Scott Hanselman caused a stir writing: Everything’s broken and nobody’s upset. He lists software products bristling with flaws. They fail to work as expected.
Hanselman takes no prisoners. He is as scathing about Microsoft, who he works for, as he is about Google and Apple.
The story isn’t only venting. Hanselman says he is complaining because he knows we can do better.
And we can. Hanselman’s post is brilliant and essential reading for anyone who works with technology or remotely cares about the tools they use.
Worse than Hanselman thinks
Sadly it is not just a case of “everything is broken and nobody’s upset”. There’s the point that nobody cares, especially the people making those broken things.
Or, more accurately, few of the companies care enough to bother fixing their products’ flaws and looking after their customers.
Call me naïve if you like, when I find broken software or hardware I look to troubleshoot the problem. This means going to company websites searching FAQs or forums for answers.
My strike rate at finding answers is not good. Many software companies and hardware makers barely pay lip service to fixing the messes they create. I found less than half of the technology complaints and queries I submitted were acknowledged, let alone answered.
Some help forums are like the fake towns built for cowboy movies - they are put there only for show. Other help forums outsource the hard work to more experienced users.
Hanselman says he comes away with the impression no-one cares about the problems. That’s my experience too - although not with everyone.
Money doesn’t help
Here’s the oddest thing. The amount of care is often inversely proportional to the amount of money the company at the other end of the transaction took.
Logic says you can’t expect much support from developers of free software, WordPress plug-ins and shareware. Likewise, companies selling $2, $5 or $10 apps for iPads or Android phones.
And yet in my experience, I’m more likely to get a satisfactory response to my support requests from these people than I am from businesses that have taken hundreds or thousands of dollars from me.
Here’s a recent example, I’ve got dozens of others I could mention:
I added 4GB of Ram to my desktop computer. Nothing happened. I did all the right things, went to the various forums and troubleshooting routines. This is possibly a motherboard problem. You can see my post at the Asustek forum doesn’t get taken seriously.
I didn’t get any response to an emailed query.
The Ram maker did respond, but only to tell me I’m an idiot who doesn’t understand it is not the company’s problem.
What makes this more galling is the Asustek forum and Google in general shows hundreds of other people have the identical problem and issues that are similar. Something is wrong with the product. Clearly I’m not another muddle-headed idiot who doesn’t understand the technology.
Asustek has my money and it doesn’t give a toss. I’ll keep this in mind when I buy a new motherboard, yet the sad truth is the alternative suppliers are often no better.
Hanselman articulates the problem well, but doesn’t offer much of an answer although he is right when he says we need to care and need the collective will to fix the problems.
I’d go further and say we need to jump up and down more. Consumers need to be stroppier. We need more brutal product reviews - which means we need an independent media, but that’s another issue. We need stronger consumer laws and officials willing to tackle big, powerful corporations when they stuff up.
And most of all, we need to speak out when things aren’t satisfactory and keep on speaking out.