EppsNet Archive: Xerxes

Massive Accountability

Maybe you’ve noticed that most software sucks. Maybe you’ve wondered — if you work in the software business — why our aspirations are so low compared with the possibilities of our profession. Maybe you’ve wondered what, if anything, could be done about this. Here’s a fun story about the benefits of really holding people accountable for the shoddy quality of their work. In The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain wrote about King Xerxes, who in the 5th Century BC ordered a bridge of boats to be built across the Hellespont: A moderate gale destroyed the flimsy structure, and the King, thinking that to publicly rebuke the contractors might have a good effect on the next set, called them out before the army and had them beheaded. In the next ten minutes he let a new contract for the bridge. It has been observed by ancient writers that the second bridge was… Read more →

The Programming Circus

Most of my illustrious career has been spent working or consulting for Fortune 1000 companies. These companies are fundamentally dependent on their computer systems, particularly their online systems, to transact business. If the systems are down, the business stops running. In fact, the systems don’t even have to be down to create havoc. What if the response time is too slow? If you’ve ever done user testing with people whose job it is to enter money-making financial transactions for large corporations, you may have been amazed, as I was, at how fast they are. Obviously then, the software you build for them has to be even faster; split-second response time is required. If your software is slowing people down, the business is losing money. Or what if people are sitting around staring at their monitors because they can’t figure out how that great new interface you gave them is supposed… Read more →