This past week I was going to write a blog post about my latest fail, and what I learnt from it. But in the mean time something has come up that has annoyed me, so much so that I’ve decided to rant about that instead.

So the thing that got me annoyed this time is that the Google Chrome team are at it again, and have decided to hide information they have decided most user don’t need to see, and isn’t relevant to them. Except the information they are hiding is technically relevant. I tweeted about it,

and in their infinite wisdom twitter chose to hide that same information, despite the fact that I didn’t want them too, I was not impressed when that was pointed out to me

In both cases it shows that the developers think they know better, than the user in Twitter’s case, and than every browser developer that has come before them in Google Chrome’s case. This is massively arrogant in both cases. Now I’m sure the Devs in both cases think they have good reasons for doing this. And I’m sure they honestly believe this is the right thing to do. But they are ignoring the needs and intentions of their users. So when the user wants to convey some specific information, hiding part of that information looks silly, and when a user does understand the difference between domains, and how the web works, the change makes life harder. The argument from the chrome team “but users don’t need to know this detail” ignores the fact that those users who don’t need to know won’t much care if the information is there or not, and those users who do need to know, need to know.

As I see it these are both symptoms of a wider problem in the IT industry. An industry I have worked in for more than 15 years, and throughout that time there has been a pervasive idea that IT is a young man’s game (not a young person’s game, women are massively under represented in IT). This seems to be based on the idea that IT moves fast because it’s such a young industry, and that only those that grew up with this technology could ever understand it, and work with it. Those who are older simply wouldn’t understand, or be able to keep up with the developments. Yes IT is a relatively young industry, but it is not that young. My father is well into his 70s, and he spent most of his working life working as a Programmer. IT has been an industry for long enough now that no one below state pension age in the UK has lived in a world without an IT industry. And yet the myth persists that the older people cannot cope with working in IT, only the young can. And with them the young bring an arrogance that can only come from never having known what it’s like to be wrong when it matters. Because of this much of the IT industry reinvents things that don’t need to be reinvented. Now there have been great advances in IT, but often these have come thanks more to technological advances that have enabled ever more powerful computers to run ever more complex code ever faster.

And what does this arrogance prove? My father when he retired was contacted by an old employer because no one available in the industry had the skills he did. Far from proving that IT is a young man’s game this sort of thing proves the IT industry is discarding skills the world needs of it because the young don’t know them, and have no one to learn them from.

I have never agreed with the idea that IT is a young man’s game, it doesn’t follow from any of the history of the industry. At one time what became the IT industry, programming, and data entry, were considered women’s work, with the men doing serious engineering on the hardware (computers were big back then), but at some point men got involved, and decided it was too complicated for women, and the industry doesn’t appear to have grown up from there. It probably helps me to see IT as not being a young man’s game that my father worked in IT, and also that I like to understand how and why things are the way they are, so the history of IT is fascinating to me. And when you look past the last couple of decades the contribution of women is undeniable.

The IT industry needs to grow the fuck up, and it won’t do that until it starts listening to people with different experiences to the majority of the people currently working in it. Which is all well and good coming from me, a white, straight, middle class, male. Not exactly divergent from the norm I complain about, but if even I can see this surely it’s obvious that it needs fixing?

posted at 7:09 pm on 3 Aug 2019 by Craig Stewart

Tags:opinion rant