two days into my smart phone experience, i am simultaneously amazed and disgusted by the state of technology surrounding these devices and ‘cloud’ applications.
back in the day, i had a ‘hacker’ mindset. i found flaws in systems that let me circumvent security or gain privileges not intended for users (or remote people not intended to have any access). over the years, that mindset shifted away from ‘hacking’ (penetration testing as a day job) and moved more toward usability (QA). these days, the idea of hacking and pen testing is boring and i avoid it as best i can. however, i am still a consumer and end user, so when a product doesn’t work, it bugs the hell out of me. more so if i believe any standard QA process should have caught it. my new phone is a world of new opportunity to find shortcomings in applications.
the other thing that bothers me about this process, is that when i find an annoyance and confirm it with a friend, i invariably get “that annoys me too!” so i am not the only one finding these bugs and shortcomings. is it complacency? do users no longer try to demand better from vendors? do they no longer report bugs and ask for simple features?
a great example of this is the Android Market (app store), the place to get applications for your Android based phone. i have a Samsung Vibrant through T-mobile, which uses Android apps, so this is now my go-to place to find neat utilities for the phone. go to that site, and search for applications that let you do $whatever. notice that? the distinct lack of a SEARCH MECHANISM? seriously, what brain dead dickholes run this operation, that didn’t think to put some kind of rudimentary search or at least embed a Google search link with “site:android.com”? unbelievable.
it’s ok, you can search the site via the smart phone! unfortunately, when you do it via your phone, you are given results straight from a 1995 search engine. the pattern matching is horrible. search for something with a space and results are hit or miss (e.g., “my app” will frequently not find “myapp”). further, applications that appear on the site you find via browsing, get no matches when you search for the exact name on the phone. there are some 100,000 applications out there. when you search for a common term, it isn’t surprising to receive 1000 results. but, instead of giving me primitive filtering (e.g., list only free apps, list only apps with 4+ star ratings), i get to scroll through all 1000 applications that do not appear to be listed in any discernible order.
my phone lets me connect via Wi-Fi in favor of 3G if i am in range. but, if i need to enter a password for the hotspot, i can’t enter the password. i am relegated to dealing with behavior of devices from 2000 that force you to enter the hex key.
the phone is advertised as being able to multi-task. i can run multiple applications at once! of course, very few let me cleanly exit the application. instead, they just keep running in the background, slowly helping drain the battery faster. everyone downloads a third-party application to help with this, a ‘Task Killer’ app. while this app is very helpful, it also makes me scream as i see countless apps start up that were never invoked by me. why does Amazon MP3 need to keep being invoked when i never did it, and i am not using any program that plays MP3s?
the built in ‘memo’ program is weak. so i got ‘Evernote’, a “cloud” based application that syncs my notes between phone and the web site. in theory, this is great. i sit at my computer and create a To-do list on the web site, and when i grab my phone and go, it syncs up the list from the web site. perfect! oh wait, the second list i created, i cannot edit. i can add text to it, but i can’t delete anything in it. i can’t use ‘DEL’, i can’t backspace over anything, i can’t even highlight and ‘cut’ the text via mouse/menu. seriously, what kind of drooling idiots write this application and don’t notice this? i can do it on the first list i created, but the invisible formatting crap i notice reminds me of MS Word from 1998. un-fucking-believable. so i deleted that list, and will re-create it by hand-typing the list instead of pasting it from a web page, which apparently caused the problems.
seriously people, hire a small QA team. if you are cheap and refuse to use the product yourself, then crowd-source the QA work. you do this by giving any users who want to help the ability to quickly and easily report bugs / annoyances or give feedback on features they would like to see. if you identify a person that seems to be knowledgeable and files accurate bug reports, flag their account/id and prioritize their submissions. example: a while back, i started giving feedback on a new version of Trillian, a program i use every day all day. within a few days, the lead developer was replying to my mails quickly. i believe he recognized a user that was familiar with the QA process (i marginally am), reported problems that were not one-off issues and would try to repeat the issue or provide debug output as requested.
in short, companies and developers need to use some of their time to use their own products, test them thoroughly and consider what features users may want. whipping up new code and flashy gadgets only goes so far before you have a product that is more annoying than it is helpful.