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it's not the users

Okay, Microsoft news of the day: first, they warn of three new "critical" IE flaws. Then they say that, by the way, Windows patches might become automatic. Have you ever read the licensing agreement of Microsoft software? It gives them rights to do almost whatever they want. Now, automated. Does anyone think that they would use it for something useful? Why would they want to deliver patches automatically, since patches don't seem to work anyway?

On the topic, Scott says:

So tell me when is someone going to sue Microsoft in a class action lawsuit about shoddy security practices? Couldn't this be a tobacco lawsuit kind of thing?
I am incredibly surprised that no one in the US wants to take Microsoft up to task with this. They've sued McDonald's for making people fat, for crying out loud.

In part, I think, this comes from a certain misplaced perception that is quite widespread. It goes like this: "Oh sure, Microsoft is bad, but users are part of the problem too. You know, if they just stopped opening attachments... and it's not like they've no warnings...".

Users are not the problem. Until we, in the software community, take responsibility for what we produce, this isn't gonna get better. Let me put it another way, an example that I came up on an IM conversation today.

Say that a car company, for example, Fanstastic Motors, creates a particular type of car that, when driven beyond 70 MPH, becomes so unstable that it rolls over and explodes. Because of this, everyone has warnings. You get a course, that says that you should never drive beyond 70 MPH. Whenever speed increases, you get warnings on the console. Mechanics that you meet on the street explain to you how you should never, ever drive fast. Now, everyone knows that it's just gonna happen that people will, intentionally, or by mistake, drive over the limit. People will die.

Now, in that case, would you blame Fantastic Motors, or say "Oh it's the drivers that never learn".

If you think that my example was ridiculous, think again. Maybe you remember that Ford was in seriously hot water a couple of years ago because of tire problems with their SUVs. The reason? The tires were being used "beyond spec". They were disintegrating mid-trip, causing catastrophic accidents. Of course, Ford told users to check tire pressure. Of course Ford told people not to do X and Y. Of course people were told to check their car regularly. And, of course, drivers, users, sometimes forgot, with terrible consequences.

Back then, was anyone saying, "oh, these drivers, they never learn."?


Software is NOT different.

Update: The Register has an example that is, well... exactly like mine. Heh.

I always try to tell people, when they say, "I don't know what I did. The computer stopped working." I always ask them: 'If your fridge stops working, does it ever occur to you to say "I don't know what I did, the fridge stopped working". They say 'No. I'd say, "The fridge isn't working.''

There's a big difference.

I know of no other industry in which the customer willingly takes the blame for the stupidity of the provider of the good or service. Customer support people reinforce this tendency ('Are you sure the computer is connected to the power outlet?'). The way software is designed reinforces this tendency ('Please read the following carefully and select the appropriate option' --to which you could almost add 'you moron!'). Users get blamed all the time. Well. Sometimes the user might be at fault, but until software actually works properly, that's definitely not were we should start.

Users are not at fault, We, the developers, are. And the biggest of all is Microsoft. They should be ashamed. They should get their act together. It's called corporate responsibility. Which in their case is even bigger, because they own not one, but several monopolies.

I just turned on the email server for a moment to see what was happening. And I'm still getting one email per minute.

And you know what? It's not that "email is broken".

It's not the "users' fault".

It's Microsoft's.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on August 21 2003 at 9:15 PM

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