on the edge

computers & technology, books & writing, civilisation & society, cars & stuff

Greg Black

gjb at gbch dot net
Home page
Blog front page

If you’re not living life on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.

FQE30 at speed

Syndication / Categories


Worthy organisations

Amnesty International Australia — global defenders of human rights

global defenders of human rights

Médecins Sans Frontières — help us save lives around the world

Médecins Sans Frontières - help us save lives around the world

Electronic Frontiers Australia — protecting and promoting on-line civil liberties in Australia

Electronic Frontiers Australia


(Coming soon…)

Software resources

GNU Emacs


The FreeBSD Project

Fri, 24 Mar 2006

Respect must be earned

I offended a customer today by failing to show respect for some really appalling software.

The customer asked me to look at some code that they acquired from somebody cheaper than me. Unsurprisingly, it was not up to the standard they had come to expect after using my software for some years.

As is my policy, I reminded them that I don’t fix bugs in other people’s software—but I agreed to have a quick look at it. After a couple of minutes, I exclaimed, “This is a complete load of crap.”

The customer asked me not to be so judgemental about somebody I’d never met.

I reminded them that they asked me to look at the software because it failed to perform its intended function. I also reminded them that they probably asked me to look at the software because they trusted my understanding of software after years of perfect satisfaction with it. Then I explained that the software I was looking at was so bad that it must have been written by a family friend or relative for free or else it was written by a complete charlatan if they had actually paid any money for it.

There was no point in trying to explain to them why the software was broken because these people, like too many of my customers, take pride in remaining as ignorant as possible about everything to do with the computers that their business depends upon. But I did get my point across when I successfully predicted a couple of the faults that it exhibited after my quick glance at the source code.

Inevitably, this took us to: “Can you fix it for us, please?” I reminded them, once again, that fixing crap takes longer than writing good software from scratch and that I just don’t fix crap software. As so often happens, they don’t want to pay for quality. But they can’t live with what they want to pay for. Since they insist in posing in megabuck cars and flaunting their wealth in various other ways, I don’t find much sympathy for their concerns about expensive software.

I offered to write something that worked and that came with a guarantee for a fair price, but they have decided to find somebody else to fix it. Since that means I won’t have to waste time writing code for them, I thought I could spend the time ranting here.