A culture successfully terrorized on a dark day in September of 2001; initially, in anger but, over the long run (to this day), in fear, throwing off the high ground of nominal “truth, justice, and the American way” for Jack Bauer ends-justify-the-means.
A culture particularly prone to disengaging into its own individual, typically violent, often vengeful, entertainment bubbles.
A culture particularly prone to embracing sounds bites and now internet memes to simplify complex issues into narratives that are palatable.
A culture particularly prone to being goaded into team dynamics at the expense of actually engaging people on the “other side” to work through nuanced problems.
A culture particularly prone to sensational voyeurism to the point it lets what has become a “socio-political-entertainment complex” get away with dosing us garbage constantly.
18 years straight of war — leaning disproportionately on people far removed from the political decision making.
Inarguably relaxed service entry requirements — multiple times — in this ongoing span to hit the desired recruiting numbers.
Poor support for those coming back from such horrors facing their own demons as well as an incredibly competitive global marketplace and global workforces.
Governments–especially ours–preserving themselves and their revolving door cronies from unrest over horribly insolvent dynamics THEY fostered (80s – now) via transnational corporate socialism that comes at the expense of “the little guy” who gets robbed in ways “he’ll never [explicitly] understand”. Coordinated currency devaluation, statist direct intervention in the markets, and coordinated messaging. We feel the “real world” fallout.
Decades of institutional rot at the highest levels of power. Normalization of dynastic political power. And now blatant amoral criminality at the top pushing us headlong into cultic authoritarianism.
Active attacks from foreign adversaries. Little to no push back. Or even improved defense.
Overt hatred, open racism, demonization of “the other” crawling out from under the rocks.
And an ever increasing rate of folk trying to hit a real life “kill count high score” and get plastered all over the media for doing it. We look around when we go to airports. We look around when we go to concerts. We look around when we go to school. We look around when we go to movies. We look around when we go to bars. We look around when we go to night clubs. We look around when we go to church buildings. We look around when we go to the office.
It is unacceptable. We must do better.
Fail-fast is a systems design approach that intentionally fails early and visibly. The gist is that it is better for users as well as better for developers to halt a system if it finds itself in a “critical enough” situation.
Wait, What, Why?
There are worse things than a crash.
Mike Stall (via Jeff Atwood) sketched an “app health hierarchy” which looks thusly:
1) Application works as expected and never crashes.
2) Application crashes due to rare bugs that nobody notices or cares about.
3) Application crashes due to a commonly encountered bug.
4) Application deadlocks and stops responding due to a common bug.
5) Application crashes long after the original bug.
6) Application causes data loss and/or corruption.
Complex systems can reduce their exposure to the darkest parts of that hierarchy in failing fast. Users are immediately presented truth rather than sometime later discovering their actions didn’t take. Developers get immediate, direct feedback in critical scenarios that points directly toward the root cause.
And, perhaps most importantly, halting in the right places prevents on-going corruption, which is what keeps me up at night as a software developer.
We can’t just BSOD our users!
Yes and no.
Yes, we can, if the situation is that critical and we know of no way to recover.
No, we can’t, on anything less than that.
Fail-fast requires (team) wisdom in implementation. Each situation must be considered in its own context. Tricky, at times, but in my experience the effort is very much worth it.
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
Derek Thompson writes in The Atlantic that “Twitter is worthless for the limited purpose of driving traffic to your website”.
…Twitter is sending less than 2 percent of its overall engagement back to the web.
(Lucky you, I’m going to push this post to Twitter.)
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night” (opening stanza)
We have over 20 alternative layout keyboardists at Automattic circa this post, including one rather well known one. For three years, I resisted their proselytizing as I calculated the cost/benefit ratio to be against switching:
- We live in a QWERTY world. I didn’t like the idea of being “that guy” when I sat down in front of someone else’s computer.
- I didn’t want the hassle of radically shifted keyboard shortcuts.
- I thought it generally over optimizing (for most people). Sixty or seventy words per minute seemed fine to me as it ought to keep pace well enough with most mental threads.
I ended up changing my mind because:
- It’s not about the (potential) speed. I work at a keyboard the majority of my waking hours. My chances of eventual RSI are high and QWERTY doesn’t help. I’ve finally gotten through my thick head that the main benefit of an alternative layout is comfort and hopefully injury prevention.
- The advent of the BYOD trend has made the “QWERTY world” problem less of an issue.
- The Colemak layout leaves the main QWERTY shortcuts intact.
Most of my coworkers switched to Dvorak. I’ve switched to Colemak as I think it to be a tad more efficient. The important takeaway, IMO, is to get off QWERTY as either should be leaps better on your wrists over time.
Yes, I did type this post up in Colemak. As I’m only a couple days in, it took me, erm, awhile.
We set sail without an anchor, we count upon that never stop / An anchor’s just a coffin nail, waiting for that hammer drop.
Andy Bothwell (Astronautalis), “The River, The Woods”