If you want to comment on today's article, do it on today's page. Not a difficult concept, Moe.

CAPTCHA - a word that I have to type in to prove I'm not a spambot. Nobody actually gives a shit what the word is. It might have been cute the first few times someone typed it in, but it's boring the crap out of me when people do it now. (Yes, that was another hint. Well spotted.)

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 18:49 • by chrismcb
123722 in reply to 123691
FredSaw:
Alex:
...complex information systems that should last at least fifteen years...

Now think back those projects of yours... How many do you truly believe could last fifteen years?


It's unrealistic to believe that software should last 15 years.


Is it really? You said 15 years ago people were still programming on a Commodore 64, which at that time was 10 years old.

My first programming job in the mid 80's was working on some COBOL programs. I noticed that we used 2 digits for the year. I was told not to worry about it, the software would never last 15 years...

A lot of people still use Win98. Which came out 10 years ago.

Maybe 15 years is unreasonable but 10 surely isn't.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 18:54 • by WIldpeaks
123723 in reply to 123720
Tigger:
moe:
whoa! The REAL WTF is ALEX carefully monitoring the discussion board for any negative comment regarding his lame name change ... and deleting the comments!! Toughen Up! Take the good with the bad - I see the positive comments were left while the negative comments were removed --- nay, censored!

captcha: burned ... how appropriate!


No, the *real* WTF is... oh, forget it, that's a stupid way to start a post. (Hint, hint.)

Alex said clearly that whinging about the name change was covered in a different page. If you want to post on that topic, post on that page. If you want to comment on today's article, do it on today's page. Not a difficult concept, Moe.

CAPTCHA - a word that I have to type in to prove I'm not a spambot. Nobody actually gives a shit what the word is. It might have been cute the first few times someone typed it in, but it's boring the crap out of me when people do it now. (Yes, that was another hint. Well spotted.)


But, related to today's topic, reading the negative comments is learning from failure ^_^

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 19:00 • by ammoQ
As much as I like Alex' article, IMO there is a much more mundane way to answer the question: What could be worse than failure?
For my definition, I have to borrow Alex' definition of "success": A project that eventually makes it into production.
In the area where I've done a lot of work during the last decade, warehouse management systems, new systems are made to accomplish some goals. Shorter delivery period, more productivity, less errors, less shrinkage. Sometimes, the system is built for a new warehouse, so the performance cannot be compared to a previous system, but often, the new system replaces an old one. In that case, a WTF system is one that is slow, buggy, unmaintainable, inflexible enough to not only miss the goals, but eventually deliver worse results than the old system. That's why it can be considered worse-than-failure: If the project had been a failure and never resulted in a deliverable, productivity would be up by, say, 20%, compared to the current situation.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 19:13 • by Tigger
123728 in reply to 123723
WIldpeaks:
Tigger:
moe:
whoa! The REAL WTF is ALEX carefully monitoring the discussion board for any negative comment regarding his lame name change ... and deleting the comments!! Toughen Up! Take the good with the bad - I see the positive comments were left while the negative comments were removed --- nay, censored!

captcha: burned ... how appropriate!


(snip) Alex said clearly that whinging about the name change was covered in a different page. If you want to post on that topic, post on that page. If you want to comment on today's article, do it on today's page. Not a difficult concept, Moe. (/snip)


But, related to today's topic, reading the negative comments is learning from failure ^_^


...and I'm sure Alex did read them, and learn from them (if there was anything to learn beyond "I don't like the name change", which was already *very* well covered), before he then removed them (as he had said he would do), since they're not relevant to today's topic.

As it happens, I agree that the older name was better, and Alex could have just told Granny it was... well, pretty much anything with those initials. I think the name change was unnecessary and a bad business decision (old name = well known and memorable, new name = unknown and bland), not to mention fairly lame. But I'm guessing that Alex won't remove this post (despite the fact that I *don't* agree with him on the name change) because I'm mostly responding to (today's) statement that Alex was censoring negative feedback. Which he isn't! Just read the "name change" feedback! Most of it was negative, some of it was pretty nasty, and yet Alex let it stand - the good and the bad.

Today's article was (IMHO) a good read. Anyone who doesn't like it can comment on it (Alex is paying for this website where you can publicise your views, whether he agrees with them or not). The name change was lame, yes - but if you don't like it, say so on the relevant page. Alex is paying so you can comment, positively or negatively, on that too. That's not censorship - just trying to keep each post on topic.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 19:15 • by ammoQ
Looking through the google results for "worse than failure", I've noticed something else that is commonly accepted as "worse than failure": paralyzing fear that keeps people from trying something new.

http://www.adventlutheranchurch.com/sermontexts/sermon051113.shtml

So whenever you try something new that eventually becomes a WTF, remember that playing safe, sticking with you old way of doing things, is even W-T-F. ;)

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 19:33 • by Eam (unregistered)
123731 in reply to 123691
[quote user="FredSaw"][quote user="Alex"]
It's unrealistic to believe that software should last 15 years.[/quote]
Using 13-year old software at work. It still does its job, even though the UI is shite.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 19:56 • by rgz (unregistered)
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rationalization_%28psychology%29&oldid=98853643

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 20:35 • by Spacecoyote
Yeah, software can have a long useful life, if it is designed to be extensible.

