02 May 2007

sciam minus 50 award

IBM, Adobe, and the gubmint have been awarded a tongue-in-cheek award by George Musser at scientific american. seems their software sucks for submitting grant proposals.

IBM's seminal contribution was to create the PureEdge software package to handle the grant forms. If you try to run the program on a Mac under OS 10.4.9, the program pops into the dock and then disappears immediately -- thus giving an early indication of the likely success of your grant proposal. Getting the program to work requires hacks that the company has thoughtfully not provided. Users had to figure it out for themselves -- a useful test of whether they deserve to continue doing research. IBM did, in an uncharacteristic moment of compassion for its customers, admit that its software is prone to "occasional crashes and subsequent loss of any unsaved data."

To take such an unstable piece of software and base people's livelihoods on it -- now, that is genius that only the federal government could exhibit. The even greater genius was to shut down the grants.gov website for maintenance on the weekend prior to the proposal deadline.

based on my experience in writing java web apps, i'm not surprised.

1 comment:

  1. I know this will sound weird coming from me, considering that I like the hand-crafted code that keeps most of us in jobs. But I wish that software would finally evolve to the point that cars have. You ought to be able to say : "I need a program that does THIS", and find a cheap package that already does it. Reliably.

    I guess that would require people to actually understand exactly what they want their software to do first. And since people are morons, perhaps it'll never happen.