[FoRK] It saddens and disturbs me.

Damien Morton <dmorton at bitfurnace.com> on Fri Nov 2 09:36:16 PDT 2007


As we sit here in <large financial district>, at one of the centers of 
western civilisation, working for <large financial institution>, a 
pinnacle of western civilisation in and of itself, it is sometimes 
important to reflect on the fact that we got here by nature of us being 
a tool using species. Over thousands of years, starting with flaky stone 
and fire-hardened pointed sticks, we have developed tools that have 
enabled us to build tools, which in turn have enabled us to build ever 
more precise and powerful tools, culminating in tools which allow us to 
control and shape atoms and mountains, bits and terabytes; gigawatts.

It saddens and disturbs me when my tool using and tool making nature is 

It saddens and disturbs me because my clients, the traders, who have 
pointy heads from being pushed up so high in the pyramid that is this 
organisation, drive to work in their BMWs and Mercedes, in which every 
detail and every surface has loving attention paid to it, only to sit 
down at work and use software whose functionality may have loving detail 
devoted to it, but whos surface is composed of scraps scrounged from … 

In another organisation, this problem would be solved by someone 
whipping out their credit card and buying a set of clip art and icons; 
tools made by specialists for just this exact purpose; tools freely and 
widely used around the world; tools that have been available for a 
decade or more; tools that make the users experience better, clearer, 
more pleasant, less error-prone; tools that cost less than a few hundred 

And yet, time and again, I see emails pleading for such tools. 
Developers wanting no more than to provide a better experience for their 
clients, pleading for the tools they need to do so. And yet no such 
tools are forthcoming.

We hear about mysterious legal issues; but such things just confuse us. 
Why do we need lawyers and administrators in multiple separate and 
disinterested departments to purchase $99 clip-art and icons? We 
understand many things; we understand computers, which are amongst the 
most complex things ever created by mankind; we further understand how 
to meld those computers into vast societies of machines through which 
the knowledge of mankind flows daily, but we do not understand why, oh 
why, we cant have some bloody icons.

Icons are only the most visible failure, but I know there are other 
tools we could be using; tools that would enhance productivity, reduce 
errors, and enable delivery of better products. Its dysfunctional that 
there isnt a simple and effective path to acquiring those tools. Ive 
watched my colleagues beat their heads raw and bloody trying to 
introduce new tools, and Ive watched colleagues give up all hope, 
curling into foetal positions and blubbering the same phrase over and 
over again, why, why why?

It saddens and disturbs me.

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