Software either becomes a bloated gallery of Paula beans (like VB) or keeps up with the times like Linux.

And the good ideas go on, I look back at screen shots of Macintosh System 1 and think "That's the way a GUI should be done", then I'm reminded by Gnome that we can still do it that way.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 20:49 • by imMute (unregistered)
123748 in reply to 123652
Its the same hole that M$ dug when they got rid of the two decade old File Edit View etc menu in Winblows Vista.

Kinglink:
Dude, we understand the idea behind what worse than failure is. You can try to define it all you want but this is like digging a hole so you can fill it in.

You're creating fake jargon to satisfy a condition that shouldn't be worried about (the fact that an acronym WTF might have a swear word as the last letter, I've also heard what the freak, what the funk, what the fudge... )

Instead of creating a fake jargon to satisfy your condition figure out a better way. People arn't going to accept this because no matter what you do you're sounding like marketing management, not like IT, and if there's one thing this sites hate, it's the scent of double speak.

You might like the new name a lot but you built a brand under the old name and are now trying to force us to enjoy this new name, the old name is a common and understandable entity that EVERYONE knows, not people who read your long (and pretty boring, no offense) post. If I tell someone it's the daily WTF the response I hear is "you mean it's a total mind blow every day? Interesting". If I say I read "worse than failure" I'd likely hear "that doesn't sound interesting".

But continue to try to quantify the change, it just isn't working.


captcha: digdug

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 21:20 • by RevEng
I totally agree that software should be usable for 10-15 years. Sure, new technologies come along, and both hardware and operating systems may change drastically, but that doesn't mean that the service that your software provides necessarily changes.

Consider a word processor. Anyone still using Microsoft Word 97? I know lots of people that do, on a computer running Win98, and it's only a P133. Sure, technology has come along way, and they could upgrade to a Core Duo with 4GB of RAM and a terabyte hard drive, but doing so doesn't change what it is that they fundamentally need to do and how they do it. I would argue that Office 2007 has been the only substantial "upgrade" since '97, and only because they reorganized their toolbar (sorry, "ribbon") and changed to a better file format. But it's still the same program and people can still do what they need with the old version.

I think a great comparison here is vehicles. Granted, they don't advance nearly as quickly (Moore's Law doesn't seem to apply to the cost of production, size, or fuel economy), but many new technologies have emerged over the last 20 years. We have ABS, air bags, plastic body panels with crumple zones, heated seats, and some vehicles are getting in excess of 70mpg. But in the end, you can still drive a 30 year old car. It can get you where you need to go; perhaps even in style, and many of them are just as (if not more) comfortable, stylish, fast, and efficient.

Some things in computer science do advance and new software really could take advantage of it, specifically in the user interface areas. Things like processor speed, storage medium, and bus architecture shouldn't affect your applications (that's why we have an OS in the first place), but every application could take advantage of the lessons we've learned about interface design, human perception, psychology, and all that jazz. But even then, these shouldn't require an entire re-write of your software (if it was done properly in the first place), anymore than a new networking medium should require a rewrite of the entire network stack.

I completely agree with Alex (irrespective of my opinion of the names; both are good, but I liked the original one better) that the problem with our industry as a whole is that we've come to accept this constant cycle of pushing out functional-but-unusable applications as fast as we can start working on the next version. I think Alan Cooper described it best when he talked about "dancing bear-ware". It's not that it dances well, just that it dances at all. What's worse is that our consumers are just as comfortable with this. Every day I hear (and say), "I hate computers," yet neither the software or hardware has changed fundamentally in several decades. When are we going to stop pushing the same method with a different interface, and start addressing the real issues?

Could you be convinced that you need a new car every 2 years? What about a new house? A new garbage can or mouse trap? Software is a tool like any other, except that it doesn't wear out. If it's designed properly, it should always continue to perform the same function that it was designed for and never need replacing. If your goal changes, then yes, you may need a new tool, but the last time I checked our hammers--aside from being made of different materials--were still the same hammers, and my 20 year old wooden hammer still pounds just as many nails as a brand new carbon fiber one.

I think the biggest problem is that we don't enforce a warranty on performance. If I buy a car and it only starts 90% of the time, I'm going to be chocked and my dealership is going to feel my wrath. If I buy a pair of pants and the button falls off after a few weeks, I'm not going to buy that brand anymore. But what do I do when a new operating system comes out and none of my software works anymore? What do I do when my word processor crashes and takes the last four hours of work with it? I curse, swear, and live with it, hoping and praying that one day they fix this. I don't stop using the product, I don't call the company and demand it be replaced with a working version; hell, I don't even request a refund. I've become so accustomed to it not working, that to do so is expected, acceptable, and one of those things I've just learned to live with.

Until we stop living with it and start requiring that our software be stable, usable, and have a reasonable lifetime, we will always be stuck with the same problems. This is our responsibility as consumers mostly, but as coders, engineers, and (god I hope they read this site) managers, it's our duty to provide a reasonable level of service. Our customers don't pay us by the megabyte, nor do they pay us for a shiny CD. They are paying us for a tool which is supposed to solve their problem, and if it doesn't, then we have failed.

