Back to my roots

Events seem to be leading me down memory lane right now.

I got a call last night from some good friends at a school I used to work at. They asked me to play bass for their staff band at a show next week. I haven’t really spent much time there since I left teaching, so it will be a little strange, but very exciting to see good friends after a long hiatus. Also, I haven’t played my bass for a very long time, so that will be fun, although the material is nothing to get excited about.

On wednesday this week was a Community Test Day for a forthcoming update of the Flock browser. Despite the time difference forcing me up to my loft office on a bitterly cold night, and a few grumbles from Vic about the hours I was keeping, I really enjoyed myself. Up until 18 months ago I was a software tester, but I’ve now crossed the fence into development. These are two groups which stereotypically don’t get on (see pupils and teachers, cats and dogs, train drivers and guards, etc), and are roles which tend to suit people of very different mind-sets.

At first it was exciting to get a glimpse of a new product, particularly Flock, which I care passionately about, but what soon took over was the smug satisfaction that a tester enjoys when they find that something is broken.

Contrary to what most developers believe, there’s no malice involved, and no schadenfreude in being able to blame someone for a mistake or having found something that development missed. It’s the realisation that the product will get better for the users when your bug gets fixed. You have saved the customer having to endure your pain. That’s something that developers don’t often feel, because fixing those bugs never seems to bring the same satisfaction. It’s more about covering your tracks, or having to do the dirty work of someone else who messed up. At best it’s about the personal goal of solving a tricky problem. Try as we might, developers do tend to find it more difficult to view their work in terms of the benefits it will bring to the customer. The closest I get to that as a developer is when I try to force web accessibility issues onto the agenda of the project I’m working on, but that tends to be a depressingly difficult endeavour within a large company.

Anyway, the skinny on Flock 0.8 is that it will work with more services (notable additions are ma.gnolia and youtube), it has the UI improvements of Firefox 2 (more control over tabbed browsing, session restoration, etc.), but I’m not convinced about the way that favourites are handled. I liked the ability to search online favourites by tag, modify them, and republish them to the service. Just having them available in a menu (which takes a few seconds to appear if you’ve got a lot of them) is a poor substitute. I also don’t like it that I have to manually add my Flickr contacts to the media bar. I know that Flock 1.0 is going to do some clever stuff in the arena of matching peoples’ identities in various networks, so maybe the end will justify the means. I’m particularly excited about the notion of an online identity which seems to be important to the future of Flock.

The two things I’m most interested in web-wise at the moment are OpenID and microformats, and I can see their potential integration into Flock, and the cool social sites and services it works with bring a wave of exciting possibilities.

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~ by bouncysteve on 3 March, 2007.

One Response to “Back to my roots”

  1. Hey Steve,

    Thanks for your help on Test Day! I totally understand the smug satisfaction of finding a bug. I do it all the time and hope that the developers across the room understand. 🙂

    Evan Hamilton
    Flock Community Ambassador
    evan at flock dot com

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