All Apped Out – Quit With the Updates!

The Dudes are as enamored with technology as anyone else – perhaps even more than some. But we’re also cynical enough to be critical of bogus claims and bad practice, and that includes refusing to jump on the portable app-based fanboys’ bandwagon. So if something sucks, it sucks, and we’ll call it out.

Which brings me to the current rant: incomplete apps. Hand up anyone out there with a mobile device that uses apps? OK, hand down. Now hands up all of you who have more than 50 apps? Hands down.

If you found yourself waving to both these, then you are also aware of a the fact that in the new world of apps, there is the phenomenon of the “constant updates.” By that, I mean that no app ever stands still for longer than a month at best without the need to be updated, either manually or automatically. But even more insidious is that we – without being asked or told – have come to accept this as standard practice. No longer do we demand a piece of software that (a) works and (b) will work for a year or so, but we are content with software that (a) sort of works and (b) needs updating every month – or in some cases every two weeks.

Pause for  moment and think about that. Constant updates. No “finished” program.

This leads to the situation where we all turn our smartphones, tablets, and even desktop computer in the morning, only to find messages that a piece of software either needs to be updated or has been updated automatically. For example, only a few hours ago I booted up my laptop to find a message from the good folks at Adobe that my flash player needed to be updated. Again. I seem to recall this happened a few weeks back. My Droid told me that “Weatherbug” had been updated, and my iPad told me there was one app that had a new version.

And all in one morning.

So given that we live in a world where apps are prolific – and will become even more so – we’re going to have to get used to the idea that nothing is finished, and that if you have any problems with the software, getting help will be hard. Why? Because unless  you are set up so that all your software is set for “automatic updates,” who knows what version you may be on and what the latest version is.

Frustrated computer user

"Version 4.21? I don't think so!"

Is this a good or a bad thing? Well, on the upside, we might imagine that constant updating ensures customer responsiveness: if Kimmy is using version 2.5 of “StutterStopper” and sends an email to say that a certain error is occurring, the developers can crank out version 2.6 with the fix and then expect everyone to update to the new version. That is, until Molly discovers an error in 2.6 that results in 2.7.

But this is little more than beta-testing “on-the-fly.” And Kimmy’s problem in 2.5 may not have fixed other as yet undiscovered problems. You might also find that the fix that gave rise to 2.6 has generated new problems that didn’t previously exist in 2.5! It’s called “The Butterfly Effect” and a bugbear of all software development. And the faster the fix, the more likely a Butterfly error may occur.

In reality, the genie is out of the bottle. This IS the way of things in the app world so we need to get used to it. All I’m asking is for developers to resist the impulse to churn out new versions so often. Hold back, collect a list of a hundred bugs and update them all at once rather than update a hundred time.

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