Friday, April 24, 2009


I have a growing, or perhaps surging sense that the single word we need to revive from the past, and embrace, is maintenance.

It seems like a boring word, and to some extent, that's the point. It is a concept that has all but disappeared from our society: to keep things working, to fix things that are broken, to battle entropy.

The word that seems to drive us today instead is growth.  You hear it everywhere, and it is put forth as though it is a good thing.  Companies are supposed to grow.  People are supposed to have growth experiences.  The economy is supposed to grow.  Why, exactly?  What's wrong with it staying the size it is, but getting better?  Do we really want everything to grow?  The population, the debt, the size of our bodies?  If the goal were to maintain our economy, people would be finding ways to make it a little better here and there, a little more efficient, give it a fresh coat of paint, keep it going into the future.  Bubbles grow, then they pop.  That's why they refer to these economic downturns as bubbles.  Nothing grows indefinitely without a "correction".  But why, then, do we incessantly pursue growth?

I say that maintenance is the new growth.  If you can't keep track of, repair, nurture, and get full value out of the things you own, you own too much.  If you can't keep your life exactly as it is, indefinitely into the future, into retirement, even as things change, then you're in a spiral of debt.

Maintenance is what used to be required for healthy machinery, automobiles, and relationships.  But the zerk fittings have disappeared from everything in our lives. Things aren't designed to be fixed, or maintained. The phrase is "planned obsolescence" but I think that's too polite a term. "Throwaway society" might be better. How about a corporate slogan like, "We make products that suck, so you have to throw them away in a few years, and we do it on purpose."

For me these days, my happiness is proportional to my ability to maintain.  I sometimes come to work and sweep the floor, or work on repairing an aging hydraulic lift truck, or organize some hardware in the shop. Is that related to forward progress?  Am I just dithering?  I don't think so.  I think that maintenance and readiness are keys to success. I think that sweeping a large floor with a push broom allows for a kind of thinking that sitting in front of a computer does not.

It is interesting to me that our economy is now "broken" and we're considering how to "fix" it, when nobody remaining in this country has the skills any more to fix anything.  Maybe what we should be doing is figuring out how to throw our economy into the landfill and buy a bright, shiny new one, with a warranty.

I'm with Oscar Rogers: somebody needs to FIX IT!

Thursday, April 02, 2009 - horrible experience

I have done digital prepress and graphic design software since the beginning of desktop publishing, so I know a thing or two about what it takes to print business cards.

I used because I needed cards in a hurry, and it seemed to be a well-designed site, and they could get them done in a hurry. I'm *very* unhappy, however.

First of all, they charge some ridiculously low price like $4.99 for 250 cards. That should have been a clue, but I thought "great!" and proceeded. They get you in shipping. It's practically fraudulent. I can't remember the exact choices, and to see them again I would have to buy something, which I won't do, but it was like, "30 days - slow shipping - for $5", which means they leave it on the shelf for 27 days and then ship it to you. To get 7-10 day shipping, which is still pretty slow, they wanted more like $15 (remember, it only cost $5 to print them). I opted for 2-day shipping and paid $25.50. Times 3, since I ordered three different business cards.

The second sin, even worse than the first, since I at least knew what I was getting into on shipping.... They print the cards 1/8" short in both dimensions. Instead of 2" x 3.5", like the entire rest of the world, they print at 1-7/8" x 3-3/8". But what's worse, the PREVIEW doesn't match what they actually send you. They make you sign an approval that says "I understand that my document will print exactly as it appears", when in fact it doesn't. I think it's off by the 1/8" extra trim that they don't tell you about.

The final insult was calling Customer Service to complain. They were willing to give me a credit for the printing cost (remember that ultra-low printing cost?) but not the shipping.

So they trick you into paying primarily for shipping, which transfers their product liability from where they really make their money (shipping you crap product) to the pathetic $4.99 refund if you're not happy. It's not even a refund, it's a store credit.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Twitter: just say no

It's really just that I don't like Twitter, but given the recent breaches of security, it seems ill-advised to use the service. Just delete the tweet.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

User Experience

I just ran across this article in PC world. It's a great summary of how to design software -- succinct and on the mark. Good reading for all. Kudos to Mike Elgan.