Sunday, July 12, 2009

Useful? yes. Usable? yes. Desirable? not so much…

They built it in April: This curb along First Avenue South just south of King Street was a crooked mess. The acting street-department head blames the haphazard construction on a lack of communication between crew and supervisors.  

Today Seattle Times ran a story on what can only be described as sloppy work by the Seattle street department. See the picture above for an example of a curb that had to be remade three times. The first question that comes to mind is how anyone would walk away from a piece of work like that straight faced. And the second question is how often something similar happens in software products or other products.

The article is an instructional piece on what can go wrong when the culture of a group is mismanaged. But it is also a great piece on when the designers and the crew do not communicate and when neither is willing to give in and listen.

I don’t think a lot of bad code is actually shipped, but I do think there is quite a few products where the various pieces of code fit together about as well as the curb stones in the picture above.

I also think that the Seattle Street department is not the only one marred by designs from less than fully informed designers:

Homeowners couldn't get out of their driveways without scraping the bottom of their cars after a new sidewalk was installed in December 2007 in the 8200 block of Ravenna Avenue Northeast. Bookman said the problem stemmed from poor design. The project designer was a relatively young, new hire who left the department shortly after the work was completed, he said.

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