A Lack Of Features Is A Feature

There’s a lot of features in technology and games. This setting, this button, these new photorealistic graphics, etc. Seems like we’re drowning in features, or at least what people tell us are features.

Now some features are obviously B.S. Not sure we need an AI bidet. Some “user enhancement” is data tracking. With a great deal of effort I’m not going to talk about such “fake features.” I’m going to talk about features not being features, and their lack would be its own benefit.

Features that would be a feature if we didn’t have the feature, if you get my drift. Which now that I look at that sentence, you may not, but I like it so reread it until it makes sense.

We’ve all dealt with apps and technology that have so many features they’re now not useful. No one uses all of them, they’re confusing, and it makes getting what we want done harder. But also each unusable feature is also time put into code, put into support, and something that can break code and screw you up.

The onslaught of features is less useful, less stable, less reliable. It makes me wonder if software would be better off more modular for people who don’t need “the self-publishing graphic features that blow up your document once a day.”

Less features or modular features as a feature.

Let’s talk super-optimized realistic graphics. Great for say, rendering movie effects. But is it needed for Call of Shootbros: Apex Duty? Does everything have to look realistic? How much more time does this add to development, debugging, and support? Yes I’m sure it drives sales and brings in planned obsolescence, but maybe things could be easier.

Resilience and stability of a system, of development, etc. would be a feature we’re missing. Seems often when fancy new games come out on PC I hear about all sorts of graphics and stability issues.

What about applications that let us stay always connected? I’m not going to diss social media, but even when we ignore the ad-driven crap and the like, the speed is a double-edged sword. The feature is useful, but one we have to use with caution.

Some features are useful, but with discretion.

All of the above features do things and have their place. It’s just they may be overwhelming, pushed, or just things we didn’t think about. At this rate not having them, or having them restrained or gated kind of feels like a feature.

Hell, maybe we need to rethink the idea of “feature” in software and tech. Or maybe I just used the word way too much in this post.

Steven Savage

Take Some Responsibility

You probably heard the news: Air Canada had to pay up for something an “AI” chatbot said. This story saddens me as I love flying on Air Canada. Honestly in my trips up there the flight is often part of the fun.

Basically a guy asked an Air Canada chatbot on advice on canceling due to bereavement, it gave him advice on refunds that was wrong. He followed the advice and of course when he had to cancel, he didn’t get his refund, and made a small claims complaint to the appropriate body. Air Canada argued – seriously – the chatbot is a legally distinct entity and that the guy shouldn’t have trusted the advice, but followed a link provided by the chatbot which had gotten things wrong.

Obviously, that didn’t fly, excuse the really stupid pun.

As an IT professional who’s career is “older than One Piece” let me weigh in.

I work in medical technology (indeed, it’s my plan to do this for the rest of my career). We vet everything we install or set up. We regularly review everything we set up. We have support systems to make sure everything is working. This is, of course, because you screw up anything medical and bad things happen.

Also it’s because someone that goes into medical anything is usually pretty responsible. We IT folks are in the mix everyday and know the impact of our job. We also work with – and sometimes are or were – doctors and nurses and other medical professionals who get it.

I love working in this environment. If this appeals to you, I can honestly say check out working in medicine, medical research, and education. It’s awesome.

Know what? Other people using technology can and should take the same level of responsibility.

Technology is a choice. What you use, how you implement it, how you expose people to it, all of that is a choice. You built it or paid for it or whatever, you take responsibility if it goes wrong, be it a life or someone deserving a refund.

If the product isn’t what you thought? Then those who made it owes you an apology, wad of cash, corporate dissolution, whatever. But either way someone takes responsibility, because technology is a choice.

We’ve certainly had enough of moving fast and breaking things, which really seems to just result in enshitification and more and more ways to be irresponsible.

Besides, reputation is involved, and if nothing else saying “we don’t care of our technology on a website goes wrong” is going to make people question everything else you do. I mean, if you were on an Air Canada plane after hearing about this “sorry, not our fault” approach how safe are you going to feel?

Let’s try to be responsible here.

Steven Savage

How Deep Does the B.S. Go?

Lately I was speculating on the role of B.S. in our economy, politics, and technology. I’d spell it out (and swear more probably) but I do have some discretion!

We’ve normalized the idea that some people are honestly, lying to us. We expect that we’re being lied to be marketing forces, by the latest trends, and by politicians. It’s honestly so normalized, it seems we can’t imagine a less deception-free world.

(It also makes me realize how people can get blaise about COVID.)

In turn, we’ve also normalized that people we like are lying. Yeah, that famous tech guy is hyping stuff, but we like his product. Sure the politician we voted for is spouting demented nonsense, but they’re our politician. We go to see a movie we know we’ve been sold on in the negative sense or a restaurant whos food is just “OK” but you know, advertising and familiarity.

What’s struck me lately, is that we are probably too used to lying as well.

When I’ve seen people rallying to the defense of people, media, and so on that they like you an hear them repeat talking points. You can tell with just a bit of empathy that many people don’t really or exactly believe what they say. But to defend what they like for whatever reason,

I even found myself tempted to do it (which tells me I do do it, I just didn’t catch myself).

I’m wondering how deep the B.S. in our media-saturated, pundit-heavy, social media culture goes by now. I mean yes humans have always lied to others and themselves, but it feels pretty amplified and survival-adverse in my experience. How much of our lives, as individuals, is just lying about stuff?

I think some of it is definitely internet and media culture. Say the right things, do the right things, and you get money, attention, and might even become some kind of Influencer or Pundit. You can lie for a living if you play your cards right! Whatever B.S. problems we had in the past, you can do it faster, giving less time for experience and other people to provide restraining feedback.

In a time of chaos and climate change, this is even more disturbing. We’ve got a lot of problems to solve, or at least survive, and if we’ve all internalized outright deception to an extent, it’s going to be much harder. When everyone is busy not telling the truth, it gets harder to tell the truth, and even when a bunch of people do, too many might not out of various motivations.

I know at least I’ll be watching myself closer. But this is going to haunt me.

Steven Savage