It’s 8:10am Pacific Time and a sunny morning on Thursday, March 10 2022 in Portland, Oregon.
I continue to have fun with the Wirecutter1 Recommendations Genre, which has headlines combined with that clickbait-y style. For example:
Anyway, on with the things that caught my attention:
(The section header for this is dumb but I couldn’t think of a better one)
Some of my work right now involves designing /recommending/putting into place processes that might not already exist for an organization to achieve its goal, which is another way of saying “what do we need to do differently to get the thing”. Sometimes bits of that is called governance sometimes bits of it is called SAFe, sometimes bits of it is called because Darren from Accounting Said So. And no particular comment about Darren but really Darren, sometimes you’re wrong about why people have to do something and they don’t actually have to do it that way at all. Just saying, Darren.
Anyway, this work frequently involves writing things down, and writing things down can be difficult and frustrating I think perhaps because of two main reasons (yes, there’s more).
First: writing is hard. I mean sometimes just making letters appear on a screen is hard, never mind actually putting in the work to create coherent sentences and communicate clearly.
Second: even if you did that, nobody would read it because who has the time now, anyway. I mean maybe they would read it if it was delivered in a newsletter application that compared itself to Google Reader.
By which I mean: writing clearly and usefully to help people achieve a task is difficult and a job and something many people are not trained in and not something that, e.g. an enterprise license to Grammarly will help with.
And so, the place where I’ve seen this most recently is in applications like Confluence, which is possibly one of the least worst Wiki-type applications in existence, all of the other ones people us are also the least worst, just on different axes. If you’ve ever been exposed to an organization that uses Confluence quite a bit, then you might have seen a desolate wasteland of hundreds and hundreds of pages, some of which have never been touched, some of which are Confluence pages that just have Word documents attached to them and those Word documents have screenshots of Jira reports in them which, you know, excuse me while I vomit as an expression of existential pain. I mean, that’s just offensive. But I understand why it happens. It just also makes me sad. It’s sad vomit. Anyway.
This being software and all being run on magic sand that can add and subtract super quickly, here are things that should exist for Confluence, if they do not already, and the reasons why they should exist:
I mean, much of this documentation exists as a sort of cover-your-ass, the equivalent of cc’ing as many people in an email as possible as a sort of human email shield when protecting yourself against management acts of terrorism, but in something like Confluence it’s like laying an anti-personnel mine that’s primed to go off if and only when someone does a cunning FOIA or you can kind of pull it out from behind your back and say: hey not only did I not cc this but I put it on our “intranet” (see also: Sharepoint) so technically everyone saw it. For bonus points I guess you could also post it to Teams so technically everybody and nobody saw it.
Anyway. Documentation tools and organizational knowledge management tools that do a better job of helping you understand a) what the high performing content is in the first place, b) what isn’t, and c) what might be. I mean, come on.
(Of course, pro-level armchair commentators will jump in at this point and say, and I would agree, that this is always a human/people problem because it involves communication and, well, communicating is a people thing. Software will only help so much. Oh, also we’re lazy. There’s quite a lot going on here).
Which leads me to our friend Google Drive and its siblings in the Google Workspace, er, space.
Because everything I just wrote about applies to Google Drive in the same way: do you really know how much is in your Google Drive? Either yours, or your organization’s? I mean sure I have, like, peripheral vision knowledge of a sort of horizontal bar graph in the bottom left maybe? Like, some of it is green? There’s space left? For me to store more files in Google Drive?
But here, apparently my schtick is anthropomorphising conversations with software so I can talk to them, which is potentially unfair because the software can talk back and yes, I know, Real People are in charge of that software and they might have their feelings hurt, but my response to that is: I’m not in charge of your feelings, person in charge of software.
Google Drive: hey
Google Drive: what if, right, your local filesystem but it’s on the web and you can share it with other people and access it from pretty much any internet-connected computer
You: Sure, sounds pretty useful, sign me up
Google Drive: also what if we totally abstracted away and obfuscated and made it really hard for you to have a mental map or model of all of that filesystem storage throwing away all the progress2 made in consumer desktop operating systems
You: that doesn’t sou-
Google Drive: -so that everyone could be even more of a mess than your local filesystem
You: Don’t do that. Please god don’t do tha-
Google Drive: like, you know the messiest Desktop and My Documents you ever saw?
You: please don’t
Google Drive: what if that, but for hundreds or thousands of people at the same time and through a web interface so you can’t even see the scale of the mess
You: oh that’s why I hate you
Google Drive: ok right but
Google Drive: but the mess doesn’t matter
You: it “doesn’t matter”
Google Drive: nope
Google Drive: because of search
Google Drive: search
You: but I have 68 versions of the same file
Google Drive: search
You: but you also have folders do you even see how long it takes me to move one file from one folder to another in Google Drive never mind if I’m trying to do it in Docs
Google Drive: still search
You: I mean come on Gmail even has labels
Google Drive: okay you can have folders
Google Drive: and search
You: JESUS CHRIST GOOGLE DRIVE, GMAIL ALREADY HAS LABELS DO YOU NOT TALK TO EACH OTHER
A Google Product Manager: did someone say we need a new chat app?
Google Docs enters the chat
Google Docs: hey I heard you talking about different versions of files
You: oh hey it’s you
Google Drive with fingers in its ears: la la la, search, search, search
You: Hey, YOU, Google Docs, apparently I’m the ONLY ONE who actually uses your file versioning to set Named Versions instead of making a gazillion copies of the same file most of the time
Google Docs: yeah it’s great isn’t it
You: I mean compared to your iPad app and the fact that you haven’t really changed in 20 years or whatever sure
Google Docs: what iPad app?
You: Hey, Google Drive. You know about Docs’ named versions? Because you could expose those versions in the Drive interface and then people could see-
Google Drive: Why would I do that? Why would I expose Google Docs’ named versions and version history in my interface?
You: because then we wouldn’t need 68 versions of the same file and multi-
Google Drive: you could always use search
The Hey, Google team: maybe we could get people to search for documents using voice?
You: Fuck off, nobody invited you
The Hey, Google team: um, you did, about 30 seconds ago, when you said “Hey, Google”
You: That was “Hey, Google Drive”, for fuck’s sake.
Google Drive, contritely: okay. I’ve been thinking about what you said.
Google Drive: did you read our support document, Organize and Search in Drive?
You: yes, it was dumb
Google Drive: but did you see you can star things
You: dumb and it doesn’t really work
Google Drive: and folders
You: they take too long to use, I mean did you ever consider the user experience and time how long it takes to move one or more files from one folder to another?
Google Drive: what about workspaces
You: oh yes, workspaces, another half-assed way of organizing things that nobody uses, I expect whoever came up with that got distracted halfway through and then pitched a chat app
Google Drive: how about search?
You: Oh, forget it.
A Google product manager looking for a promotion: did someone say chat app?
And that’s it for today! Those two pieces are extended/revised/edited versions of Thoughts That Happened Yesterday3. I guess I now think of Twitter as my drafts folder, which is quite horrifying on second thought.
Disappointingly, that was 30 minutes. I am very, very sorry. I don’t know who’s more disappointed: me for going over time, or you, because now you have more to read. I’m sorry either way.
It’s nearly Friday. I have a deadline tomorrow! How’s your week been?
PS. Yes I do have some tea with me and yes I did miss out some critical parts of infrastructure in the drawing yesterday but I thought, on general, people would be able to get the point