March 18th, 2005


(no subject)

aaangyl posts about big What If moments.

A bunch of years ago, when I was considering going to college, it was the middle of the whole dotcom thing. There were freelance sites springing up all over the place and I was trying to make money on them (and failing miserably, but so it goes.) One of the posts was the coding for an edutainment game in OpenGL, which seemed reasonably simple - it was more than I'd done before, but from their description and documentation it didn't sound like it should take even half as long as they were giving. And they were offering a few kilobucks for it, which, as a high schooler, is a hell of a lot of money.

So I wrote up a proposal and sent it in.

And, out of fifteen proposals, ended up in their 3 finalists for the contract.

And ended up 2nd overall.

I've always wondered what would have happened if I'd been 1st. I still think I could have done it, but it would have swung me into an entirely different area. I would have picked up that instead of college and possibly gone straight into the professional world. And while none of what I learned in college was what I was "supposed" to learn, I still learned a hell of a lot.

I can't even make educated guesses about what that would have done. It just diverges so fast - I can predict maybe a year after that event, at most, and then it swings into total chaos. So I will, of course, always be curious.

There's actually another moment. I applied to a total of nine colleges, and was accepted into three - UW, Oberlin, and CWRU. UW was local so I dropped that one immediately, but I really debated between Oberlin and CWRU. I was leaning more liberal arts, so I went to Oberlin, and maybe that was a mistake. Because it turned out that as much as I liked liberal arts I was really *bored* there. Most of the people I just didn't synch with. And I remember one thing that I noticed, and should have paid more attention to - while Oberlin had more females overall, CWRU's were, on average, a lot more interesting. So maybe I would have done better on the romance front.

On the other hand I was able to find enough people in Oberlin to be friends with (and a significant few that are absolute top-notch friends), but I always kind of suspected that I knew a much larger fraction of the people I really got along with than I'd have preferred. It's nice feeling like there are dozens of friendships waiting out there for you to run into, and thinking back on it, I didn't feel that way. Of course, I wouldn't give up the friends I have now . . . but also of course, if I'd gone to CWRU instead and was writing this about Oberlin, I'd probably say the same thing.

And maybe in CWRU I would have ended up staying in school, and who knows what that would have spiraled into.

So. I think those are the two biggest What If moments in my life.


Okay. Imagine there's some service online. And it has a bug. And the bug hasn't been fixed.

This happens.

There's a few possible reasons for it.

(1) The coders don't know about it. Often everyone just assumes they do know. And they don't. Maybe it's sprung up randomly in a place they weren't expecting, maybe it's very rare, but in any case, unless they've acknowledged it or mentioned it in some way, send them an email about it.

(2) It's not very high priority. Sometimes you're looking at a "well, I *could* fix this bug that annoys one person out of every thousand . . . or I could go fix that other bug that has the potential to bring down the entire site. Hmm, what to do, what to do." Sometimes it's not even that clear-cut - sometimes it's a choice between a minor bug and a major feature. Sometimes the feature wins. If the bug is causing serious problems for you, again, use whatever bug reporting system they have and report it.

(3) They're gathering data. This happens all the time - you know there's a bug, but it's impossible to reliably reproduce, so you add a ton of debug output and wait for it to happen again. A week later it happens again and you add a bunch more debug output. Sometimes bugs can survive for *months* just because nobody can figure out what exactly happens.

(4) They're actively working on it. Sometimes bugs end up being bizarre artifacts caused by the system design, and can be amazingly hard to squash entirely.

(5) They're merely incompetent. I'd like to pretend this never happens, but I'd be lying, some coders just suck.


What *doesn't* happen is a bunch of competent coders get together, say "hey look! There's a critical bug here that will take five minutes to fix! Let's go get pizza and slack off for a few days." And making catty comments about "I wonder if they're planning to fix ____" just doesn't help. Trust me - if it's major, and the coders are competent, they're probably hating its existence just as much as you do.

Now, if it's a minor bug, it's possible they're *not* planning to fix it. However, if it's irritating you sufficiently, it's no longer a minor bug - so email them and tell them. In general, coders' priorities are pretty subjective things, and if we don't think anyone cares about a bug it's likely to end up on the bottom of the pile. And our piles can get really, really, really big.

Give your coders good info and a little bit of time. Without it, we can't do our job.