What's worse than failure? Living with it and calling it success. You hit the nail right on the head, Alex.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 21:22 • by WIldpeaks
123751 in reply to 123682
The Worst:
For example there is another blog done by some dork named jeff about .net called Coding Horror. It is never about code. The guy just does peices like tech reviews and other NON coding related stuff.

Perhaps because when that guy is coding, it's an horror :-D

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 22:11 • by dcardani
123762 in reply to 123691
FredSaw:
Alex:
...complex information systems that should last at least fifteen years...


It's unrealistic to believe that software should last 15 years. 15 years ago, in 1992, people were still seriously using TRS-80 Color Computers, Apple IIe's, Commodore 64's and Amigas. If you had a business computer its operating system was DOS. The main storage medium for the masses was floppy disks. If you were riding the cutting edge of technology you might run Windows 3.0 or 3.1. Perhaps at work you were using Windows for Workgroups.


Uh, have you ever heard of any of these pieces of software:

Unix
Photoshop
After Effects
Illustrator
Excel
Word
FileMaker
Quark XPress

Those are just a few pieces of software that are older than 15 years old that I use from time to time today.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 22:48 • by FredSaw
123764 in reply to 123749
RevEng:
I totally agree that software should be usable for 10-15 years. Sure, new technologies come along, and both hardware and operating systems may change drastically, but that doesn't mean that the service that your software provides necessarily changes.


Not necessarily; but in such cases my observation stands, that the software is successful because it does what it was written to do. If it does that now, and nothing changes in 15 years, then it will still be doing it as capably 15 years from now as it does now.

However, software is the siamese twin of hardware technology. As one grows, so will the other; where one goes, so will the other. For example: I once worked for a steel fabrication company. They used CNC machines in the shop to punch, cut, weld and shape raw I-beams into finished products which were shipped to construction sites for assembly. The CNC machines read their instructions from floppy disks. Once a piece had been fabricated, the encoded instructions were no longer needed, so the floppy was sent back to Production Control to be reformatted to blank again and reused for another instruction file. The company hired high school students to come in after school and reformat stacks of floppy disks.

Going through the motions of reformatting a disk through the OS over and over was very time-consuming, so I was assigned to write a program which would prompt the user for a disk, determine which drive was used (a: was 5 1/4, b: was 3 1/2) format the disk, and then prompt for another. This program worked very well for its purpose for about a year and a half. Then the company ran its network out to the shop and the machines were able to read their files from a network server. Presto! My program was obsolete.

However, if the company decided to stagnate in the technology of the mid-ninties and continue to use floppy disks for its CNC machines, my software would perform its function as well today, and fifteen years from today, as it did when I wrote it.

Sure, some Unix systems and Cobol programs are still trudging their way through the pre-Cambrian era and doing as well today as when they were first fired up (because nothing has changed for them... duh!). I stand by my statement: it's unrealistic to expect software to still be in demand 15 years later, due to inevitable changes in technology.

RevEng:
Consider a word processor.


I will... WordPerfect.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-02-28 23:14 • by DapperDanMan (unregistered)
Forget the name change concerns...Keep up the great work making us think.

I am just beginning my trek in to code country so many explicit examples are over my head. However, I get enough from the concept of the stories to rethink what I write code-wise. It takes a different mindset to code properly as this site routinely reminds me.

This article is definitely a must read for at least the beginners like me. Hopefully I can overcome the hubris of finishing a project and calling it a success, and actually successfully fullfill my customer's needs.

Thank you, and keep up the great site!

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-03-01 00:10 • by Kuba (unregistered)
123769 in reply to 123691
FredSaw:
Alex:
...complex information systems that should last at least fifteen years...

Now think back those projects of yours... How many do you truly believe could last fifteen years?


It's unrealistic to believe that software should last 15 years.


What a gem of a WTF!! Oh well, hard to wrap your mind around it, isn't it?

So, for your due consideration:

Linux 1.0 was released in 1994 (so not quite 15 yet)
Maxima has source files with (c) 1979 (way past 15)

I use both daily. Nuff said.

Re: What Could Possibly Be Worse Than Failure?

2007-03-01 00:10 • by Sam (unregistered)
I think Alex has decided that the renaming of the site is a success...

But - are all the stories about things that are worse than failure? Consider The Contractor's Note. Isn't "Sorry - I foched up. I won't bill obviously" an admission of failure? (Misreading handwriting is my new favourite way to censor swearwords. I particularly like the fact that the swear word is the most easily-misread word in that note.) So that story doesn't belong on Worse Than Failure. It does belong on The Daily What The - um... Foch, or Work That's Fruitless (the contractor may not have done a lot of work, but the little that he did didn't even bear fruit by being billable), or Weird Things Found.

Oh, and can we have the "?!" back in the logo? Or does it need to be banner-ad-sized?

My CAPTCHA is an inherently funny word, but I'm not telling you what it is.
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